ontemplation for Carmelites is the summit of the spiritual life on earth. It is (or should be) the goal of all Christians. It is what we prepare our kids for in our homeschool. But there is a lot of misunderstanding about what contemplation is. The word is used in so many senses, both in secular and religious circles. In this post, we’ll look at “natural contemplation”–something all humans can experience on their own. What is Contemplation? Part II will examine what “contemplation” means in various religions, especially the Carmelite understanding of supernatural contemplation.
The most common definition of “contemplate” is “think about” or “meditate on.” In this sense, we can contemplate virtually anything. We’ll discuss meditation on Sacred Scripture in Part II. It is not what Carmelites generally mean by contemplation.
Pére Marie-Eugene, O.C.D., gives a great explanation of three types of natural contemplation in I want to See God.
First, there is aesthetic contemplation. This is when our senses experience beauty and we respond to it with emotion. The classic example is looking at a sunset. A deep communication goes on between the beautiful thing and our heart. We no longer meditate on the details of the object, but simply gaze with love. We soak it in. We feel we have touched something transcendent.
The second type of natural contemplation is intellectual. A philosopher or scientist who has spent years looking for a key idea or law, suddenly finds it. At that moment, he stops inquiring. His intellect is stilled. He delights in his discovery.
Thirdly, there is theological contemplation. This occurs when you are enraptured by a divine truth or a scene from the Gospels. The truth is so awesome, you just want to drown yourself in it. Again, the details fade. Something beyond them has moved your heart. You might experience this in your prayer time, but it is not yet supernatural.
All three of these types of natural contemplation should have a place in our homeschool.
There is a fourth type of natural contemplation, which we could call personal contemplation. A new mother, holding her infant for the first time, saves the counting of fingers and toes for later, being totally caught up in her love for her child. Or two lovers gaze at each other in awe, saying nothing, even thinking nothing for that moment. Personal contemplation is especially akin to supernatural contemplation.
Share with us: What do you enjoy contemplating? How do you use natural contemplation in your homeschool?
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