Contemplative Guide 3 – Love

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving kindness

– Jeremiah 31:3

 

 

Stilling: Being present to God

Begin with a simple stilling exercise.one candle 3

You may want to light a candle, or say a short prayer as you intentionally place yourself in the presence of the Holy One.

Find a comfortable position and be still for a couple of minutes. Concentrate on your breathing – slowly, in and out. Relax your muscles. Don’t worry about any thoughts that come into your head; acknowledge them, then come back to your stilling exercise.

 

Say the following prayer as you commit to being in God’s presence:

Dear God,

You sustain me and feed me;

Like a shepherd you guide me;

You lead me to an oasis of green,

To lie down by restful waters.

Dwell in me that I may dwell in you.

From Jim Cotter, Psalms for a pilgrim people, Psalm 23

 

Institutional care

My sister, Mei Ling, spent the first three years of her life in an orphanage. In Chapter 3 of Growing up to be a child I contrast my memories of visiting her orphanage with another, altogether different orphanage in Hong Kong.

Although I was very young at the time, I vaguely remember visiting [Mei Ling] in the orphanage. My impression was of lots of babies and toddlers, all sitting in their cots, clean and well fed, but with no toys and no one picking them up to cuddle them. I seem to remember many of them crying.

That was such a contrast to the Home of Loving Faithfulness (HOLF), another orphanage which I had the privilege to visit several times as I was growing up. The children at HOLF were all disabled, mostly with severe learning difficulties; many had physical impairments as well. These children needed constant physical care. But what was so striking about HOLF was the overwhelming love in the place. The orphanage was run by two old ladies, Wendy and Valerie, and they and the younger volunteers who helped them seemed to love those children as though they were their own. The children were given loads of hugs; they were sung to, cuddled, played with, and held. Whenever any one of them cried, someone would go and gently hold the child, staying there until the distress abated. What I saw in those children’s eyes, in spite of their difficulties, was life. They were loved and valued, and they knew it.

 

Sadly, my sister Mei Ling’s experience is all too common, not just in institutional care, but also in ordinary homes and families, where countless precious children do not receive the love, emotional care or stimulation they need to thrive. I am sure that God’s heart grieves for all these children, young and old, who have not known the love of a parent, many of whom struggle to know the perfect love of our heavenly father. In our contemplation today, while receiving God’s love for ourselves, we cry out to God – Earth Maker, Pain Bearer, Life Giver – for all those who do not or cannot feel that love.

 

Prayer: Encountering God

Choose one of the two exercises below as a contemplative approach to prayer: Encountering God in the media or Encountering God in Scripture (Lectio Divina)

 

Response: Lament[1]

O Lord of All Being, it is so challenging for us to bring

the whole Christ to the whole world.

We more often bring ‘a broken Christ, a lame Christ,

a crooked Christ deformed by us.’[2]

 

Our world is fragmented:

creatures disconnected from creation,

nations torn by powerful interests,

families broken by arrogance and addiction,

children crushed by violence and abuse,

nature spoiled by thoughtless consumption.

Come Lord Jesus.

 

We are fragmented:

hearts divided,

prayers separated from actions,

justice isolated from love,

the holy distant from the human.

Come Lord Jesus.

 

We long for integrity of word and deed,

to be wholly holy and wholly human,

to be healed and healing.

 

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

for they shall be filled.

 

 

Closing: Going on in God’s presence

Finish your time by saying the Lord’s Prayer.

 

[1] Based on Into the presence: a rhythm of prayer based on Servants’ principles and values.

[2] Mother Teresa, Contemplative at the Heart of the World, p122

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Based on Into the presence: a rhythm of prayer based on Servants’ principles and values.

[2] Mother Teresa, Contemplative at the Heart of the World, p122

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