A Contemplative Christmas

1 12 2011

BY CAROLYN BROCK, Spiritual Formation and Wholeness Ministries

Each December we have a decision to make. How will we spend our time and energy during Advent? Distractions, busy schedules, cultural consumerism expectations, and financial stress abound. What helps us to stop, wait, and sink into a pregnant pause that opens us to the contemplative spirit of Christmas?

To be contemplative is to be present, quietly attentive, and expectant. Advent invites us into a spirit of watching and listening, waiting for the birth of the Christ child. It is a time of mystery and wonder, reflection and discernment that takes us deep into the heart of God.

Centering Prayer is a contemplative practice that can deepen our experience of this holy season. Our focus is drawn to the Giver of the ultimate Gift. Our hearts are opened to the Beloved One we welcome and celebrate. We breathe in the generous love of God and are opened to the compassionate spirit of Christ. We are moved from contemplation to healing action.

What Is Centering Prayer?

• A simple way of praying in which breath and a “prayer word” keep our attention focused on God’s presence.

• A listening prayer in which we set aside all thoughts and intentions other than openness to God.

• The intentional emptying of inner clutter and chatter to create space for God.

Why Is It Important?

• Healing of the spirit requires openness to God’s touch at deep levels. Receptive quietness opens this space into which we may realize and welcome God.

• Jesus’ life and ministry were grounded in the renewing grace of intimate friendship with God. Our lives find grounding in deep wells of love, energy, and peace when centered in God’s presence.

• Centering prayer reorients all dimensions of self and life around the reality of God. Life’s pieces are integrated into wholeness when held together by our focus on God.

Suggestions for Practice

1. Sit with relaxed, erect posture in a comfortable chair, hands open and receptive in your lap. Close your eyes.

2. Offer a brief prayer to state your intention. (For example: “I’m here, God. Waiting, listening, open. Help me receive and rest in you.”)

3. Breathe in a regular rhythm, slightly slower and deeper than normal. Let your breath become a prayer as you sense God’s presence surrounding and moving through you.

4. Listen beneath or within your breath for a prayer word (a sacred word) that expresses the desires of your heart. The word has no special power. It is a reminder to return your attention to God when other thoughts or images arise.

5. When you become aware of the prayer word, begin to pray it silently in rhythm with your breathing. Take a breath. Silently repeat the word as you breathe out. As you begin you may need to say the prayer word with each breath. Let the word go as you move more deeply into silent awareness of God. Return to the sacred word when distracting thoughts divert your attention.

6. Continue your silent focus on God for 20 minutes. Thank God and sit still for a few moments as you close. Listen for an invitation to express God’s grace and offer the peace of Christ during the Advent season.

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One response

1 12 2011
Kathy Sharp

Thanks, Carolyn, for your consistent call to spiritual practices. So difficult (for me) because of the discipline of quieting the mind. It is a very counter-cultural act in Western society. A good clue that Jesus would like it and do it. However, you describe it in ways that entice us to make the effort. Thank you for your gift to us.




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