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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

Theological Contemplation

Spiritual theology or mystical theology is the knowledge we gain by living faith in the Lord God. St. John of the Cross describes it as general and obscure - but also as beautiful and as enchanting as exotic unexplored islands of some new world waiting to be discovered. English mystics call it a cloud of unknowing. St. Gregory of Nyssa describes it as the cloud and darkness that covered Mt. Sinai at the great theophany of Moses. For St. Augustine this is an encounter with the Light from which all light comes, that Light that made us - not a knowledge of what but of Who. St. Thomas explains that this knowledge is the most certain even if it is not the clearest kind of knowing. St. Teresa describes it as a gaze into the eyes of the One who was wounded for our sakes. For her, this knowledge is the principal cause of compunction, the water which alone quenches the gardens of our hearts. For Catherine of Siena this knowledge is gained by plunging deep into the wounds of Christ and venerating him with kisses from his feet to his lips - the bridge from our misery to the Father's mercy. All these saints are agreed that such knowledge is a sheer gift which we can only fully receive by spending time in prayer and a life disciplined by taken up our own crosses. Though it costs dearly, the whole theological enterprise limps along without it—such contemplation is the life blood of any meaningful study of God and of anything in relation to Him. Even after 2000 years of great saints, theologians and mystics, theological contemplation remains a vast barely known frontier of human existence—for most of the inexhaustible riches of Christ are still waiting to be discovered.

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