Talk to World Community of Christian Meditation, Canberra and Rural NSW
Talk given by Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn
World Community of Christian Mediation, Canberra and Rural NSW
Saturday 28th May 2016
St Peter Chanel’s, Yarralumla
Thank you so much for inviting me to what you beautifully describe as a “sharing of stillness and silence.”
I’m delighted to hear that over 25 Christian Meditation groups operate in Canberra and about 10 groups in nearby rural part of the Archdiocese. I am also pleased to see that many of these groups are Ecumenical and are conducted together with our Anglican and Uniting Church brothers and sisters in Christ.
In regards to Christian meditation, may I make the following seven points for your consideration?
First of all, I think human beings are born into silence. For nine months we silently grow in the womb of our mothers. We become lovers of silence. In our world there is so much noise and movement that we often become alienated from this primal identity as people of silence, so close to our dignity as human persons.
Despite all this noise and confusion, it is entirely natural for people to seek out silent points in their life and to remove themselves from the hustle and bustle of life. Jesus himself did this many times in the Scriptures. We follow Him to seek silent union with the Lord with “Abba”, God the Father, in the sanctifying presence of the Holy Spirit.
I know in my own personal life, I’ve been particularly attracted to the silences of empty churches, the silence of the bush that is so present particularly in outback Australia…something that Aboriginal teach us. And lastly, I’ve always felt attracted to the silence of cemeteries. I hope you don’t feel I’m a little bit mad!
Secondly, it’s important to know that this Godly silence is in fact a fruit of grace. It is almost as if the grace of silence knocks at the door of our heart. As we open that door in faith, we open ourselves to the movement to God’s grace present in us in Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Australians are very practical people. It’s important to note that the organising of groups and what happens and particularly the techniques when we do gather for prayer are significant, but not as significant as this grace of God coming towards us before we come towards Him in meditative prayer. It’s almost like a great heavenly dance… the dance of grace and faith together drawing us to God’s presence in Jesus. So let us always remember it is not so much our performance and techniques of prayer, but it is more just allowing ourselves come into the presence of God. It’s “presence”, not “performance”.
Thirdly, another aspect of Christian meditation which I think is so beautiful is that it’s so biblical. I’m thinking particularly of the biblical posture of Mary as articulated in Luke’s Gospel in the early chapters. Mary is seen as “treasuring and pondering” all that God is doing in her life. Christian meditation can well be seen as Marian in posture. Mary’s childlike docility to the Holy Spirit and attentiveness to treasuring and pondering is clearly the biblical posture of mediation. So we thank the Lord for giving us his own Mother as the great Patroness of all that it means in regard to Christian Meditation.
Fourthly, Christian meditation must always be Jesus-centered and Trinitarian. In quiet meditation we enter into the prayer of Jesus to the Father in the light of the Holy Spirit. It’s not “something” that we are seeking, but it’s “someone”…Jesus the Lord. In Christian meditation, we enter into the Community of Love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. True Christian meditation is always Trinitarian. We simply place ourselves in the presence of Jesus alive in the Trinity and rather than “do” we “be” in the presence of God, who calls us to listen to Him.
Fifthly, Christian meditation is richly present not only in the Scriptures, but also richly present in our Christian Tradition.
The World Community of Christian Meditation rightly focusses on the great contribution of John Cassian in the early centuries of the Church. The Desert Fathers and Mothers have so much to teach us about meditating and understanding what this means. Then from Eastern Monasticism comes Western monasticism, particularly in the person of St Benedict of the Fifth Century. He is very much aware of the contribution of John Cassian and popularises it for the Western Catholicism. The contribution is deep and profound in our Catholic history. So to be involved in Christian meditation actually draws us into the very heart of our long Christian Tradition. Whereas we might learn some techniques from other faiths, we must always be conscious of centering what we’re doing in our own Christian Tradition.
Meditation is like an “electric current” of grace running throughout our Tradition.
Sixthly, Christian meditation has ecumenical and even interfaith dimensions.
Our oneness in silence is also a plea for the Christian Churches to come together more fully. This is the prayer of Jesus in John’s Gospel that “we might all be one.” An important aspect of coming together in unity as Christians is to meditate together in Godly silence. I’m so delighted that this is the case here today where there are representative from different Christian denominations. This truly is an ecumenical adventure of faith.
My final and seventh point is that Christian meditation is of its essence, missionary. Having been refreshed in the silence of God’s grace, we are sent out in sorts of different ways to be the presence of God in our world. It always strikes me that a very prayerful person is a very “beautiful” person. By that I am not referring to physical characteristics, but to the beauty a person centred on Christ and at peace with himself, herself or themselves. There is a certain “fragrance” in these people. Evangelisation missionary work in the Catholic sense, opposes all forms of proselytism. We do not impose ourselves on anybody. But we never stop proposing Christ to the world. This might happen in words, but even more so, it is in the fragrance of persons deeply alive in Christ. There is a beauty here that is of a spiritual nature and in a wordless way, proposes Christ to whomsoever they meet.
Let us not forget our dear Aboriginal brothers and sisters in regard to our missionary outreach. We can learn much from them and they from us in regard to silent meditation. Indeed, I’ve met so many Aboriginal people who are totally at peace with the silence deep within them of Christ’s presence. We do think practically about how we can “help the Aborigines”. But they can certainly, in this area, help us to move from an excessive activism to an experience of being present to God and in silence, and finding that presence particularly in the beauty of God’s creation in the Australian bush.
Thank you so much for inviting me. Do feel in my presence here today, and in my humble little points that I have just raised, my encouragement of all that happens in the Archdiocese in Christian meditation. I am very happy to accept Fr Lawrence Freeman’s invitation to be a Patron of the Movement. I hope this means seeing in me an encouragement and a fellow traveller with you in the Emmaus walk of meditation in our world today.