Lent, Day 19, Bernard on “the Joy of Contemplation”

Today’s passage, from Bernard’s essay on “Grace and Free Will,” section 15, is very short.

The summary in a nutshell — very few people arrive at a true freedom from sorrow and freedom of pleasure, and then only briefly and rarely.  Bernard suggests that the contemplatives are best suited to this experience.  He says, “[O]n this earth, contemplatives alone can in some way enjoy freedom of pleasure, though only in part, in a sufficiently modest part, and on very rare occasions.”

This can be said of moments of revelation, of glimpses of eternity.  This is the sort of thing that happens when you experience flow, when you’re in the zone.  I think that contemplation or meditation can help facilitate this connection to the wider world, what I would call a glimpse of eternity (eternity not being the same as forever and ever, but a moment of insight and oneness).  But I think it is possible at almost any point.  I would say that being open to the possibility of such moments of insight and connection makes it more likely they will occur.  People who try to hard to achieve this probably miss it because they are so caught up in trying to get it, and that very fixation gets in the way.  But believing that such experience is possible and being open to such experience puts us on some sort of heightened awareness, and that very awareness makes us sensitive to such experience when it comes. But those moments are brief.  But so is the life of a rose, and lots of things we love.  It seems ungenerous of us not to be grateful for these brief moments — when they come, they are truly wonderful, and for me, that is enough.  For Bernard, these brief moments are signs of a long term future glory in heaven.  I have no such belief.  I think those moments are their own reward, and that readiness to feel is key to have the experience.

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