The feast of Christmas is
the celebration of divine light breaking into human consciousness. This
light is so bright that it is impossible at first sight to grasp its
full meaning. Only an intuitive realization such as that of the
shepherds is able to enjoy it. Later, as our eyes adjust to the light,
we perceive little by little what is contained in this Mystery…
Let us try to grasp the
significance of the Word made flesh…Jesus did not merely assume a human
body and soul; he assumed the actual human condition in its entirety,
including the instinctual needs of human nature and the cultural
conditioning of his time….
“The Word was made flesh”
signifies that by taking the human condition upon himself with all its
consequences, Jesus introduced into the entire human family the
principle of transcendence, giving the evolutionary process a decisive
thrust toward God-consciousness…
“To everyone who received
him, he gave power to become the children of God,” that is, to know
their divine Source. This is the Mystery of the Word made flesh. Flesh
does not merely mean skin and bones; it means the worldly values of the
self-centered programs for happiness held firmly in place by conscious
or unconscious habits or by over-identification with one’s family, tribe
or nation. Christ, by joining the human family, has subjected himself to
the consequences of the flesh and at the same time introduce into it the
principle of redemption from all pre-rational levels of consciousness.
Our own development into higher states of consciousness is the cutting
edge of the corporate personality of “the Christ,” the gradual unfolding
in time of the new Adam….
The joy of Christmas is the
intuition that all limitations to growth into higher states of
consciousness have been overcome. The divine light cuts across all
darkness, prejudice, preconceived ideas, prepackaged values, false
expectations, phoniness and hypocrisy. It presents us with the truth. To
act out of the truth is to make Christ grow not only in ourselves, but
in others. Thus, the humdrum duties and events of daily life become
sacramental, shot through with eternal implications… Commitment to the
new world that Christ is creating – the new corporate personality of
redeemed humanity – requires flexibility and detachment: the readiness
to go anywhere or nowhere, to live or to die, to rest or to work, to be
sick or to be well, to take up one service and to put down another.
Everything is important when one is opening to Christ-consciousness.
This awareness transforms our worldly concepts of security into the
security of accepting, for love of God, an unknown future. The greatest
safety is to take that risk. Everything else is dangerous.
The light of Christmas is an
explosion of insight changing our whole idea of God. Our childish ways
of thinking of God are left behind. As we turn our enchanted gaze toward
the Babe in the crib, our inmost being opens to the new consciousness
that the Babe has brought into the world.”
"The Mystery of Christ" by Thomas Keating
A BLESSING FOR THE COMING
This is Fr.
Thomas wishing you all, on this wonderful season, the graces of peace
and deeper understanding of the coming of Jesus Christ into the world,
but most of all into our lives.
Let's take just a
quick look at a way of trying to understand what the gift of Christmas
really is, in other words what is the primary grace of the feast of
Christmas? I think the answer is in a somewhat unexpected place and
that's in the story of the Magi, these three kings who showed up in
Jerusalem a year or two after Jesus was born and asked Herod, if you
recall the story, "Where is the king of the Jews being born?" These were
people who had a special anointing from the Holy Spirit. The very name
"Magi" in Hebrew mysticism means someone who has been anointed as the
kings of Judea used to be.
And so what
prompted the Magi to come from virtually nowhere (coming from the east
in the Hebrew is another little hint that this refers to a spiritual
experience), and so I think we can say that the Magi had within them as
a gift this anointing of the Spirit that we receive through the graces
of this time and especially in the sacraments but also in contemplative
prayer. Centering Prayer is designed to bring us into this state
gradually in which we realize inwardly that we're looking for something
more than ourselves or more than this world can offer, more than this
world can even hinder, and that is the conviction of faith and
experience that God dwells within us, and when that awareness grows,
then we awaken to the presence of God within us, and it gives the
capacity to perceive God present in others.
So the Magi, they
got the inspiration that the king of the Jews was coming into the world
and that he was a divine person, and the source of their own interior
experience of the divine, so it was that awakening of their
consciousness to the spiritual level of their being and of their true
nature as the children of God and of sharing in the grace of the Messiah
or as we would call it, sharing in the grace of Christ or being one with
him or identified with him.
And so it was the
divine presence in them, in the Magi, that was able to recognize the
divine presence in him and to connect with it and to enable them to fall
down in worship in front of this helpless infant, because of their
moving beyond all the appearances in this life, they resonated, you
might say, with the divine presence in all its fullness that was in him,
however underdeveloped in the human way because of his infancy.
