Saturday, August 30, 2014



Robert Trabold

Sounds of waves crashing on shore
fills whole landscape – hear it coming
from distance. Lovely day not too
cool despite sharp off shore breeze.

I sit on a bench – my eyes scan
seashore.  Dark –bright colors
alternate as sun travels through clouds.

Sunshine brightens sand – glimmers
around me – in the distance
bright borders to blue ocean.
Dark sea full of mystery!

I sit on a Jones Beach bench
dedicated to Pasquale Siccurella
passed away 2013. Wonder if he comes
back at times to enjoy ocean view.

Life goes on – one year after another.
Flow like ocean tides – waves.
Some years are calm – others rough.

Happy I came to the sea
grateful dreadful winter finished.
I can come now to the ocean – listen
to waves.

Sounds of waves wash over me swirl
around me. I sit in mystery – leave busy
city behind me – take a day off.

Mystery of life washes over me
noise of city life – endless wars of my country
cries of poor hungry people looking for work.

Jesus walked on the Sea of Galilee
surprised his disciple – awed.
He will come again - walk on
waters of Jones Beach
surprise me – hold me together.
Take me by the hand – give me hope
for a safe landing.



Robert Trabold

            In religious traditions, eternal life and God are spoken about as the goal of our human life, as going home after our pilgrimage on earth. It is a place where we will be unconditionally accepted. Jesus spoke of this when He told his apostles that He is leaving in order to prepare a place for them in his Father’s house. In the eastern religions, this desire to go home is expressed in the three steps of our life’s journey. In the first 25-30 years, we are busy growing up, going to school, learning our work and profession, etc.  After that from 25 - 55, we are occupied in the world working in our profession, getting married and having our family and using our talents to accomplish our responsibilities.  After 55 – 60, the eastern religions describe this time as when the leaves fall off the tree, we are no longer so active in our tasks and obligations. Time opens up for us and opportunities arise to get closer to the transcendent. These years of semi-retirement and retirement can be times of growth in contemplative prayer and God touches people to grow in a deeper relationship with Him/Her. If we look at the contemporary contemplative prayer movements in our country such as the John Main Movement and the Centering Prayer Movement, many of the members have been touched by God to enter this deeper relationship in their later years, in the third stage of their life. In a very real sense, we are preparing ourselves to enter into the house of our Father that Jesus said that He would prepare for us. We are going and coming home.

            This desire to go home is also present within us in our younger years and especially felt in our growth in contemplative prayer. At the heart of contemplative and mystical prayer is the entry into silence, darkness and emptiness where we encounter a presence – the presence of a Beloved one who woos us to love Him/Her. This divine presence at our center is more intimate to ourselves than we are to ourselves, yet it is also transcendent and a mystery to us always slipping through our fingers. As we grow in mystical prayer, this divine presence becomes the rock of and defines our life.  In a very real sense, this desire on our part to go home, to encounter and receive that unconditional love begins on earth. This divine presence at our center is our home because we know that the earth that we live on is not our true one. Our life here is very fragile. Sudden illness can burst in on us and deprive us of many things, earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis threaten us and human relationships come and go, wars, etc. The universe we live in, in its human and material dimension, can be very unfriendly. If we anchor ourselves in contemplative prayer, however, and hear the call of the divine presence at our center, we begin to get a taste of the home to which we are called  - our Father’s house.

            The mystics in their deep relationship with God which they grew into in contemplative prayer have tasted this ‘coming home’ for which we yearn. Their relationship with God was central and defined their life.  Despite the unfriendliness of earthly life which they also experienced, God touched them giving them a calmness of being home. Theresa of Avila had this sense of coming home and being at peace in her Father’s house and expressed it beautifully in her famous poem ‘Only God Matters.’

‘Do not let anything disturb you.
Nothing should bother you.
Everything will pass on.
God does not go away.
With patience
It will all work out.
To those who have God
Nothing will be wanting.
Only God matters.’

            Theresa of Avila’s poem expresses the goal of our contemplative prayer and path. As we get closer to God and feel the divine presence at our center, we will share Theresa’s confidence. We will have that sense of coming home and experiencing that place of unconditional love that we desire despite the ups and downs of our life on earth which will someday end. We will taste that coming home which we will fully possess someday when we reach eternal life.


