I found this from something Mirosalv Volf shared tonight and thought it was jam packed with brilliance. It is the text of Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England and the Anglican Communion, during his address to the Synod of Bishops. Read it all if you have time, here are some of the pieces that stood out to me.
And the face we need to show to our world is the face of a humanity in endless growth towards love, a humanity so delighted and engaged by the glory of what we look towards that we are prepared to embark on a journey without end to find our way more deeply into it, into the heart of the trinitarian life.
In this perspective, contemplation is very far from being just one kind of thing that Christians do: it is the key to prayer, liturgy, art and ethics, the key to the essence of a renewed humanity that is capable of seeing the world and other subjects in the world with freedom – freedom from self-oriented, acquisitive habits and the distorted understanding that comes from them. To put it boldly, contemplation is the only ultimate answer to the unreal and insane world that our financial systems and our advertising culture and our chaotic and unexamined emotions encourage us to inhabit. To learn contemplative practice is to learn what we need so as to live truthfully and honestly and lovingly. It is a deeply revolutionary matter.
He is trying to live the Christian life with the emotional equipment of someone still deeply wedded to the search for individual satisfaction. It is a powerful warning: we have to be very careful in our evangelization not simply to persuade people to apply to God and the life of the spirit all the longings for drama, excitement and self-congratulation that we so often indulge in our daily lives.
The contemplative habit strips away an unthinking superiority towards other baptized believers and the assumption that I have nothing to learn from them. Insofar as the habit of contemplation helps us approach all experience as gift, we shall always be asking what it is that the brother or sister has to share with us – even the brother or sister who is in one way or another separated from us or from what we supposed to be the fullness of communion.
2 thoughts on “Rowan Williams on Contemplation, Evangelization and Self Congratulation”
Love this. I am a big fan Volf and contemplative thinking. This particular selection reminds me of Henri Nouwen’s writings on the poverty of the heart and mind. My favourite part is how the habit of contemplation can help us approach all experience as gift. Have you experience this in any way yourself?