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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

Contemplative Prayer and Sacred Space

In order to enter into contemplative prayer, it is important to enter into a sacred space. The holy place Christian contemplation accesses is heaven itself. Every church, oratory and shrine is only a physical image of this spiritual reality. This is because, joined to the Lord of Life by faith, the Christian lives, not his own life, but the life of Christ in him.

Anticipating the greatness God has prepared for humanity, Christian life is the life of the Heavenly Man—for Christ sits at the right hand of the Father above all the heavenly powers. Christian prayer is gathered with hosts of angels and witnesses around the Throne of the Lamb who died and is risen from the dead. This prayer knows that He has ascended to the Father who is in heaven.

Such prayer wonders over the reality that the One Crucified by Love is now seated with the Father. It allows itself to be astonished over the communion, life and love that is the very mystery of God. This prayer glimpses the sovereignty, authority, and dominion that the Savior has over everything that is below. To have the life of the One who sits at the right hand of the Father means, even though a disciple of Christ remains in the world, the believer is not of the world, but of heaven. The prayer that flows from such life welcomes the glory and victory of the Lord.

By faith, Christ's Life in us allows us to participate in his own victory over evil in every daily circumstance. His life empowers us to make in known His glory even in this world below. We do not see this clearly. It is not obvious to anyone outside the logic of faith. It appears the opposite.

Most consider us fools when we continue to forgive and seek forgiveness even to the point it seems not to make sense any more. Or else, when we begin yet again to disavow what is ignoble in our hearts even after many failures, many deem us hapless or hypocrites. Others resent our defense of life or mock our concern for the most vulnerable. Even our feeble generosity is perceived as little more than naïveté. Yet the love of Christ in us, His Life, compels us nonetheless.

When we enter this obedience, our prayer finds dim but real reflections of eternal glory in the passing shadows of the world. By faith, everything becomes a sacrament that gives us God - even the most painful circumstances. The sacred space in which Christians pray lives in this mystery.

This is why entering in a sacred place is always possible no matter where we are or what is going on around us. Calamity may be crashing down and sudden catastrophe strike when least expected. Believing in God's love, however, sets our lives above the exigency of the moment. His love is more surprising than any unexpected trial. And such divine surprises never leave us in anxiety or rage, but always lead into hope. A simple act of faith brings us into this deepest center, this hidden peak of existence, this secret garden, this wine cellar, this Bosom of the Father - where the Great High Priest is.

Through the centuries, the way Catholics have expressed this faith is by making the sign of the Cross. Indeed, it is through the Cross that one has faith and it is through the Cross that one enters into a sacred place. By the Sign of the Cross, our bodies declare that what is invisible and spiritual is greater than what appears and is merely material. By the Sign of the Cross, the heights and depths and horizons of our own personal existence are brought under the shadow of the Risen Lord—His love becomes the standard, the banner, and the seal of the heart. In that sacred place, His words resound:

"Father, I will that where I am, those whom you have given me might also be with me in order that they might see the glory that you have given me because you have loved me from before the foundation of the world." John 17:24

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