So the grace of
Christmas then, it seems to me, is the awakening within us, the
realization or the deepening of faith, that the presence that we
experience at times, and sometimes a lot of the time, if we're advancing
in the Centering Prayer practice, which is cultivating silence and
interior freedom, we recognize like the Magi did of the infant in spite
of our fragility, our weaknesses and even our sins, we recognize the
power of the divine presence in us that is come to heal us and to
manifest the divine love by the ultimate service of the sacrifice of
one's life in the service of others.
presence in us that is in Christ that also deserves to receive gold,
frankincense and myrrh in the degree that we're opening and advancing in
the experience of the divine presence, that Centering Prayer -- and
especially when it becomes completely contemplative prayer -- it anoints
us, so to speak, especially at the time of these great feasts that
symbolize these various spiritual experiences.
And so it's that
grace that I pray that each of us might experience an enormous increase
in, so that we may then perceive in others this divine presence even
where it's completely unexpected and hidden and secret.
This secrecy then
is gradually unveiled as we activate the gift of myrrh, that is the
selfless service of others, welcoming and embracing the sacrifice or
humility that it sometimes takes to serve those in need. As Jesus said,
"In whatever need, everyone is our neighbor. Everyone is in need of
help," and our own limitations are gradually being dissolved and taken
away through the practice and action of service, rooted in a daily
practice and penetration of our whole lives by the Holy Spirit and what
is referred to in Scripture as the anointing. In other words, the Spirit
is like oil that is poured over our heads and that flows all throughout
our body and that pushes out all the obstacles to the clarity of our
perception of the divine presence.
So, I wish you
then this grace and you already have it! So I send you whatever
spiritual energy I have and thank you for pursuing this journey.
So, in this
spirit, then, let us face the difficulties of the coming year with great
confidence and hope. Like the Magi, you may go through a lot of troubles
in traveling and getting where you want to but once you're there, then
the joy that they experienced, it will also be us, no matter what the
difficulties and hazards or how many Herods there are that want to do
away with us and our brothers and sisters, or in our time, when we
recognize more and more that the whole human family is our brothers and
sisters and that we're more united at the deepest level than any
superficial, merely human levels of controversy and opposition and that
the power of the Spirit through our love will be able to heal the lack
of love or the wounds in other people that we're called upon to love as
best we can.
I'll always be
thinking of you and inviting you into the presence of the Spirit that
comes to each of us as a free gift and a true security and the true love
and the true freedom, so I'll end there and hope that the new year will
be filled with blessings for all of us.
Lux Divina: An Advent
An online retreat in
partnership with Spirituality & Practice
December 1 - 29, 2017
available through Contemplative Outreach. Please inquire at
6 CEH's available for
For a description of the
course and to register,
please go here.
Faith: An Advent Companion
This 105-page booklet is
intended to serve as a daily companion for moving ever deeper into a
life of pure faith in relationship with the living God during the sacred
season of Advent. Scripture passages used each day are part of the
rotation of liturgy for the season and are complemented by beautiful
images, Fr. Keating’s writings and a mini-practice on which to focus for
the day. An excellent praxis to keep attention and intention on God
during a time when society tends to be busy and distracted.
$20 USD for hard copy booklet
$10 USD for digital PDF
to God as God Is
This book collects the
intimate talks and daily presentations made by Thomas Keating to people
who have been practicing Centering Prayer for several years, have some
experience of the spiritual journey and especially to those engaged in
some form of contemplative service. $15 USD.
The Will of Divine Love
This book looks at the
process of spiritual evolution in created reality. It also looks at
Centering Prayer and other transformative spiritual practices –
Welcoming Prayer, forgiveness practice and creative self-expression –
that unload the unconscious and help us to enter the “promised land’ and
the inner wealth of our divine inheritance as souls created in God’s
image and likeness. $25 USD.
Solitude: Wherein Wisdom Dwells
Part of the Contemplative
Life Program (CLP), this 97-page booklet focuses on the practice and
disposition of silence and solitude. Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina
feature prominently in the practices of this 40-day mini-retreat, which
includes beautiful images, brief inspirational readings and a suggested
daily practice. Sections of the booklet include prayer in secret;
dimensions of silence; places of solitude; thoughts in solitude; and a
day of silence and solitude, which provides a format for your own
one-day retreat at home. Booklet or PDF version on sale for $10 USD.
