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Saturday, May 25, 2013

What is contemplation? Part I: Natural contemplation

By Connie Rossini

Contemplation by Godward (Photo Credit: Wikimedia)


Contemplation 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.

 Continue reading about natural contemplation at  Contemplative Homeschool.

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