CONTEMPLATION is not "just one kind of thing that Christians
do", the Archbishop of Canterbury said in Rome on Wednesday.
"To put it boldly, contemplation is the only ultimate answer to
the unreal and insane world that our financial systems and our
advertising culture and our chaotic and unexamined emotions
encourage us to inhabit."
Dr Williams was addressing the Synod of Bishops in Rome, at the
invitation of Pope Benedict XVI. The Synod's task is to examine a
"new evangelisation" in response to the rise in secularism.
Dr Williams suggested that "to be converted to the faith does
not mean simply acquiring a new set of beliefs, but becoming a new
person - a person in communion with God, and with others, through
An intrinsic element in this process was contemplation, he said.
"To learn to look to God without regard to my own instant
satisfaction, to learn to scrutinise and to relativise the cravings
and fantasies that arise in me - this is to allow God to be God,
and thus to allow the prayer of Christ, God's own relation to God,
to come alive in me."
Such prayer was not an alternative to what Dietrich Bonhoeffer
called "righteous action", Dr Williams said; rather, it provided
the clarity and energy needed in the pursuit of justice. "True
prayer purifies the motive; true justice is the necessary work of
sharing and liberating in others the humanity we have discovered in
our contemplative encounter."
Dr Williams praised the many new religious movements that had
been nurtured by the Second Vatican Council, such as Taizé, Bose,
Sant'Egidio, and the World Community for Christian Meditation. And
he spoke of the spiritual ecumenism that had developed in many of
these, defined by him as "the shared search to nourish and sustain
disciplines of contemplation in the hope of unveiling the face of
the new humanity".
The habit of contemplation encouraged people to "always be
asking what it is that the brother or sister has to share with us -
even the brother or sister who is in one way or another separated
from us, or from what we suppose to be the fullness of
The contemplative life was a significant ingredient in
evangelism, Dr Williams said. "What people of all ages recognise in
these practices is the possibility, quite simply, of living more
humanly - living with less frantic acquisitiveness, living with
space for stillness, living in the expectation of learning, and,
most of all, living with an awareness that there is a solid and
durable joy to be discovered in the disciplines of
self-forgetfulness that is quite different from the gratification
of this or that impulse of the moment.
"Unless our evangelisation can open the door to all this, it
will run the risk of trying to sustain faith on the basis of an
untransformed set of human habits, with the all too familiar result
that the Church comes to look unhappily like so many purely human
institutions - anxious, busy, competitive, and controlling.
"In a very important sense, a true enterprise of evangelisation
will always be a re-evangelisation of ourselves as Christians also;
a rediscovery of why our faith is different, transfiguring - a
recovery of our own new humanity."
The full text is available here
A transcript of an interview that Dr Williams gave to
Vatican Radio is available