7 December 2009

Cloudy II

I'm reading The Cloud of Unknowing again and am turning over one of the word pictures of the Author, about the three parts of life:
  1. Good: the active works of mercy and charity (active life)
  2. Better: spiritual meditations on subjects such as the joy of heaven and the Passion (active/contemplative)
  3. Best: the dark cloud of unknowing of God's love experienced through true contemplation (contemplative)
(Chapter 21)

It's the overlap between active and contemplative expressions that is intriguing me here. The Author states that the active life is represented by Martha and the contemplative by Mary of Bethany, in the story in John's Gospel.

It's a hard thing to understand. Why are works of mercy "less" than contemplation? Maybe it's because contemplation is coming under the "cloud of unknowing" - drawing close to God and knowing that we do not know, and cannot know, God fully - God is too immense for our limited understanding. Maybe the works of mercy come from the contemplation, and our contemplation of God's wondrous love draws us into more profound love for others? My limited experience of this certainly seems to reflect that: the more I love God, the more I know God, the more I open myself to God - and the more I let God into the inner flaws and brokennesses in myself - the more I am able to love others.

I am finally beginning to grasp the edges of a quote from John Wesley I remember reading when I was at theological college: "I am so busy that I must spend my first two hours in prayer". That sounds like such an oxymoron, yet I am finding myself that if I do not make time for God, giving God space to speak and myself to hear, my day falls over. The more I am with God, the more I can be for people. It sounds so unlikely, but seems to be true.

Time to put my "theory" - or more accurately, my very limited comprehension of ancient knowledge! - into practice.

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