Letters to Jesus (Transcendence and Contemplation)-3
We speak so often in our spiritual lives of “losing our self” in our daily activities, negating the ego and playing down prideful conceit, There is, however, another form of this self-negation connected specifically to our prayer life as it exists apart from the mundane commerce of the marketplace. It has to do specifically with losing ourselves in the present moment and is called “transcendence.” I’ve written to You before of what I’ve learned about this concept, but there’s more -and it will always be so.
The moments of transcendence are, as Fr. Donald Cozzens has said, “always ecstatic.” The sense of time and place are lost. Like children at play we enter zones where we literally lose track of such things. Contemplative prayer, in one sense, is a dire attempt to recapture such moments for, in these moments, I think we draw nearer to You and are transformed. In fact, I have recently been entertaining the thought that transcendence is a more than apt description of everything about which the spiritual life is connected.
For one example, Christians are often called people of “the word,” but that label falls far short of what they should be. The words of a prayer, of scripture, or of a great spiritual writer only carry us so far simply because the words retain in themselves their own limitations – like the words I am writing now. They are often descriptive of something beyond which the words cannot get. When the words have enabled us to cross over to a juncture beyond the descriptive, we have transcended the words as the writer would have wished us to do. When we do this we lose ourselves in that which is beyond words, but toward which the words pointed.
When we attempt to transcend our nature (no easy task) we work on getting nearer to that toward which our nature points. When we work on transcending our senses we try to move beyond them but toward that to which they point, and so on. In every instance the transcendental moment is that in which time and place are suspended in the pure present, and it is within these moments we draw nearest to You.
Even our own motives for doing certain things, if examined, will reveal a transcendent element of which we are usually unconscious. In fact, there seems to be a transcendent element in just about everything – certainly in anything connected with our wills. Yet we very seldom take time to smell the flowers and, when we do, we very seldom consider what is beyond the smell.