Letter to the Editor: Nothing wrong with Contemplative Prayer or desert fathers, says reader

Dear Lighthouse Trails:

Your dismissal of the tradition of contemplative prayer is totally mistaken and without grounds.  It appears that too many Christians, especially within evangelical communities, seem to think that there was Jesus, and then the last 150 years of evangelical history while lobbing off the whole history of Christianity in between.  There has been a very strong tradition of contemplative prayer since the earliest days of Christianity.  This especially had its flowering in the lives of the early desert fathers and mothers in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th centuries (long before there was any such thing as an protestant evangelical church).  John Cassian, (4th century), talks in his Conferences on Prayer of using a brief phrase or word from scripture and repeating it slowly and with reverence – see Conference Ten in his Conference on Prayer.  Contemplative prayer had very deep roots in the early Greek Fathers – see St. Gregory of Nyssa (his work – Life of Moses), St. Basil the Great, St Gregory of Nazianzen (4th/5th Century), Psuedo-Dionysius (5th/6th Century) and St. Issac of Syria (7th century).  With St. Benedict, in the west, the western monastic tradition took root and in Western Christianity.  In the early middle ages – see the work of the “Cloud of Unknowing” by an anonymous author in the 12th century.  You also seem to have a real historical memory lapse with regard to the scriptures themselves – the canon of scripture was established by the Church, not the other way around – some of the gospels themselves had not even been written until more than 60 – 70 years after Jesus life, death and resurrection.  My point is not to attack your beliefs or try to convert you – but rather to at least have you consider that the contemplative tradition has had a very long historical place and purpose within the Christian tradition since the beginning of the Church.  Wasn’t it St. Paul who first said “In Him, we live, move and have our being” or “that God may be all in all.”

Warmest wishes and blessings!!

DH

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