When people read the works of St. Teresa of Avila and the great mystics of the Church, they can be incredibly intimidated. While the language seems rich and provocative, often it seems to be light years away from the daily activities of providing for a family and making daily decisions. In addition, while the idea of spending time in prayer and solitude seems like a pleasant ideal, the life of a contemplative seems like the exclusive domain of a few gifted souls who enter monasteries and convents.
I think one of the greatest challenges facing our contemporary Church is learning to translate the great wisdom of the contemplative tradition into insights which can address contemporary life. Not only do I think that such a pursuit is a noble cause that could enrich the life of some, I think it is essential to renewal in Church. I have come to believe that the answers to the stress and tedium of contemporary Western Civilization can be found in the treasury of our mystical tradition.
Central to cultivating a contemplative attitude towards reality is learning the importance of spiritual play. Meditation is not meant to simply be a series of reflections and pious thinking that help us to be better people, but rather a place for inspiration and interior exploration. When we learn to spend periods in spontaneous and familiar conversation with God, our eyes open to a whole new reality that lies just below the surface of a simply material accounting of reality.
As we give time for spiritual play, we learn to let go of patterns of disordered thinking, feeling, and desiring. Anyone who has ever taken a game seriously knows that play is not without suffering and trial. In fact, for play to be truly enjoyable, it often involves a real challenge whereby our minds and bodies are stretched. Likewise, for the spiritual play of meditation to be true and effective, it must involve periods of both ecstasy and suffering.
Today, let us commit ourselves to spiritual play. Let us take time to allow the Holy Spirit to move our interior and stir the depths of experience, all under the gentle guidance of Christ’s tender love and mercy.