Saturday, August 2, 2014





Robert Trabold


Cutting onshore winds from ocean chill me to the bone

drive me to walk along harbor’s side.

Winter trees there and land calm sharp gusts

offer me shelter.

Bright sun – blue calm water –low tide

invite me to walk along shore.

Curving shore line – brown sand – white bleached sand

sea gulls looking for food in newly freed earth

rocks – old stone walls – bricks uncovered in low tide

leafless bushes – islands in the distance – all populate my walking.

A few humans like me are daydreaming – taking it all in.


Low tide changed contours of shore

things once hidden, now reappear.

Is not journey of my life like the zigzagging shore line?

So many events – currents – movements

some painful – others smiling!

My life – a big mystery like rising and falling of the tides

tides open up surprises – then cover them up.


Silence permeates ebb and flow of water

shore is silent.

Silence covers it all – embraces all.

I feel it

silence of my Beloved – silence of God.

In ebb and flow of the sea

in ebb and flow of my life

He stands next to me – will not let go. I am not alone.

Mystery of my life – mystery of the sea

mystery of my Beloved

He has a guiding hand – invisible hand – warm and firm.

Hand of God!



Robert Trabold
            In the summertime, we might have more time to reflect on our life and where it is going. Our schedules may slow down and we can think of our prayer life of contemplation and where it is leading us. In our meditation, we have our discipline of prayer and attempt to touch God’s presence by repeating the mantra and watching our breathing in and out. Of course, there are always distractions, worries about our life and its many facets and the constant tumult of the world and its wars. But we put those thoughts behind us and again return to our mantra and breathing. This constant putting aside the many distractions, worries and cares that come into our prayer is a sign that God is more important in our life than the many concerns we have about the present and the future. For twice a day for twenty minutes each time, we set our sights on the Lord because He is the primary object of our life and guides us. We have confidence that the rest of life with its cares and worries is not important as the Divine.
            This putting behind us and away the worries and concerns of our daily living and those of the world reminds us of the teaching of Jesus. In the gospel of St. Matthew, the Lord tells us to put aside our constant worries about having enough to eat and drink and clothes for our bodies. He mentions that life is more than these material concerns.  These worries are basically about survival and Jesus in his teaching tells us that life is more than survival. Rather we have to concentrate on the Kingdom of God and its justice and the Lord will provide for the rest. This is quite a challenge for us because we are immersed in the world, can be sucked into its dynamic of desire for material things and security, etc. and be overwhelmed with the injustices and wars around us. It will take a life time for us to put aside these concerns and fix our sights on the Kingdom of God and grow in such confidence that Jesus proposes to us.
            Our contemplative prayer where we put aside these concerns of our material life and the world requires a trust. We have to grow in the belief that God is there for us and will never let us out of his sight. In the gospel, Jesus tells us to look how his Father takes care of the lilies of the fields, the grass and birds.   If this is so, He will extend to us the same care. Jesus exhorts us not to worry about tomorrow since it will take care of itself. This is one of the challenges that we face over the years; we are to be faithful to our daily meditation where the focus is on the Lord. Our relationship with Him will grow. Our love will deepen and so to the confidence of His care which Jesus promises us. This is an important horizon of our life and if we are persistent in growing in this, a peace will come within us. We will not be torn in every direction but keep our sights on Jesus and His promise who then will guide the boat of our life to a safe landing.





Tuesday, July 1, 2014



Robert Trabold

In loving memory of
Margaret M. Ross – Adler
from your family, friends and colleagues
We love you – miss you more than the
number of waves that roll down front.

Ordinary bench – wooden seat
with steel – iron frame –gives it
strength. Wood – a bit worn from all
the sun – wind – salt water.

Dedicated to Margaret Ross - Adler
by her family - friends.  Bench looks over
sand into wide sea
endless blue sky – cloudy days
rainy days. At night looks at
black sky – stars – constellations.

I wonder what secrets are whispered.
Secrets of living – dying – health
sickness – peace – war. Bench watches
endless stream of life
world – universe.
I envy it such a perfect
beautiful place to wonder.  Every day
whole year – day – night.

I come to the sea
want to touch mystery - sky – seashore.
Let vastness wash – flow over me.

