“Action relies upon contemplation for its fruitfulness; and contemplation, in its turn, as soon as it has reached a certain degree of intensity, pours out upon our active works some of its overflow. And it is by contemplation that the soul goes to draw directly upon the Heart of God for the graces which it is the duty of the active life to distribute. And so, in the soul of a saint, action and contemplation merge together in perfect harmony to give perfect unity to his life.”
— Dom Jean-Baptist Chautard, p. 62 AN EXCERPT FROM, Soul of the Apostolate
Ignatius of Loyola understands contemplation as time of prayer in which one seeks to join in the events of Scripture and then speaking to God the contents of our heart. Other spiritual teachers speak of it as a time of prayer like the centering prayer, a time of silence in the presence of God. As for me, I believe both these approaches and other forms that involve prayer and making God the center in which God can speak as well as be spoken to is active contemplation.
I very much beleive that contemplation is not just speculative navel-gazing. It is not in any way passive toward the commands of our Lord for our involvement in this broken, hurting, evil world. In fact, most of the contemplative people I know and have studied are very active in seeking to be salt and light in the world. They are people of compassion and care. People who not only speak out for justice, but seek to help bring it about through their own sacrifices and services.
When we read the twenty-third Psalm, use it in contemplative prayer, it is more than just kind, hopeful words spoken in a world of hostility and fear. It is about how God is present, leading, and giving to us all we need if we will but ask. And when our cup overflows, it is not about waste, but about sharing out of the abundance of grace we receive. I believe contemplation is a significant tool for completing the circle of love; God to us to other to God.
I lead a contemplative prayer group at the church I am attending. We begin each session with the following prayer:
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth.
This is the desire of active contemplative prayer that we are filled with the Spirit of God that brings us into the presence of God so we can be instruments of the will of God in this world. To be able to pray thus is a gift, a gift God always rewards and when we allow it, overflows.