Thomas Keating, Invitation to Love:
The Way of Christian Contemplation. New York: Continuum, 1995. 151 pages.
A synopis for the use of the Centering Prayer Email List
Last Updated: November 13, 1999
An Appreciation by Hal Dendurent
It is said that the best way to learn something is to teach it. Writing about the subject works equally well. The more humble task of creating a summary, synopsis, or abstract of a work serves the same purpose.
I have enjoyed writing these synopses of the chapters of Invitation to Love. It is a well-written book, thoughtful, deep, and compassionate. Fr. Keating writes from long experience on the spiritual journey and with knowledge of scripture, tradition, and contemporary practices.
In a way, the subject of Invitation to Love is one of the utmost simplicity; yet, because this view of oneself, others, the world, and God is so far removed from our ordinary ways of thinking, this is a difficult book. I hope I have succeeded in making it more accessible to some.
The book also contains Appendix I, "The False Self in Action"; Appendix II, "The Human Condition"; Appendix III, "Comparison of Christian Spiritual Journey and Evolutionary Model"; Notes; Glossary of Terms; and Bibliography.
Invitation to Love is the second book in a trilogy that includes Open Mind, Open Heart and The Mystery of Christ. Its intent is to provide a conceptual framework for the practice of Centering Prayer (CP) and the contemplative journey. In a sense we are jumping in at the middle; but since this is a community of varied experience and perspectives, in practical terms all of us can and will come in at our own level and time. All are welcome to contribute to the discussion, whether reading the book or just these summaries, which will be posted about once a week.
This short, readable, practical but profound book consists of 22 chapters with acknowledgments, introduction, three appendices, notes, glossary of terms, and bibliography. "It is an attempt to provide a road map, as it were, for the journey that begins when Centering Prayer is seriously undertaken and to point to some of the recognizable landmarks on the journey, as well as to its ultimate destination." Using the language of developmental psychology as well as the Christian mystical tradition, the book explores how CP initiates a healing process of the soul and facilitates a transforming union with God.
The CP movement began in the 1970s with Fr. William Meningers rediscovery of the fourteenth century classic The Cloud of Unknowing at the Trappist Abbey of St. Joseph in Massachusetts. Adapting this work to modern times, and later joined by Fr. Basil Pennington, Fr. Meninger offered retreats and workshops first to priests and later to religious and lay people in a growing number of places. In the 1980s intensive CP retreats began to be held and weekly support groups started to spring up in various parts of the country; in 1984 Contemplative Outreach, Ltd. was established to help coordinate support systems, training opportunities, and the development of a more comprehensive conceptual background so that people could better understand the practice and integrate its effects into daily life.
We are called to the spiritual journey not only for ourselves but for the sake of the entire human community. One of the greatest obstacles to spiritual growth is our set of hidden motivations or "false self", formed in self-defense in childhood as our sense of self emerged and stabilized. CP allows us to let go of ego and discover that our true identity is deeper and closer to God. The letting go of thoughts, feelings, and sensations during CP allows the psyche to evacuate stored emotional debris, "opening up new space for self-knowledge, freedom of choice, and the discovery of the divine presence within" in a type of divine therapy.
Centering Prayer is based on our consent to let God work within us. If we persevere with it we can experience practical changes in our lives.
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