1. Let us be still for a moment; feel our connectedness to the created world. The world and all that are in it are extensions of God; they are expressions of God. The entire creature bears the breath and image of God. We all are knitted together. So any act of love to the creatures, is act of love towards me. Any harm to them is a harm to me. This experience of oneness is contemplation. Impelled by this experience initiating actions to reduce the suffering and to increase the joy to the other is the mission of justice, peace and integrity of creation (JPIC).
2. Created World as Body of God: It is an established fact that the created world is the body of God. The creation account of the Bible says that the earth was without form and void, ‘and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters’ (cf. Genesis1,2).
2.a. An atom resembles god and shares life. The anatomy of atom can be simple.
It has nucleus in the centre. In the midst of nucleus there are proton( positive charge) and neutron(charge less); electron(negative charge) revolves around the nucleus. The nucleus resembles the water mentioned in the creation account of the Bible; the electron is the spirit of God that was moving over the water. Proton and neutron stand for the origin of life. From the evolution we know that the life first started in water and then moved to the ground. Atom bears the image of God; the proton, neutron and electron is an extension of Trinitarian God.
Atom which seems apparently lifeless is full of life. When it was blasted in laboratory of Chicago University by Enrico Fermi in 1942, there was splash of energy, splash of life. Atom shares the energy that appeared in the Big Bang, the primordial explosion. Now we can understand why the first nuclear bomb detonation was named Trinity. Since atom is alive all that are made of atom are alive; water, earth, ether, air and fire are full of life. Destruction to the eco system amounts to self destruction.
2.b. The plants have consciousness like human: Monica Gagliano, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Western Australia says that the plants detect water by the sound of its flow and move the roots towards the water. She has established that plants hear. (Marta Zaraska, Can Plants Hear? Flora may be able to detect the sounds of flowing water or munching insects, Scientific American, May 17,2017).
Professor Edgar Wagner, a Botanist of University of Freiburg, Germany, has proved that the plants have pain sensation. He attached an electrode to the plant and connected it to a computer to record the electrical signals coming from the plant. He then burnt a leaf. Amazingly like humans, the injured plant showed a definite electrical reaction to the Flame (https://www.liveleak.com/view?i=6c9_1413114809&comments=1).
2.c. Animals share consciousness. Research by The National Academy of Sciences of United States (PNA) suggests that monkeys possess a certain degree of bodily self-awareness and they are able to recognize their image reflected in a mirror. Mirror self-recognition (MSR) is generally considered to be an intrinsic cognitive ability. Rhesus monkeys with training are able to recognise their image in the mirror and looking at their image in the mirror , they are able to explore normally unseen body parts explore(http://www.pnas.org/content/114/12/3258).
3. All Share the DNA of God: The entire creation shares the DNA of God and Cosmos. So human can not claim superiority over the other. Perhaps the plants and animals can legitimately claim superior over human. A mango does not change its nature; it goes on giving the fruit. Where as human destroys oneself and destroys the created world. Human has manipulated the gene of the plants, animals and birds. Their seeds and eggs can not bring forth life. They have become sterile, unproductive. Consuming this seedless, sterile products human beings have become sterile too, losing the reproductive capacities. So perhaps other creatures are superior to human.
4. Contemplation is experiencing the oneness: Through contemplation one has to experience this connectedness and oneness of God and cosmos. I need to realise that I am an extension of God and cosmos. On the other hand one need to realise that the macrocosm, which is the product of the evolution during the last 15 billion years, is within oneself. Only when one grows in this indwelling cosmic- divine realization, one can grow in love and compassion for every form of life including persons.
5. Jesus mission mantra: From Jesus we learn that the social action needs to arise from contemplative experience. Contemplation needs to be part of every day schedule of a missionary. Evangelist Luke sums up the daily routine of Jesus, ‘Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night…When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles… He went down with them and stood on a level place… A great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those with impure spirits were cured …power was coming from him and healing them all’ (Cf. Lk, 6:12-19).
In this we find the mission mantra of Jesus; he was in communion with God all Night, called around him the new community of disciples in the Morning and along with them served the people in the Afternoon and the rest of the day. The mission formula of Jesus is Solitude by night, Community by Morning and Mission together in the Afternoon.
