Over a period of a few days recently I watched a DVD series on contemplative prayer. One of the catch-phrases used often by the presenter was: “We are incarnate thirst.” I think the meaning of that phrase goes write to the heart of contemplation. Thirst is a gnawing that needs to be quenched. If it is ignored it grows worse. Each one of us has, I believe, a thirst, a gnawing, that needs to be quenched. It is possible, I suppose, to live a life never being able to put a finger on exactly what that gnawing is. But I think most people would agree that it is innate in the human condition. We live it. It is part of us.
My contention would be that it is the urge for that which is beyond us – for the divine. We go about trying to slake that thirst in a lot of ways. We look to Your humanity for clues. You are incarnate man, and as such You are incarnate thirst – but as God Your thirst is doubled. As man You thirsted for God. As God You thirsted for man. In You, in me, in everyone, there is a need to quench this thirst. You sought union with the Father. You sought to do His will – plus, You sought the redemption and salvation of all men. That is the way You lived. That is the way You sought to quench that thirst. It is the contemplative way.
If we choose that same way, we too are choosing the contemplative way. Our thirst drives us to seek it and You help us to find it by Your life and example. You are the model contemplative, and You were not a monk or a hermit. You were a man of prayer. How often it is recorded that You went off alone to be with the Father, and we know not of how many other times that are not recorded.
You lived what You prayed, and so it should be for us. And through it all that thirst for the will of God and for our salvation moved You. The grand culmination of our seeking to be in You and Your seeking to be in us is the contemplative action of quenching that incarnate thirst.