From Illuminated Life
Abba Anthony said: “The time is coming when people will be insane, and when they see someone who is not insane, they will attack that person saying: ‘You are insane because you are not like us.'”
e so often think that those who refuse under any conditions to deny the essential goodness of life are mad. Look at the suffering. Look at the evil. Be real, we say. We are so often inclined to think that those who continue to see life where life seems to be empty and futile are, at best, foolish. Be sensible, we say. But in that case, we may be the ones who are mad. The truth is that contemplation, the ability to see behind the obvious to the soul of life, is the ultimate sanity. The contemplative sees life as it really is under all the struggle and the pain: imbued with God, glowing with eternity, full of energy, and so overflowing with good that evil never totally triumphs.
Contemplation keeps the inner eye focused on Goodness. But contemplation is as important for what it is not as for what it is. Contemplation is not a spiritual fad or some kind of religious trick. It does not come as a fringe benefit of extreme asceticism, nor is it the automatic by-product of mesmerizing rituals. It is not mental imbalance posing as religion. Contemplation is the crown of the spirit, the gateway of the heart through which all good comes and in which all things are welcome as gifts of God. Contemplation exists across time, across traditions, beyond cultures, outside of creeds, despite denominational cautions or priestly prescriptions to the contrary. Awareness of the presence of God in the stuff of the daily, the everywhere, the always, the everyone, undergirds every major spiritual path. The faithful only believe in God. Seekers see God everywhere. Seekers see what others cannot even imagine: the presence of God in the things of the daily. The critical difference between those who are godly and those who are contemplative is that, having come to see God in the world in which they are immersed, contemplatives never cease to see again, however unbelievable the circumstances may be. It is not the contemplative who is mad. It is the rest of the world who lack what it takes to be sane in an often insane world.
The desert monastics put it this way: As he was dying Abba Benjamin taught the disciples his last lesson. “Do this,” he said, “and you will be saved: Rejoice always, pray constantly, and in all circumstances give thanks.”
In the end, the fruit of contemplation is joy. When we walk with God, what is there to fear? Serenity comes to those who walk with God. Surety comes to those who see God in everything. Peace comes to those who know that what is, is of God, if we will only make it so.
Most of all, joy, praise, and gratitude live in the hearts of those who live in God. It is not the joy of fools. The contemplative knows evil when it rears its head. It is not the praise of the ingratiating. The contemplative knows struggle when difficulties come. It is not the gratitude of the obtuse. The contemplative recognizes the difference between chaff and grain. The contemplative knows that grain is for bread, but the contemplative also knows that the chaff is for heat. The contemplative realizes that everything in life has for its purpose the kindling of God-life within us. And so the contemplative goes on with joy and resounds with praise and lives in gratitude. Always. What better way to bring the light of the diamond to glow in darkness.