Transformation in Christ series with Thomas Keating
all products in all formats:
DVDs with guidebook &
reflections cards (with English
& Spanish subtitles)
English digital version
Spanish digital version
CD with reflection booklet
$20 USD. Mp3 version
Guidebook $20 USD; PDF version
$12 USD; PDF version
Gift of Life: Death &
Dying, Life & Living series with Thomas Keating
all products in all formats:
DVDs with guidebook (with English & Spanish subtitles)
English digital version
Spanish digital version
CD with reflection booklet
$20 USD Mp3 version
$12 USD; PDF version
$12 USD; PDF version
Digital downloads now
available for many products. Get instant fulfillment with no shipping
costs. Search in the online store under Media>Digital Download
A TASTE OF CENTERING PRAYER
“When you pray, go
to your inner room, close the door and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.” (Matt.
Centering Prayer is a
simple Christian practice that helps us to locate and take refuge in our
“inner room,” consent to the presence of God-in-2nd-person, and lead us
into deep prayer, devotion, and contemplation of the divine. Largely
popularized in recent decades by Father Thomas Keating, Centering Prayer
traces its origin to the contemplative prayer of the Desert Fathers, the
Lectio Divinia tradition of Benedectine monasticism, and to works like
The Cloud of Unknowing and the writings of St. Teresa of Avila and St.
John of the Cross. It endures to this day as one of the Christian
tradition’s most powerful contemplative practices.
Take 20 minutes out of
your day, and do the following:
Choose a sacred word as
the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action
within (e.g. God, Christ, I AM, Love, Now, Faith, Amen, etc.).
Sitting comfortably and
with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred
word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action
When you become aware of
thoughts, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word.
At the end of the prayer
period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes,
before returning to the rest of your day.
About Fr. Thomas
Father Thomas Keating is
considered by many to be one of the few genuinely realized Christian
saints in the world today. He continues to be a prominent voice in the
Christian Centering Prayer movement through the organization he founded,
Contemplative Outreach, an international network committed to renewing
the contemplative dimension of the Gospel in daily life.
-- Taken from Integral
We consent to God's
presence, letting God decide what he wants us to do.
God seems to want to find out what it is like to live human life in us,
and each of us is the only person who can ever give him that joy.
Hence our dignity is incomparable.
We are invited to give God the chance to experience God
in our humanity, in our difficulties, in our weaknesses,
in our addictions, in our sins.
Jesus chose to be part of everyone's life experience,
whatever that is, and to raise everyone up to divine union.
— by Thomas Keating, “Fruits
and Gifts of the Spirit”
Centering Prayer is
sometimes accused of falling short of true intimacy with Christ. What is
meant by “true intimacy?”
think of prayer as thoughts or feelings expressed in words.
Contemplative prayer, the pure gift of God, is the opening of mind and
heart – our whole being – to the Divine Presence within us, beyond
thinking, conversing, and even consciousness itself.
is a method that prepares our faculties to awaken to the gift of
contemplation. It leads to an intimate relationship with Christ that is
beyond words, and moves into communion with him both in daily prayer and
action. Centering Prayer is Christo-centric and consistent with the
Christian mystical interpretation of the Gospel. Through the work of the
Holy Spirit, Centering Prayer leads to a deeper intimacy with Christ.
Jesus invites us to learn
this kind of prayer in his Discourse at the Last Supper: “I do not pray
for them alone (those at the supper). I also pray for those who through
their preaching will believe in me. All are to be one; just as you
Father are in me and I am in you, so they too are to become one in us.”
And a little later: “The glory you have bestowed on me, I have bestowed
on them, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me.
Thus their oneness will be perfected … May the love with which you
love me dwell in them as I dwell in them myself (John 17: 20-26).”
This is the
teaching that Centering Prayer proposes, following the whole Christian
contemplative tradition, and brought into dialogue with contemporary
psychological, anthropological, and neurological discoveries, as well as
with the wisdom teachings of other religious traditions.
In Catholic theology,
Jesus is not just a human being possessing a complete human nature. He
is the Word made flesh, the Son of God, who in his divine nature assumed
the historical humanity of Jesus. It is through the person of Jesus, the
Divine Human Being, that we are drawn to experience the Eternal Word of
God, not just through abstract theological formulas, but directly.