Bench - I on the same trip
travelling through the years with
its tears – laughter – health
sickness – life – death.  Bench sees it
all – we humans live it all.

Bench is persevering just sits here
does not give up. Example to me keep
walking in life – back – forth on
beach of life with sand – sky
ocean water. 

I should not become
overwhelmed too distressed with
flow of life. Bench is here each day
sunshine – rainy days.  I have
to keep on walking through the
years unraveling mysteries – finding
new ones.
Waves will not knock me down.



Robert Trabold

            As we enter into summer time, it may be an occasion for us to enter more deeply into our understanding where our life is going. Summer can bring on a slowing down of our schedule and commitments so that we can take a breather from our many activities.  Those of us who live in these big modern cities, the never ending schedule of many meetings, telephone calls and commitments overwhelm us – so many things to do. I myself look forward to a break where there is more time for myself, enjoying the summer garden and taking a ride to the seashore. This slowing of our schedule can be a time to deepen our understanding of contemplation and the meaning to our meditating for twenty minutes each day. Our daily contemplation takes us on a mystical journey to an encounter to meet someone, the Divine. We are not thinking about deep theological issues or the dogmas of our faith. Rather it is a journey and quest to have an experience of God’s presence in silence.

            In the quiet of contemplative prayer, we are entering into a new level of consciousness. We leave behind the rational world of our daily living and enter into a new way to experience reality. We reject our self-orientated way of living where our ego is the center of attention. The quest in contemplation opens us up to a newer way of seeing things and living due to our contact with God. Slowly we begin to see things as the Lord sees them and who invites us into have a relationship of love. We realize that we are being loved by someone and it is imperative to us to respond to this with reciprocal love. We are now not enamored of our ego and its needs and importance but our life is now orientated around our love relationship with our Beloved.

            This new way of living and our understanding of it are very important and can help us orientate our life in a more authentic way. We will not find real happiness and meaning if we are just concerned with our material success and prosperity in society. This is a big temptation because the material world and its attractions are overwhelming with the mass media; it constantly bombards us with messages and images to participate more in consumer society. This causes unhappiness and restlessness since these things cannot really fulfill our deepest needs as humans. There are other dimensions which need to be fulfilled and answered. Our journey into contemplative prayer leads us to the center of our human spirit where we encounter the spirit of God in silence and darkness. It is a path to the love of the Lord around which then we orientate our existence. It does not mean that the problems of our personal life and those of the world will disappear but we will put them into perspective which then gives us a sense of hope and security. Our life then is in the hands of Someone who loves us and takes our hand to lead us through the years.

            If we read the lives of the great mystics who lived before us, this is the discovery which they made in their prayer and contemplation. In the silence of meditation, they met Someone at their center and still point which opened up for them a new way of existence. Today through the contemplative prayer movements, we are lead to the same path; we do not have to live in a monastery. We are now living in a ‘monastery without walls’ where we receive the invitation of the Lord to travel the same mystical journey. We do not have to look around in the world to meet this presence of the Divine but to travel within ourselves, to our center and still point. Here we meet the spirit of God who is our Beloved. The slowing down of our schedule in the summer time can be an occasion for us to take stock of this opportunity and grow in authentic living.


Friday, May 16, 2014

Mary's Time - Springtime

Black Madonna
St. Thomas Church

Robert Trabold

One does not have to travel far
make a pilgrimage to Lourdes – Fatima.
Right here in the heart of Manhattan
stately statue Mary – child
aura of holiness – sacred
black bronze.
Mary – child gaze into mystery

Darkness of face, figures, clothing
draw us
statue exudes deep silence
reaching into silence of God.

Blackness has nothing
here has everything
leading us to walk into eternity
into dark mystery of God.

Mary – child 
take us by the hand
hand of love.

In utter blackness – mystery
someone calls our name
Our Beloved
call of love
an encounter
one that is eternal
one that is faithful.

Call beyond human ones
that come - go
call that grasps us – shapes us
gives us peace the world cannot give.

Black Madonna – child sit in mystery
inviting us to fullness
that no words can explain.



