We can well define natural contemplation as ‘presence to mystery’. All contemplation begins from the natural gift of contemplation given by God to all of us. Through this gift, we experience wonder, awe, surprise and intimacy, especially intimacy with other persons. Natural contemplation puts us in touch with the aspect of mystery in the thing, situation or person contemplated. Contemplative prayer adds the dimension of faith – a personal relationship with God. Contemplation is a dimension of all true prayer, rather than a different way of praying.
--Tom O’Hara sj
In his Spiritual Exercises, St Ignatius of Loyola recommends to the retreatant to devote much the whole prayer enterprise to the contemplation of the mysteries of the Lord’s infancy, public life, death and resurrection. Ignatius had an intimate relationship with Mary and with her son Jesus. He conversed with them constantly, and invited those who followed his way of praying to do the same.
Prayer is a personal meeting with God. This meeting takes place in, with and through Christ. We meet Christ in the gospels. The gospels are the Good News of the risen Lord active in our lives today. We meet him today. We grow in grow in faith, in hope, in love, in trust, in friendship whenever we read and ponder the words of the gospels.
The basic power of the Word is to bring us into the presence of the risen Lord who draws us into closer relationship with the Father through the Spirit. What we do in contemplation is to appropriate in prayer and implement in our living the grace already present in the Gospel.
As we continue our contemplation of the gospels, our practical decisions about embracing discipleship are confirmed. We receive the strength to carry them out through the power communicated to us. Through this power we grow in the ability to live our whole lives in Christ risen, joyfully and productively for the coming of his kingdom.
• Grounded firmly in the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises.
• Careful and helpful overview of contemplative prayer .
• Forty-one short, easy to digest reflections on gospels from the church’s liturgical year.
• Inspired and infused by wisdom and long experience in spiritual direction.
• Valuable appendices on aspects of Ignatian spirituality and contemplation.
Fr Tom O’Hara sj is best known for his popular work, At Home with the Spirit –the fruit of many years experience in leading and lecturing on the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola. He developed a program of a series of retreats at home for parishes in the Parramatta diocese and worked on the staff of the Ignatian Centre of Spirituality, Pymble, NSW. His other books include At Home with Jesus, At Home with God, and The Gift of Ignatius Loyola. Sadly, Fr O’Hara did not get to see this latest book in print: he died after a brief illness, 12 November 2016.