Connecting With God through contemplation.
The contemplative pathway focuses on the idea that we can contemplate and meditate on who God is and that will bring us closer to God. Contemplation can look like spiritual practices, times of silence, solitude and meditation. It leads us to a peaceful experience of God where we dig deeper in reflection on God’s character – and also reflect deeply on our own lives.
In our world today many people find themselves feeling lonely – but not too many people truly experience solitude. When solitude is forces and not chosen it can create a deep sense of loneliness. But if we pursue times of silence and solitude, we may find that there is a deep intimacy with God in place of that loneliness.
We see Jesus finding a “solitary place” to connect with the Father in Mark. We also know that in ancient Jewish culture that we see in the Old Testament there were prayers and rituals that celebrated God’s faithfulness and led people to contemplate who God is in their lives.
The contemplative pathway can be engaged through spiritual practices like centering prayer, lector divina and a daily examen. The origins of these ancient practices are found going far back into church history. Liturgical experiences are also a way to experience the contemplative pathway.
- Choose a journal or notebook and make a plan to leave 15-30 minutes before bedtime, or right after dinner or some other time frame that will allow you to form a pattern for the week.
- When you sit down place yourself in God’s presence. Give thanks for God’s great love for you.
- Pray for the grace to understand how God is acting in your life.
- Review your day — recall specific moments and your feelings at the time.
- Reflect on what you did, said, or thought in those instances. Were you drawing closer to God, or further away?
- Look toward tomorrow — think of how you might collaborate more effectively with God’s leadership. Be specific, and conclude with the Lord’s Prayer.
- Listening prayer is about growing the “muscle” we use to hear God. We believe God wants to speak to us and we’re setting this time aside to try and listen for that and trust God will get the message across if we’re earnestly listening.
- Grab a journal and set a timer for 5 minutes and ask God to show you whatever the Spirit would like to show you in this time of prayer. Write down whatever comes to their mind – it might be a picture, a phrase, a song, a color – whatever comes to mind.
- Ask God to reveal to you any meaning behind what you saw and write down your thoughts.
- It’s normal not to be sure if it was God or your own imagination. Instead of trying to be certain of this, insead be curious and bring what you saw or heard into the rest of your day.
- Lectio Divina (literally divine reading) is a way of becoming immersed in the Scriptures very personally. Choose a passage of scripture, ideally one that is only 6-10 verses long. (If you want suggestions, try Matthew 5:3-10, Luke 12:22-31)
- You will then read the passage 4 times. Each time you will have a different focus:
- First, Lectio (read) – Get to know the passage as you read it through the first time. Notice if anything jumps out to you.
- Second, Meditato (reflect) – As you read this time, pay special attention to what jumped out at you. Read those specific phrases verses over a few times – reflect on what you think God may be saying specifically to you or wanting you to notice.
- Third, Oratio (respond) – After your third reading it’s time to respond. Record your thoughts in a journal. How might God be inviting you to respond? Are there actions you are to take, or perhaps a different posture of your heart toward God or your neighbor?
- Fourth, Contemplatio (rest) – After the final reading, spend around 10 minutes in silent contemplation. This isn’t a time of active prayer — just sit quietly and allow God to work. When your mind starts to wander and dart here and there, bring it gently back to stillness again.
Labyrinth at Como
- A Labyrinth is a sacred symbol that has been used in various forms of spirituality. It looks like a maze on the ground that leads to a center. For Christians, a labyrinths symbolic meaning is that life’s journey is challenging filled with highs and lows, ups and down and when one feels lost along their path, God is at the center of life.
- Google “Como Park Labyrinth” to find this beautiful outdoor labyrinth in St. Paul.
- Step unto the labyrinth at the starting point and move toward the center following the lines with your feet. Don’t move too quickly. As you walk, ask God to help you clear your mind and open your heart. Focus on God’s presence.
- As you walk, bring your worries and anxieties to God. Also being the questions and wonderings that you may have.
- When you reach the center, stay there until you can release all your burdens and the questions of life to God. Not that the circumstances are now gone, but God holds them with you.
- Stay in the center until you feel a sense of peace. Imagine Jesus is there with you.
- As you turn to walk out of the labyrinth, following the maze back out to where you started, imagine Jesus walking out with you. Jesus walks with you from the park into the rest of your life. May he give you a sense of renewed understanding of yourself, of God and of the purpose you have to join God’s work in the world.
Cathedral or Sanctuary Discovery
- Visit a cathedral or sanctuary – the more ornate and artistic as possible. If you are unable to visit a cathedral in your area, search “3D Cathedral” online and multiple sites will come up that will be sufficient. However, if you are able to visit in person, this will be ideal.
- When you arrive at the cathedral, find a place to sit where you can see as much of the interior design of the space.
- Begin by inviting God’s presence to be with you as you wonder about the creation of this space.
- Imagine what the original designers and builders of this building were trying to create by investing in this space? What was their original intent?
- What do you think they were trying to express to God?
- What might they have been trying to express to the world?
- What do you notice about yourself in this space? What emotions does it bring up? Do you feel able to focus or do you find this space distracting?
- Ponder what the phrase “a holy space” means to you given your life experiences.
- Ask Jesus to give you his eyes for this space and for the people who come to worship him in it.
- If appropriate, walk around the space noticing what is on the walls, the ceiling, the alter etc.