The tradition and practice of Christian Meditation - 4
Reconnecting with inner silence is not only important for adults but even more so in our noisy world for children and young people.
Last week there was a Meditatio Seminar on the teaching of Meditation with Children in Dublin, Ireland. The majority of the audience were teachers and Principals of schools and many were there from Diocesan Education Councils. The presentations were very enthusiastically received – already 20 schools requested to be part of the pilot project to introduce meditation into their schools.
I would like to share with you the introductory talk Laurence Freeman OSB gave on the tradition of our practice of meditation. “Every time we meditate we enter into a great tradition. This sense of tradition is essentially what defines Christian meditation – because meditation itself, of course, is one of the oldest and most universal elements of human wisdom. The meaning and purpose of meditation is described differently but it is found in all the great religious traditions – the contemplative core of religion itself. From a religious point of view human consciousness itself has evolved from and continues to expand into this experience of the transcendent, the infinitely distant and infinitely close mystery of our source of being and the fulfilment of being, God.
Cardinal Newman said that ‘the best evidence for God lies within us’. In modern times the existence of God as God came into question. At a philosophical and theological level God is often dismissed, using the scientific method, as a product of human imagination or a projection of human need. This challenge of the idea of God as conventionally defended and asserted by religious institutions has deeply disturbed and unsettled religious complacency. Religious people have had to reconsider fundamental meanings of what they have long taken for granted and what has long been embedded in their social power structures. The advent of the secular age has changed the playing field on which religion encounters other major institutions. Religion can no longer claim automatic social or political privileges. It must argue for itself and be judged on its performance. The Dalai Lama says that the test of all religion is ‘does it make people nicer?’ that is a fair test but a tough one.
In response to this sea change of modernity Christian faith has been challenged to revisit its own tradition in radical ways – that is, it is forced to go back to its roots. Cardinal Martini’s dying words that the church is out of date and needs to reconnect to the spiritual needs of the modern world simply states the obvious truth but, since the Council anyway, one not often expressed by its leadership. Yet there is nothing so new in this need for a renewal of the Church from its roots. Other great periods of renewal like the 11th century reforms which addressed the structures of the church or the 20th century which addressed the liturgy and theological relation to modernity also looked back to their roots as a way of renewal. If a third ecumenical council happens it will perhaps address the spiritual life of the church and its understanding and practice of prayer. We are already in an era that has reclaimed deep and long-neglected aspects of our spiritual tradition. (Laurence Freeman OSB).
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