5.a. Night (Solitude): Though we pray in the daily Mass to save us from anxiety, we are distressed and restless. When we go into ourselves in contemplation, we see the causes and forces of our anxiety and suffering. Also we encounter the original Imago Dei which is imprinted in us. So the inward journey becomes a pilgrimage to understand the false self with which we struggle and encounter the original blessing of being in the Child of God. The false self says that we are what we do; we are what others say about us and we are what we possess. This false image is far from the original grace. This false self makes us strangers in our own home. The liberation is not in running away from the restless self but in placing ourselves in the bosom of God.
Human body is Maya, Anitya, Impermanent: In contemplation we realise that we are impermanent, Maya, Anitya. The experience of impermanence helps the evaporation of Ego. Donal Glazer was an American Physicist and a professor in Michigan University . While pouring beer into the glass the bubbles drew his attention. The walls of the bubbles were sparkling but they do not last long. He thought that if the bubbles were to last long, the movements of the sub atomic particles, present on the wall of the bubbles, can be observed. So he developed Bubble Chamber in 1952 in which the bubble could last without breaking. The Chamber had a glass window. With a microscope he observed the movement of the subatomic particles. He was surprised that the particles were appearing and disappearing; the old ones were dying and the new ones were born; there was death and resurrection. The invention of Bubble chamber was the beginning of further atomic studies. So he gained noble price for physics in 1960.
His study brought a spiritual revolution too. The human body is composed of 100 trillion cells. They are not static. The old ones die and new ones are born. The life span of the cells of the digestive track is just two days, those of skin two weeks, those of blood, 4 weeks and the cells of the cartilages of the bone joints, have longest life span. That is why a tear in the mouth heals quickly but not that of a cartilage. So there is death and resurrection every moment in us. The sensation like itching, pain, pleasure are caused by the death and birth of cells. In contemplation one realizes that the body is impermanent, maya, anitya. This realization leads to the gradual evaporation of the Ego.
5.b. Morning(Community): In contemplation I realise that I am not the only one, loved by God but one among the multitudes, loved by Him; also I realise that each person is a manifestation of that transcending love. So if I see a member of my community loathsome, rude, falling short of missionary etiquettes, then it is I who suffer faulty vision, since everyone is valued, loved and affirmed by God along with his/her limitation of the flesh.
Because of the lack of affirming the worth of the other, the community life faces the toss of storm, causing disillusion and weariness. The most common reason cited for seeking dispensation from religious vows is, it is said, weariness in community life than the problems of celibacy, faith crisis etc.
“Unless the Lord builds a house, its builders labor over it in vain; unless the Lord watches over a city, the watchman stays alert in vain”(Ps 127,1). We can build the community only with the divine assistance. We can become a fraternal community through faithful contemplative practices.
5.c. Afternoon (Ministry): In prayer what we See is made visible in mission. The inward movement propels us outward, towards the people with compassion, care and healing. The contemplation leads to action; spirituality becomes ministry, and being mystic becomes Prophecy.
6. Henri Nouwen in his book ‘ Here and Now: Living in the Spirit’ speaks of wagon wheel as a symbol to explain what it means to conduct a spiritually balanced life. Spiritually balanced life is the one that is lived out from the Center. The hub or central axis represents our contemplative center. From this hub the action extends out in the spokes, touching humanity and the world. From this center we muster energy to move outside of it. Without the axis the spokes would lose the anchor and there can not be forward motion of the wheel. On the other hand without the spokes, the center/the axis is deemed extraneous. So the Contemplation is the change that changes everything.
7. Methods of meditations: Various contemplative methods are available. There are catholic and eastern modes of practices. One needs to learn and practice regularly. The time taken for daily practice is equivalent to ones age; a thirty years old has to meditate at least for 30 minutes. The following are some of the facilities which we can make use of:
- Centering prayer by Thomas keating: https://www.contemplativeoutreach.org/calendar
- Centre for Action and Contemplation by Richard Rhor: https://cac.org
- Vipasana: (Localita’ Veriolo, Strada Prov.le 29, Lutirano-50034,Maradi(FI), Italay) : http://www.dhamma.org/en/schedules/schatala.
8.We pray that we are blessed with the experience of saying like Jesus, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am’( Lk 8,58); ‘we shall not be afraid of the ones who kills the body(Mt 10,28). Only those who are mystics and women/men of action can say these from their experience.
(S. Vincent Anesthasiar,CMF , Secretariat for JPIC , Missionari Claretiani Curia Generalizia, Via Sacro Cuore di Maria, 5, 00197 Roma, Italia)