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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

Divine Gentleness and Contemplative Prayer

Christ offered Himself in death for our sake out of love, to reveal the mercy and gentleness of the Father. Though the absence of love that ought to be stirs regret in the heart of God, the Almighty does not unleash His power to surmount human freedom. Instead, He restrains Himself because He knows His love is more powerful than our evil, and He has confidence in the goodness that He has sewn into our hearts. This confidence in what He created us to be is why the Father sent the Son into the world. The Son, at the right hand of the Father, testifies to what is most true about humanity and the drama of its existence. Humanity is made to know the love of the Father, and through Jesus, even in the face of all our failures and wickedness, this Divine Dream is realized. Moreover, the supreme gentleness of God toward humanity is offered to all those who believe in the Risen Lord here and now. With all its unrestrained coercion and bitter aggression, the world cannot surmount the humble kindness of God. To believe that Christ has been raised from the dead and ascended into heaven means to believe in the gentleness of the Father over humanity, each individual, every relationship, every event, all of history. Christ reigns so that we might cling to this truth with our whole existence. Such faith does not lash out or loose patience. Though it appears powerless to the world, it is never anxious or fearful. It does not sit in judgment over others and it does not need to be in control—although it orders everything with great delicacy. Always subtle, it does not manipulate or coerce. It has no need to be competitive, but always seeks the last place. Neither does it "wish away" misery or lose courage when it is time to speak truth.It has the strength to love in the face of evil and to remain constant even as the world crumbles around it. This is because such faith keeps itself enclosed in the gentleness of the Father and never acts except that this gentle love might be manifest anew. Such faith alone provides space for Divine Gentleness to abide in it. When we spend time making our hearts vulnerable to the gentleness of the Father, something divine is restored in us—we who are in the image and likeness of the gentle Trinity. Such silent prayer finds this transforming gentleness in the face of Christ for this is what the Word of the Father came to reveal to us. Completely given to us, completely given in love, the Word of the Father speaks this holy gentleness into the core of our being—if we humble ourselves and ask, bow our heads and pray, a loving movement of heart welcomes the love so gently offered to us. His face shines on us wherever His power is most hidden—in our neighbor's distress, in trying circumstances, in rejection. In this light, the rancor of our hearts is stilled and we find the courage to repent of our indifference. But to find what is hidden we must go into mysteries our natural powers cannot see. The holy silence of contemplative prayer hides the soul from itself and makes it subject to a kindness that it cannot understand. Christ's gentle gaze that such prayer discovers hides us in the gentleness of the Father. Captivated by this gaze, we find ourselves moved to completely give ourselves in love to Him and to those He entrusts to us.

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