Saturday, March 15, 2008

Diminishing returns?

In contemplating the holiness of God man develops more quickly than he does in his ability to conform his life to the commandments. Hence the impression that the distance between us and God continually increases.

Archimandrite Sophrony On Prayer (hat-tip to a minor friar).

This is what is so humanly frustrating about contemplative prayer.  We can never "get anywhere" that we can understand or measure, and the further we do in fact get the greater the difference we perceive between ourselves and Jesus, whom we're called to resemble (1 Corinthians 11.1).

The only way out of thinking of this as a law of diminishing returns is absolutely to give up thinking of being rewarded for, or "getting anything out of", prayer, "for [we] have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." (Colossians 3.3)

I wish I could say it gets easier. It may do, eventually - though somehow I doubt it - but if it does I'm certainly not there yet!


Anonymous said...

This reminds me of John of the Cross and the book Ascent to Love, by Ruth Burrows. In it, she makes the point again and again (meaning John made the point) that we are closest to God when we don't feel God at all. That is so counter-intuitive. It's why we have to be told by people who have gone the route before us.

"When you are near him the infirmity of your vision makes the darkness denser" (John of the Cross, Canticle).

Kelly Joyce Neff said...

nowhere to go and nothing to be. He is always with us, in us, whether we feel it or not