Robert Trabold

            In the spring of 2011, I made a pilgrimage of silence to Castilla y León, Spain where the two great mystics, John of the Cross and Theresa of Avila lived and died. It was a pilgrimage of silence in so far that in visiting these holy sites and spaces, I was lead into contemplation trying to touch the presence of the divine at my center and still point. I did not bring along books to read but did bring one of the poems of John of the Cross.  While on the trip, I read slowly his major poems which helped me focus on the presence of the divine. The poem of John, ‘A Dark Night,’ helped me feel that this inward journey of contemplation to meet God at our center and still point is one that is always wrapped in mystery. It leads us to an encounter with God who is transcendent and completely other from ourselves and the natural world around us. In that sense, it is very different from relationships we have with other humans. In spite of this dimension of transcendence and otherness, this relationship is much closer and deeper to us than other relations can be. In human relationships, the other is always in front of us and exterior to us. But in this encounter in contemplation and silence, we feel the divine presence deep within us where no one else can enter. So this relationship has a dimension of mystery and darkness which John of the Cross so well celebrates in his poem. We note also that although this relationship is completely different from our ordinary experiences, it is an encounter of love where the divine touches and reminds us that He/She loves us and asks us to respond to this invitation.  As John of the Cross so well puts, it is an encounter in darkness but one that is also burning with fire of love. We are meeting our Beloved who takes us by the hand and asks us to respond with our love. While I was on pilgrimage to Segovia where John lived and is buried, his poem about the dark night was always present to me and helped me feel the presence of the divine within me.

            On this pilgrimage also to Castilla y León, I made it a point to visit several Marian shrines with statues of the Black Madonna and I wanted to enter more into their symbolism. Statues of the Black Virgin are all over Europe and are centers of pilgrimage for many people. I was able to visit such statues in the Basilica of Our Lady of Atocha in Madrid. I made a trip also to Toledo and in the cathedral, I visited the chapel of Our Lady of the Sanctuary and the beautiful statue of the ‘La Virgen Blanca.’ These two statues are very famous and attract many visitors to the church. I sat in meditation in front of these and the dark complexion of the mother and child had an aura of mystery. Because the faces and skin were black, I had the feeling that the Virgin was leading us into the mystery of the dark night that John of the Cross speaks about in his poem. With this dark color of the face and skin, Mary directs us in our inward journey to meet the transcendent God who is completely other than we are but loves us and wants to have our friendship. I believe that these Black Madonna pilgrim shrines not only in Europe but in many places in the world attract people for this reason.  Darkness is a symbol which draws and leads us into mystery of God to whom we want to orientate our life. Our daily life is full of many things, interests, occupations, concerns, etc, and it is a challenge to find the central focus which will push our life in the right direction. This focus is God and we have the challenge through our faith and prayer to know and love God better so that the divine can be the center of our activities and relationships and put them into the right direction. This is the challenge of our life and the Black Madonna is in these pilgrimage shrines reaching out to many people and assisting them in this journey of faith.

            The color black is also symbolic of the earth and fertility which are deep human realities.  We come from the earth and our mother’s womb. Looking at the Black Madonna, we ask her to help us with the many problems of our life and the world we live in. In a pilgrimage, we go to a holy space where we have a special encounter with the divine.  We bring the problems and cares of our daily life back home to this holy place asking God his help with these things. The Black Madonna celebrated and honored at these particular shrines can be an intercessor in this regard.

            In conclusion, in making the pilgrimage of silence to Castilla y León, I am always drawn to visit the place where John of the Cross lived and is buried.  I read his poems which set the tone for the trip and this year, I read many times his poem ‘In a Dark Night.’  We are on an inward journey of contemplation to meet God in silence and darkness. It is a meeting of love where the divine invites us into a relationship of friendship.  This year, I also coupled this pilgrimage with a visit to three chapels with statues of the Black Madonna. The darkness of the statues exudes mystery and invites us to take the hand of Mary who will lead us into the presence of the transcendent God who awaits our friendship.  Since this is a journey to meet God who is completely other and different, we must be content to make this trip in mystery and darkness. The poems of John of the Cross and the statues of the Black Madonna will help us find our way to this beautiful meeting with the Lord.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Light of Easter


Robert Trabold

Lovely day – full sunshine
blue sky – no clouds – air
still cold – snow should
come tomorrow. Only crocuses
are blooming – purple – yellow.

