contemplation |ˌkäntəmˈplā sh ən|noun:
- the action of looking thoughtfully at something for a long time
- deep reflective thought
- the state of being thought about or planned.
- religious meditation (In Christian spirituality: a form of prayer or meditation in which a person seeks to pass beyond mental images and concepts to a direct experience of the Divine).
- Origin: 16th century Latin word ‘contemplatio.’ The verb form, ‘contemplari’ contains the root ‘templari,’ which means ‘a place for observation.’
I unashamedly love using the simple dictionary program on my laptop to look up the definition of words, especially their Latin root meanings. It must be something about the precision of words, and how their usage flows together to create a meaningful sense of what something is.
A few weeks ago, Curtis Love lead our community in an experience designed to simply create space for us to experience the presence of Jesus in our lives. He melded images from Chris Gollon’s modern Stations of the Cross installation in the Church of St. John on Bethnal Green in London with simple Scriptural texts accompanying provocative questions designed to help us walk alongside Jesus in the final hours of his life.
The Stations of the Cross are a common means of contemplation for much of the Church globally, particularly the Roman Catholic and more High Church portions of our faith family. What I love about them correlates directly with the definition of contemplation as described above: They allow for a ‘place of observation’ and the cultivation of a deliberate desire to directly experience the Divine. In other words, opening our hearts (the creation of internal space, in the place the Spirit of God actually ‘resides’ within us) through the creation of a physical space + journey we undergo (walking + meditating on the journey Jesus undertook as He headed towards the cross).
All who participated agreed that this was a sorely needed breath of fresh air in our lives that evening. Maybe we all need to give greater credence to the creation of places of observation in our lives.
(Each week I will attempt to post a story or reflection about some aspect of the work that our missional community, NieuCommunities South Africa, is currently engaged in here in Pretoria. I’ll simply attempt to answer the question, ‘What stories are you co-writing with God in South Africa, and how does this story fulfill your unique mandate to apprentice South African leaders into sustainable mission around the globe?’)