Blending action and contemplation Print
Thursday, 12 November 2015 13:51



We should try our best to attain this blend, because this is what is proper to us. We are meant to be both active and contemplative. It’s a both/and, not an either/or affair. These two basic dimensions of our life should work in tandem rather than at odds with each other.

Of course, if we have to study the history of the different schools of spirituality, we can notice not only a distinction but a division, a split between active life and contemplative life, life in the world and life away from it.

One either has to be a layman, which for quite a time, was considered a second-class citizen in the eyes of the Church, or be a priest or nun or a consecrated person if he wanted to be serious with his spiritual life.

I suppose that’s an understandable consequence of our human condition that has to develop in stages. We tend to be quite simplistic and black-and-white in mentality in the beginning, until after some time, when we know things better and have gained more experience, that we realize we have to be more nuanced and more integrative of elements formerly thought as contraries.

Toward this end, we need to learn how to turn our work, both big and small, into prayer and an abiding conversation with God. If we are to be consistent with our faith that our life is supposed to be a life with God, then we have to know how to make our daily affairs an occasion for keeping a living relationship with God.

There should be a streaming awareness that we are with God even when we are doing the most mundane activities. This is the goal that we should try to reach, overcoming what separates our life from the life of God. While it’s true that there is distinction between the two, there ought to be unity between them.

This affirmation has basis. It’s not gratuitous. It is founded on the truth that God made us his image and likeness, and children of his, meant to participate in his very own life. That’s his will. That’s the reality.

In the first place, God is everywhere. We don’t have to look far to find him, since he is at the very core of our being. If we keep ourselves humble and simple, allowing the faith to work in us, we will realize that even in our inmost thoughts and feelings, we will always find him. We may not totally understand him, but we know he is with us.

The big task we need to do is how to keep ourselves humble and simple, so that faith can work effectively in us. Our problem is that we tend to be proud, to be self-sufficient, to think that we ultimately are our own being. We tend to think that our relationships with others and with God, while convenient, are not necessary.

The task involves the constant effort to be humble and simple, allowing our faith to have full play in us, converting us into contemplatives, seeing God and being with him even while working, and even when we are immersed in the middle of our worldly affairs.

We would understand that God is also in our earthly and temporal concerns, since after all everything comes and belongs to him. Even if we mess up his work, and go against his providence, God always manages to be in everything, and does everything to bring us back to him.

But we need to cooperate, because as St. Augustine once said, while God created us without us, he cannot save us without us. We need to correspond to this will of God in freedom and love for us to return to him.

We just have to do everything to put ourselves into this dynamic orbit of God’s life and love. We need to be convinced of this truth of faith, and from there develop the necessary attitudes, skills and virtues to achieve the goal meant for us.

Since work is a daily activity for us, one major part of becoming contemplatives is to turn our work into prayer. This can happen if we develop the habit of doing mental prayer everyday, studying the doctrine of Christ and of the Church, especially about how work is vital link we have with God.

Mental prayer allows us to create the proper mind frame we need to sustain our effort to become contemplatives all throughout the day. In a manner of speaking, that’s where we see the relevant principles and helpful theories we need to put our desire into practice.