In pondering the nature of contemplation we must not allow ourselves to characterize it exclusively as a life of concentrated introspection to the exclusion of outward love and compassion. There is real caution involved in so emphasizing the inner-life that the self becomes our center. The joy, the peace, and the insight that contemplation brings carries the pitfall of spiritual conceit. We fall into this trap when we, like the Pharisees, become centered on what spiritual activities can do for us.
In a sense, it’s understandable. We seek heaven – a place of union with You, a place of joy, peace, and happiness. These are all good and desirable for us. Contemplation, then, is a little bit of this heaven on earth; a touch of that union. But the reality is that no matter how good we are at contemplation, we do it within the context of our humanity in this world. Thus, it is done within the context of the cross. Suffering, self-denial, compassion, and love thus become the facts of life of contemplation. It was so in Your union with the Father and it is so in our union with You. Our union with You is facilitated by the attention given in contemplation to Your presence; but that presence, as facilitated by the attention of contemplation, is placed inevitably within the context of our daily lives. It is affected by it, and our union solidifies through it.
You are found not just in me but also in others. Seeing the image (union) of God in every other person was and is the fulfillment of God’s vision which could only be accomplished with the selfless love and pain of the cross. We do well to reflect on this as much as on our own inner inclinations.