My favourite reading in the Easter Season – and perhaps of all time – is by an anonymous “ancient author” in the Office of Readings for Holy Saturday. It is the Risen Jesus speaking to us on this strange day of waiting between the Cross and the Resurrection. He says: “I am in you and you are in me and together we form one undivided person. Nothing can separate us.”
I find this so moving. It takes us to the heart of Christian faith, our deepest and unbreakable union with Jesus in love – in the power of the Father who brought Him back from the dead so that He could breathe the Holy Spirit into the human heart. It also shows us that Christianity is a mystical religion and explains why all Christians need to be contemplatives.
It is always sad to meet fellow Christians whose faith stops at the levels of morality and dogma. These are important aspects of Christian life but they are not the whole picture. If we get stuck at moralism and dogmatic orthodoxy alone, our Christianity will shrivel. If we don’t get out of our head and into our heart – the “inner room” – we may even end up as fundamentalists rather than – like Jesus – universalists. Then we would have nothing to offer a world hungering for depth and meaning and which we need to communicate with a conviction born of experience.
The contemplative Christian understands that when Jesus says, “No one comes to the Father except through me”, He is being inclusive. Everyone comes to the Father through Him. Whom does He ever turn away? To whom does Jesus ever not show the Father’s mercy? Do we understand the story of the Prodigal Son or not? Are we the younger or older brother? Or has our heart been opened by the Easter proclamation?
This is why the Easter season goes on for so long – to give us time to fully absorb the import of the message: “He is risen.” This changes how we see God and ourselves and – little by little – it can remove fear and hatred from human society and break the cycle of violence, which is our original sin.
But, you might say, this is too much for ordinary people to take in. That’s what the skeptics who rejected the Easter proclamation said. And it’s what even the disciples of Jesus felt at first.
But when they were touched by the undeniable experience of his presence their lives were turned round. They were filled with boundless hope, not scepticism. They no longer cringed behind closed doors. They were filled with energy and courage to share the good news.
How do we truly open our hearts to this truth and its power to change us, the Church and the world? The answer is the experience of the prayer of the heart. This is what contemplation means and why we all need to raise the level of contemplative prayer and awareness in the Church.
I have learned that this is possible and achievable from what I have seen happen in Singapore.
Singapore is my home in Asia. For 30 years I have been coming here to teach meditation from our own tradition. Now nearly all parishes have a meditation group. The Singapore Christian Meditation Community makes a big impact on our global World Community for Christian Meditation.
The late Benedictine monk, Fr John Main, said that every time we meditate, we enter the paschal mystery – the dying and rising of Jesus. Easter reminds us that we are all contemplative (as well as active) Christians. We are all Mary as well as Martha. If we are only Martha – stressed, nervous, distracted and self-centred – how can we proclaim the Easter message adequately?
It may seem odd, but the loudest proclamation of “Christ is Risen” is propelled by silence. Silence authenticates. Meditation has become part of the life of prayer for so many Singaporeans because we all need some way, discipline or practice to fulfil this potential of our faith.
Meditation doesn’t replace other forms of prayer but enriches them all at a deeper level. I feel this Easter that the teaching of Christian Meditation is now entering another phase in Singapore. Through the many weekly meditation groups, the retreats and other events held here, it can now touch the heart of the Church through its organisations, its Sunday liturgies and all its ministries.
Christian contemplatives don’t need to be in a cloister. We are in the pews, the meeting rooms and the places where we reach out to those in pain and need.
This is how we discover why we form “one undivided person” with Jesus not only at Easter but every day. This discovery is what makes the Church real with His new life.
Benedictine Fr Freeman is the director of The World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM). He wrote this piece specially for CatholicNews.