Winter garden is quiet – still full
of brown – dull green colors.
Juice of spring is slow to come
this year.

I sit in quiet – feel
mystery of winter – spring – dull
colors but bright sunshine.

Feel mystery of Jesus – His life
death – resurrection.  Life has
many turns – up – down – backward
forward. These touched Jesus’
life – our lives
life of the world – with
violence – wars – hatred.

Let me sit in quiet -
quiet of Palm Sunday.
Sun is warm despite
predicted snow for tomorrow.
Spring will break through
give us lovely garden flowers.

Let Jesus’ resurrection break
through – give us hope for
for our lives – life of the world.



Robert Trabold

            As we enter into the Easter season, we pass through the time of Lent with fasting and penance reminding us of how Jesus suffered on the cross.  We then experience the feast of His Resurrection and we are called to share in His victory and the light of Easter morning which the holy women experienced when they went to His tomb. This passage of going from darkness into light is a symbol of our life in the world.  Certainly, we look around us and see the many injustices and violence and we realize that these things are what Jesus came to correct. The Christian churches share in this darkness and are having a hard time to adjust to the modernity of today.  They still feel more comfortable in the medieval way of thinking and acting as such and many of the church structures are dying and fading away. The de-Christianization of Western Europe continues on without abatement. In these United States, we see also the decline of many church structures; 30% of people under the age of 30 do not believe in God. This country is about 50 years behind Western Europe in this regard. Latin America and the Caribbean nations are quickly converting to the Pentecostal Churches and these are also spreading in Africa and many parts of Asia bringing a birth and rebirth of Christianity there. 

            All these changes in the churches and the world cause us confusion and concern but there is also a hopeful sign in all of this. Since the 1960’s in Western Europe and the Americas, we are experiencing the rebirth in Western Christianity of contemplative and mystical prayer. This rebirth happened when religious leaders of the West, like Thomas Merton, Thomas  Keating, the German Zen leaders, etc., discovered the Christian mystical prayer tradition that had been lost since the Reformation. It was a silent revolution that entered the churches. This reentrance of contemplative prayer was and is being led by ordinary men and women who live in the world making their living and raising their families. The many and different contemplative prayer movements are basically lay people who are living the silent and contemplative movement in their daily lives. They are building and participating in monasteries without walls. It is a silent revolution that is making its presence felt in the various Christian communities and is a source of optimism because through this prayer, Christians are encountering in a deep way the Lord Jesus who is ultimately the source of salvation for ourselves and the world we live in.

            When we get discouraged with the problems of our world which seem to be unsolvable and the immobility of many Christian churches to face the challenges of today, we know that through our prayer we are in touch with the source of redemption, Jesus. In our prayer life, we develop a deep relationship with Him who will transform us and we can be that light in the world which is so needed. Those fruits of the Spirit that the scriptures speak about – love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, fidelity, gentleness and self-control, which we manifest in our lives will be noticed by the people around us. Hopefully they will show to our neighbors and communities a new way to live and act in the world. Through our contemplative prayer, we are participating in the silent revolution which can make a difference in the way we live. In this Easter season we remember the victory of Jesus and His Resurrection, the light and hope He brings to us. We need not be stuck in the darkness of our world and the stuttering of the Christian churches. We are faithful to our discipline of silence in meditating twice a day knowing that ultimately it will make a difference in our life and that of the world. Jesus brings us this light on Easter morning - our source of hope.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Boredom in Prayer


Robert Trabold

Winter time – cloudy – cool
days – rain – snow in the air.
Although predicted, no sun comes out.  Something draws me to
walk outside – I miss sunshine
but feel drawn to walk.  Cool damp
air wraps around me.  Keep on walking –
quiet of neighborhood touches
me – I feel something – deep –

Modern life – big cities –
full of noise – we have busy lives.
Today in the neighborhood –
silence reigns – mysterious – deep. 
One can say – silence
is empty – nothing there.
But walking slowly – listening –
feeling something is there –
I have to stop once in a while –
look – listen –not to look – hear
sport’s racing cars.  Walking in the
quiet, I am in another wave
length.  Slowing down – listening –
I feel myself – my heart beating –
see winter trees – standing bare – at attention.
Silence prompts me to write this poem –
trying to put into words –
what seems to be nothing – silence –

If I listen closely – stand still –
I feel a meeting – silence has a
presence – presence of the divine.
My life slows down – someone
else comes in.
Let me to be open to this meeting –
someone tells me – the Lord loves me –
watches over me – fills silence
with my gratitude.