At Jesus’ baptism
in the Jordan, the Father’s voice rang out saying, “This is my beloved
Son … Listen to him.” This listening points to prayer as an intimate
relationship with God. As listening deepens, so does the relationship
with God, which gradually matures over time until we become one with
him. This is the thrust of the practice of Lectio Divina: first to know
Jesus in his humanity and historical life, then to know him in his
passion, death, and resurrection; then to know Jesus in his
resurrection; and finally to know him in his Ascension and risen life in
The practices of
Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina open us to new levels of responding
to the Spirit of God within. This growing relationship may require
different responses from us as each level unfolds. In other words, the
focus of each level is distinct and produces different results. To grow
in divine love, through the earlier stages of relationship is to
experience a deeper knowledge and love of Christ. They change one’s
perspective not only of God but of all reality.
is not meant to replace other kinds of prayers, rather it casts a new
light and depth of meaning on them. Centering Prayer embraces the
unitive stage of Lectio Divina, as do all Christian prayer practices
that encourage complete surrender to Christ.
The source of
Centering Prayer is the Divine Indwelling, where one is responding to
the call of the Holy Spirit to consent to the Divine Presence and action
within oneself. Through the continuing practice of Centering Prayer, we
experience a deepening commitment to the needs and rights of each member
of the human family and an increasing respect for the interdependence
and oneness of all creation.
As we move from
conversation to communion with God's human and divine nature, Christ, we
experience the divine intimacy as it was practiced in the first few
centuries and preserved in the Christian contemplative tradition both in
the West and in the Eastern Orthodoxy. The contemplative life, already
present within us through the Divine Indwelling, awaits our consent.
Contemplative Outreach Newsletter, June 2016
If we want to be anything
other than what God has made us to be, we are wasting our time.
It will not work. The greatest accomplishment in life is to be what we
which is God's idea of what he wanted us to be when he brought us into
and no ideas of ours will ever change it. Accepting that gift is
accepting God's will for us,
and in its acceptance lies the path to growth and ultimate fulfillment.
— by Thomas Keating, “The
Heart of the World”
NEW GOVERNING BOARD IN CO LTD.
An announcement was made in the Dec. Newsletter of CO Ltd. re the
transition from the former Circle of Service to a new Governing Board
“on behalf of all the individuals and all the groups that make up the
Contemplative Outreach community. The Board is now separate from
Management but collaborates closely with it through Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler,
whose title is now Executive Director.” Its functions include: setting
the overall direction for CO, approving the budget, and hiring/managing
the Executive Director. Like most non-profit boards, it is not involved
in daily operations.
Fr. Carl Arico, a member of the CO leadership team for many, many years
stepped down from his position, believing in the wisdom of passing on
the torch to other volunteers who are willing to serve the organization.
The new members of the Governing Board are Mary Dwyer (Chairperson),
Nick Cole, Lois Snowden, Tom Smith, Thomas Hall, Fr. Gilbert Walker and
Kathy Di Fede. As a primary oversight group, the Board embodies the
vision and mission of CO and upholds the spiritual and service aspects
of CO in harmony with the CO Vision, Theological and Administrative
CONTEMPLATIVE OUTREACH YOU TUBE CHANNEL
To watch videos on You Tube
"Divine love is
compassionate, tender, luminous,
totally self-giving, seeking no reward, unifying everything."
— Thomas Keating
THE BENEFITS OF CENTERING PRAYER
Centering Prayer is a
receptive method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift
of contemplative prayer, prayer in which we experience God's presence
within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than
consciousness itself. This method of prayer is both a relationship with
God and a discipline to foster that relationship.
Centering Prayer is not
meant to replace other kinds of prayer. Rather, it adds depth of meaning
to all prayer and facilitates the movement from more active modes of
prayer - verbal, mental or affective prayer - into a receptive prayer of
resting in God. Centering Prayer emphasizes prayer as a personal
relationship with God and as a movement beyond conversation with Christ
to communion with Christ.
To watch on YouTube, please
"A part of the process of
letting go is to forgive ourselves and to trust God enough that if we
are sorry for our misbehaviors, God has completely forgotten about them
and would prefer that we would too. To live in the present moment means
that the past has been integrated into who we are now. To think back
would be a foolish thing to do because we can never judge the
dispositions that we had then with how we now would judge certain
behaviors. ... Part of acceptance is just to be still and surrender to
God knowing that all God wants is our love."
— by Thomas Keating