All of this leads full circle to the reality of meditation and contemplation, in other words, to the reality of prayer. Prayer is not a technique, a method, or even a particular practice. In other words, it is not something that I “do,” even towards another person. Yes, it is fundamental and essential that prayer is understood as a relational reality, as a dialogue of love between myself and the One who loves me and yearns to communicate himself to me. But even here, the dynamic movement is not primarily one of my seeking, my doing, my effort, but of my simply allowing the Other to draw near to me, to come to me, to give himself to me, and in his very gift to awaken my spontaneous and reciprocal response. Prayer is, after all, first of all God’s own activity before it is mine. Yes, God’s eternal life itself is a life of ceaseless prayer, the dialogue of love and dance of intimacy between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And he simply desires to touch me with this eternal Prayer and to sweep me up into it, that I may find my endless bliss in this dance, my eternal joy in this dialogue, my ecstasy of happiness and fulfillment in this everlasting intimacy.
The desire and “effort” to live a receptive and contemplative life, therefore—a life of true affirmation—is enfolded within the prior activity of God who comes to me at every moment. Therefore it is not ultimately up to me to “do it right,” but simply to never stop saying “yes” to his loving invitation, and, indeed, even to let him bring this “yes” itself to birth within me when I myself cannot say it. Even here, the primacy of being over doing becomes clear (in the very “effort” to be rather than to do!). So too, in all the concrete contours of prayer, this reality is made manifest, and this greatly and beautifully simplifies things. For all the time spent in meditation, whether reading Scripture or another book, or engaging with the beauty of reality in order to make contact with the Author of reality, or reflecting in silence in order to read the objective meaning present in the subjective experiences of my life…all of this is ultimately simply a way of opening my heart, of disposing myself, for the face-to-face, heart-to-heart encounter with God. Yes, for my very reading of the Word of God is like my deciphering, in the lines of the text, the love-letter of God, the tapestry that gives me hints of his beauty and goodness. He comes to me in and through the Word, and yet my heart is restless with a holy longing (that un-stifled desire which expands and dilates towards its ultimate fulfillment!) to make contact with him directly, as he is in himself.
This is where the experience and gift of contemplation comes into play (and the word play here is deliberate!). Contemplation is like the pulling back of the tapestry, which, while revealing something of God, also hid him, and the glimpsing of his face. Yes, contemplation is God’s love touching me in the place of my vulnerable receptivity; it is his gratuitous gift, ever pouring out into me at every moment of my existence, becoming more fully and palpably present to me, affecting me. Contemplation, in other words, is like what happens in a conversation between two persons who love one another. At some point their dialogue in words begins to fall painfully short for both of them. Words simply cannot express the depth of their longing to be close to one another, cannot express all that they would desire to say to one another. And so how do they speak? In silence… Yes, they will embrace, perhaps holding hands, perhaps hugging, perhaps kissing one another, and in doing so they communicate themselves still more fully. This word of silent love does not negate the spoken and formulated word of mind and voice and writing, but it does surpass it while taking it up into itself.
Yes, contemplation is a meeting of gazes, a touch, an embrace, a kiss. It communicates more deeply, beyond words, the very content that fills words and gives them their meaning, and thus is not opposed to words (and can be present within words themselves) while also always surpassing them in the vibrant fullness of living contact with reality, living contact with the Beloved, with the whole of my being touching the whole of his Being in intimate love and mutual self-communication. This, after all, is the symbolism of the kiss, is it not? A natural kiss symbolizes three things, all of which are beautifully fulfilled in the contemplative contact with the Trinity: 1) the silent speaking of a word that is beyond words. It speaks a word that is too full to be contained within formulated thoughts, and also too intimate to cross over the “distance” between mouth and mouth, but rather requires them simply to draw together and touch, sharing the inner communication of two persons in silent self-donation. 2) The sharing of breath, which symbolizes the inner life of the person, their very being and existence, their heart, poured out, exhaled, given in loving surrender into the welcoming love of the other person, to be inhaled and drawn in by them to live forever within them. Thus this kiss, this sharing of breath, is a way of persons giving themselves to one another so totally that they come to live in one another, to be one in mutual indwelling: “As you, Father, are in me, and I am in you, may they also be in us, that they may be one even as we are one.” 3) The sealing of intimacy between two persons, in which the contact of lips—or lips touching the forehead or hand or cheek of the other person—manifests externally the “sealing” of the heart given to the other. “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm.”
This is what God does for us, his beloved, whenever he kisses us in this way. And indeed he is always doing so, and he thirsts to make this kiss ever more deeply known and felt. All that is necessary is that we give him permission by pronouncing our “yes,” and also simply give him space by opening up in our heart and our life a living contact of prayer and contemplative rest—or rather that we enter into this space that he is already opening up within us by his touch—a space in which his voice can resound, can grow, can become more clear, and can ultimately communicate the Lover himself to us in the ineffable fullness of his divine kiss, sealing the inmost depths of our being and permeating our whole existence with the sweetness and security of his consoling breath.