Robert Trabold

            Winter can be a difficult. In the Northeast of the United States this year, we have had a tough time with much snow and cold. Life becomes very heavy and we get depressed with the endless snow and bad weather. In our contemplative prayer and our fidelity to the discipline of praying twice for twenty minutes daily, the same kind of boredom and restlessness can enter in.  Despite the best of our intentions, we get discouraged with the feeling that we are not making progress in our contemplative path. We sit down to pray and we have endless distractions.  Our mind wanders all over the place. Spiritual things that used to give us much consolation now dry up. They do not have the same attraction for us. We are not satisfied with our prayer experience. We sense that we are not making progress and do not know what to do about it.

            This sense of dryness and lack of progress can be worse because we are living in the modern world with its possibility to always present to us new things and distractions. In fact, we are bombarded with so many things each day through the many channels of communication that we can be overwhelmed with stuff coming at us. Our cellular phones and other social applications can constantly bring us news, advertisements, conversations with people, etc. that there is no time for boredom. All these things are at our finger tips and easy to get. This is so different from our journey in prayer where there are times of boredom and dryness. We get used to have so many things at our finger tips and now in contemplative prayer, we sit in silence waiting to be touched by God’s presence. We have the sense that we are doing nothing so what is the use of all our effort. We are accustomed to do many things so that we can grow in life and be rewarded by our activities. Now we sit doing ‘nothing’ which is so different.

            We will carry these negative feelings during our life and have to see how we can overcome them with a vision of what is happening in our contemplative prayer. We go beyond them by realizing whom we are encountering in silence. We are approaching God who is source of all in life. It is not like meeting ordinary people in our social life. With our perseverance in prayer, we enter more deeply into the divine and grow in wonder about whom we are meeting. Our attempts to enter into this presence over the years become the paramount experience in our life.  This sense of importance then helps us overcome our disappointments with the dryness and the feeling of a dead end street. Despite the darkness and restless within us, this encounter with the divine is the experience which is central to us and gives our time on earth its direction and meaning. We are called to a relationship of love with the Lord. He is knocking at our door and wants to come into our life as our beloved. This love then is central to our life and overcomes the sense of wandering in our human journey. The Lord extends his hand and leads us on our challenging journey during the years. This invitation from the divine which we get in prayer is the way we overcome our dryness and boredom. We gently ignore these negative things and fix our intention on who is calling us. We will grow in wonder in what is happening in this deep relationship with God and try our best to answer with our fidelity to our discipline of silence despite the dryness and boredom through which we have to wander. We will overcome these negative experiences and walk faithfully and grow through the years in our love relationship with the Lord.


Sunday, February 2, 2014



Kilmarnock, Va.

Robert Trabold

What a trip – hundreds of miles –
visiting a cousin,  then poets’ workshop.
Turning of the wheels still resonate
within me.  At last, no more endless
driving – two days of peace – silence – meditation.
Quiet – stunning spot – water
Chesapeake Bay. Air is still – even
gentle breeze is silent.  Rich green pine
trees – those of Cézanne
stand at attention – do not move
enchanted by the sunshine – silence.
Such is our life – endless running around -
life in the big city. Many things to do –
 hopefully good. But like the long trip,
one has to slow down – stop!
Touch deeper down things!
My life is not exhausted by these busy
activities – good as they may be.
In quiet – silence – woods
there is a meeting – mysterious –
human touching divine – two
lovers meeting – holding hands.
Strange – silent meeting stronger than
all the noisy activity in the world.
Sacred silence is where my real life is -
more real than running
around the big city. My beloved takes
my hand – will lead me through
ups – downs of city life – helping me make
it a better place –lead the ship of
my life to a good – safe – final harbor.



