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‘Contemplation is the answer’ Dr Williams tells RC bishops

by
12 October 2012

by a staff reporter

APPA

Transported: Pope Benedict XVI waves to bishops after a mass to celebrate the opening of the Synod of Bishops, in St Peter's Square, in the Vatican, on Sunday. He has asked the Synod to explore how to reach "those who do not yet know Jesus Christ and his message of salvation, and those who, though baptised, have drifted away from the Church". Speaking on Wednesday, the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, the Pope said: "The age in which we live continues to be marked by forgetfulness and deaf­ness towards God"

Transported: Pope Benedict XVI waves to bishops after a mass to celebrate the opening of the Synod of Bishops, in St Peter's Square, in the Vatican,...

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 Jesus Christ."

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 communion".

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 here 

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