Laurence Freeman continues in Jesus the Teacher Within to stress the impossibility of knowing Jesus with our mind; instead we need to enter into the depth of our being and know him with our heart: “Discovering Jesus’ identity for us is not achieved through intellectual or historical enquiry. It happens in the opening to our intuitive depths, to deeper and more subtle ways of knowing and seeing than we are accustomed to. This is prayer…an entry into an inner space of silence, where we are content to be without answers, judgements and images. …It is the indefinable silence at the heart of the mystery of Jesus that ultimately communicates his true identity to those who encounter it.” (p.30/32)
Prayer is the gateway to true knowledge of Jesus – and thus of our true nature – and through him of God. For that journey, that “journey of awakening” to reach its intended end, meditation leading to contemplative prayer is indispensable. It helps us to descend to the centre of our being, where we discover, “in relationship and in the communion of the Spirit, who Jesus is.” (p. 213).
But meditation does more than that: “By meditation I mean not just the work of pure prayer but the whole life-field of self-knowledge which it drives”. (p.242) In the silence of ‘pure prayer’ we are given insights by grace that help us to discover the wounds that block us from awareness of our true being, help us to become aware of our ‘shadow’. But at the same time contemplative prayer increases the deep, intuitive knowledge that the loving spirit of Christ is working within us, encouraging us to accept ourselves as we are, as He does. And so He heals our wounds and brings us to wholeness. Laurence Freeman once more highlights that “It is essential to Christian faith that we listen to Jesus with such unclouded attention that we lose ourselves…..thus he becomes….a ‘door’ that leads to self-knowledge.”(p.42)
It is important to remember what type of prayer we are talking about. We are talking about deep silent contemplative prayer not prayer, when we are “merely performing or mouthing a set ritual.”(p.34) No-one expressed it better than T.S.Eliot in the Four Quartets:
You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid.
And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
Laurence Freeman continues by saying: “Jesus is an indispensable force in the achievement of any authentic spirituality. Even though most people have problems with the church – as do most church-goers themselves – the person of Jesus is one of the constant beacons guiding humanity beyond egotism and the violence of despair towards the higher goals it continuously sets for itself of kindness and serenity.” (p. 15) In our time many tend to throw out the baby with the bathwater, but “To ignore Jesus because of the imperfections of the churches is a foolishness of tragic dimension…..Christianity on the other hand, must be transformed.”(p.241)