Robert Trabold

I sleep but my soul wakes.
I hear my beloved who knocks at the door.
Song of Songs, 5:3

            At the heart of the contemplative journey is the sense and realization that a presence has entered our life. Without us necessarily looking for it, we are gently touched by Someone.  In the midst of our ordinary life and activities, in a peaceful moment of walking in nature or a visit to a quiet chapel or in other moments of pause, we experience this. It comes into our life as a robber in the dark of night unannounced nor sought by us.  Someone touches us at our center. As time goes on, we experience this presence more deeply and frequently, we feel that there is a deep sweetness to this advent and a desire on our part to experience it more. This presence revealing itself in my ordinary life is a mystery and has an uncommon element to it.  It appears at the center of my being, closer to myself than perhaps anyone can be or even closer to myself that I am.  On the other hand, despite this immanence, I cannot grasp it; there is an aura of mystery to it and it is something ineffable.

Contemplatives and mystics through the ages have written about this presence at the human center.  They were overwhelmed by it at the depth to their person and found with time that their whole life revolved around it. John of the Cross stated this well in the opening lines of his poem, ‘The Flame of Love’

O living flame of love
That so tenderly wounds
My soul at its deepest center:

It is a personal reality who is calling the contemplative to friendship.  We realize also that this presence has taken the initiative to reveal itself to us.  We did not look for it but in its own mysterious way, it has made its appearance.  It has touched us in the deepest spiritual sense. In experiencing this presence, mystics are living at the center of all religion, that is, in the mystery of the absolute reality and its being the true root of all human experience.  It is a reality transcendent to us and to the other things in the world but also immanent to us. The question of who God is and who we are become related because the presence is at our center. We cannot answer the question of our identity if we do not take into account this reality and its call to us.

If we quietly listen to this call, we see that we are being wooed by the Lord. He is at the center of our person because He loves us and wants us to love Him.  As Julian of Norwich so beautifully said, “God loves us and delights to be in our presence, He wants us to love Him and delight to be in His presence, and all is well.” John of the Cross stated the same in his poem ‘The Flame of Love’

In my heart where you secretly dwell
With your delightful breath
In glory and good will,
How soothingly do you woo me!

If we reflect on this verse, it stuns us that the divine is wooing us in our contemplation to a meeting in silence and darkness so that the Lord can entice us to love Him.  He reveals Himself to us and calls us to enter into the rapture of His love. As time goes on, we realize that we are no longer the center of our life with its desires and the importance of our ego; our life now is centered on the divine and we are subject to it. We realize that we cannot become our true self and grow into our true depth if we do not give ourselves to it. This whole relationship with the presence of God within us is a difficult one because we can never grasp the transcendent who is always beyond and transcendent to us. The mystics rightly say that we can know and experience the divine only in silence and the night. The center of our life and the question of our identity are related to the Lord whom we can never grasp but whom we can only desire.  As time goes on, the question of desiring God becomes paramount in our lives because this is how we can touch Him/Her.

            The advent of the presence of the divine in our contemplative path sets up conflicts within us.  First, it calls us to change and struggle against our selfishness and pride, things also afflicting all humans.  It is a hard struggle and one lasting all our life. Secondly, as the Lord’s presence grows to dominate us, we lose our taste for and liking for many things of life, such as, our work, hobbies, art, etc., and look forward to being in the quiet and silence of this presence. Thirdly, the traditional ways of our praying with many words and thoughts give way to a prayer where we quietly sit saying nothing or repeating our mantra. We are just there.  This is a big change and it will time for us to get used to it.  Also, we may lose our liking and interest in the more ritual and ceremonial aspects of religion and find that our religious and prayer life is centered on the quiet experiencing of the divine presence. All the above three changes impact on us and change our life as we grow in our contemplative path.

            In sum, this immediate but obscure experience of God’s presence in our life is the center of the contemplative and mystical paths.  This is what we are called to and how the Lord calls and reveals Himself to us. It is something we did not ask for but it came into our life.  Many of the mystics referred to the metaphor of the spiritual sense of touch to describe this advent. St. John of the Cross in his poem ‘The Flame of Love’ described it as ‘a gentle touch.’ The touch is real but it also a mysterious one because the divine is transcendent and ineffable to us. It encourages us to enter more into this mystery and presence.  The first two lines of the poem “The Dark Night” of John of the Cross sum up this desire:

On a dark night,
Afflicted and aflame with love.

            As a deer yearns for running water, so my soul thirsts for you, O Lord.
                                                                                                Psalm 42