Do you know where you are going?
Contemplative Spirituality, combining spiritual maturity and cultural consciousness
By Joan Chittister (Adapted version)
Joan Chittister, a Benedictine nun, seeks to revitalise faith as spiritual maturity that grows in cultural consciousness, by connecting with people in their experiences; that is inspired by holiness which then seeks to share that energy by engaging with other people to co-create liberation.
Now we’ve been working with four questions [that make up contempative spirituality]. The first question was, who is God for you? And who are we? Who are people as you see them and experience within yourself with this Jesus who is teaching you to see what you are looking at?
The last question was, what does that have to do with the way we are in the world?
And this final consideration is, then, how do we begin to effect, you and I, this contemplative transformation?
… to talk about culture, is one thing. When you’re trying to talk about spirituality too, and at the same time, it’s worse. But there are other insights that propel me. The Chinese say ‘Nothing we do changes the past, but everything we do changes the future’. And de Chardin wrote once, ‘The only task worthy of our efforts is the construction of the future’. And finally the Chinese wrote once, ‘If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there’. …
… religious literature [provides great] clarity to this essential connectedness between spiritual maturity and cultural consciousness. The first one … come from Exodus 3: 18, and the Scripture reads, ‘On Horeb, the Angel of Yahweh appeared to Moses in the shape of a flame of fire, coming from the middle of a bush.’ There was this bush, blazing, but it was not being burned up. And Moses said, ‘I must go and look at this strange sight and see why the bush isn’t burnt.’ And the Scripture goes on, ‘Now Yahweh saw Moses go forward, and Yahweh called to him from the middle of the bush, ‘Moses, come no nearer. Take off your shoes, for the place where you are is holy ground. And then Yahweh said, ‘I have seen the miserable state of my people in Egypt. I have heard their appeal to be free. I am well aware of their sufferings, and I mean to deliver them, so I’m sending you to Pharaoh, to bring my people out.’
… Yahweh says, ‘I have this terrible problem, and I expect you to solve it.’ Who can deny the drama in that message? Just at what would seem to be the moment of Moses’ total immersion in the presence of God, God stops Moses where Moses is, to teach him that his holiness depends on finding holiness where he stands, and then by taking that energy to other people for their liberation.
Moses learns at that moment of contemplation, four things about holiness: that it is made up of virtues, not visions. Moses learns that holiness depends on being for the other. Moses learns that holiness depends on being about something greater than the self. And Moses learns that holiness is being present to the presence, everywhere it is, and even where it seems it isn’t.