Contemplative Primitive Christian Prayer 12

“It all started with a Trappist monk and mystic named Thomas Merton.” ~ The re-discovery of Contemplative Primitive Christian Prayer in the West

Beginning in the 1960’s, there began a re-awakening in the Western Latin (Roman Catholic and Protestant) Church to their long-lost contemplative Primitive Christian Prayer tradition.  That movement continues to grow.

It all started with a Trappist monk and mystic named Thomas Merton.  Because of his influence, long ignored Western Latin mystical writings were dusted off and read, like the 13th century “Cloud of Unknowing”, the “Revelations of Divine Love” of Julian of Norwich (14th century), and the works of 16th century Spanish Carmelites Teresa de Avila (“Interior Mansions”) and John of the Cross (“Dark Night of the Soul”).  Slowly it began to dawn on these Catholic monks, and others, the exact magnitude and importance of the contemplative prayer tradition they had lost.

The “Centering (contemplative) Prayer” movement in modern Catholicism and Christianity, in general, can be traced back to several books published by three Cistercian monks in the 1970s, led by Abbot Thomas Keating.  Also prominent in the current re-birth of the Western contemplative tradition is Franciscan Fr. Richard Rohr.  Rohr is resurrecting the Western contemplative prayer tradition through the “alternative Orthodoxy” of St. Francis of Assisi and later Franciscans St. Bonaventure and Duns Scotus.  He has founded the “Living School for Action and Contemplation” in Albuquerque, NM, to provide a course of study grounded in the Christian mystical tradition. It is open to anyone called to the work.

So there is every opportunity for contemporary Christians, especially Catholics and Protestants, to learn the lost contemplative Primitive Christian Prayer tradition, that “higher place still” of John Cassian.  We, too, can experience “theoria”, “become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4), and find ourselves immersed in the Uncreated Divine Light of God so passionately described by mystics like Symeon the New Theologian (949–1022) and Gregory Palamas (1296–1359).  It’s not just for monks, nuns, and saints.  Like the followers of Jesus and the first “ekklesías” of Paul, all are invited to follow the Way equally, regardless of background or circumstance.

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