See, my servant shall prosper;
he shall be exalted and lifted up,
and shall be very high.
Just as there were many who were astonished at him
—so marred was his appearance, beyond human
semblance, and his form beyond that of mortals—
so he shall startle many nations;
kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
for that which had not been told them they shall see,
and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate. (Isaiah 52:13-15)
Contemplation is a conscious act in which we hold something in our awareness, perhaps something we believe we understand about God, or a conscious holding/remembering of a spiritual experience. We consciously hold this awareness while at the same time we consider it from different perspectives. We examine our feelings in relation to it, we consider its origin, we think and reason in a discursive way that activates our mind and moves it toward greater awareness. This activation is not an endless stream of unconnected mind-events, rather it is consciously directed. The most ideal circumstance is when the heart is also activated so that our contemplation is connected to our will, our purpose and compassion.
One of the most fruitful experiences to contemplate comes at the end of a session of prayer. Where have we been? What did we feel? How can we give purpose and direction to the process we just experienced? What many people call a guided meditation is actually an act of contemplation because it captures and holds imagery and feelings that are directed by the process leader or by our own intellect. In this sense you can consider contemplation to be a self-directed meditation, but this is very different from other forms of meditation, like the Christ- centered meditation described in this book. When we have been opened to the deeper realms of our own interior life, our experience is like seeing something new because our revelatory experience is unique to us. Our prayer brings us into the presence of God because our knowledge of that presence, our consciousness of that presence, increases with each word. The prayer sets in motion the series of thoughts that hold the sacredness of each moment in our consciousness. We hold those thoughts—word by word—in the arc of the whole prayer. We sit and hold the prayer in silence, yet our mind follows the meaning of the prayer. The repetition of the prayer sets in motion the contemplation which moves us beyond our conscious attempt to align our will with God. Contemplation takes us into the experience of God through additional imagery and additional thought.
When our will to speak to you is manifest God, let our thoughts hold you in our awareness. May our consciousness expand into that awareness through the fullness of our experience and the expression of our imagination. Let our minds follow your lead. May any selfish desire cease, and may any selfish thought expire. Help us to present our thoughts and our intellect as a mirror of your perfection. May that perfection illuminate our being, the light reaching down into the most intimate part of our soul, deeper and deeper into the place where we are known and understood completely by you. Help us surrender to the emptying of all that limits our experience of you; help us surrender freely, without thought, only the glorification of your presence, just as the Christ, through his life, glorified you. Amen.