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Protecting the rights of children is our responsibility says Archbishop - Anglican Communion News Service,. Adult Gathering in October! All are welcome! Pets must be on leashes or in carriers and under control of their owners. If you can, please bring a donation for Lost Fantasy Rescue to this event. Financial donations for Lost Fantasy Rescue are also gladly accepted at this event. Do you have an acoustic guitar that is not being used? Randy could use a guitar for the music department. Please see Randy if you can help. We meet at First Presbyterian Church.

To register or donate go to crophungerwalk. Our team is St. Elizabeth's Episcopal. To register email roanokevalleypointsofdiversity gmail. I find the older I get, the more affected by daylight and darkness I am. Humor aside, I live such a blessed life and have so much for which to be thankful! My little blue box is getting heavier and heavier with coins of thankfulness. I encourage your participation in this easy discipline of thankfulness. Please think about the joys in your life and drop a coin or two in your blue box! Francis Ingathering for October is canned meats. We will be collecting them all month.

Also, Juice boxes, pkg. Sign up for our weekly e-News on our website: stelizabethsroanoke. The date is October The deadline for registering is October Charlotte Hines, Joan Freeland, Claire Privitera and Kathy Killian have all attended in the past and would be glad to tell you more about camp. There are registration forms and a flyer on the bulletin board. Francis Ingathering for October is canned meat. Do you have an acoustic guita r that is not being used? Francis of Assisi and Blessing of Animals with a service of music and prayer on Sunday, October 6, at 5 p. Summer has been long and hot, but we have been so lucky to have avoided the severe weather that the rest of the country has endured.

Those of you familiar with the United Thank Offering, have been putting coins of thankfulness in your little blue box as you recognize your many blessings.

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In the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the predominant form is hesychasm "stillness". In both eastern and western Christianity it is part of mystical practices. Some Neoplatonic ideas were adopted by Christianity, [26] among them the idea of theoria or contemplation, taken over by Gregory of Nyssa for example. In early Christianity the term "mystikos" referred to three dimensions, which soon became intertwined, namely the biblical, the liturgical and the spiritual or contemplative.

Under the influence of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite the mystical theology came to denote the investigation of the allegorical truth of the Bible, [33] and "the spiritual awareness of the ineffable Absolute beyond the theology of divine names. In western Christianity it was a counter-current to the prevailing Cataphatic theology or "positive theology".

Theoria enabled the Fathers to perceive depths of meaning in the biblical writings that escape a purely scientific or empirical approach to interpretation. According to John Romanides , in the teachings of Eastern Orthodox Christianity the quintessential purpose and goal of the Christian life is to attain theosis or 'deification', understood as 'likeness to' or 'union with' God.

Theosis or unity with God is obtained by engaging in contemplative prayer , the first stage of theoria , [50] [note 5] which results from the cultivation of watchfulness Gk: nepsis. In theoria , one comes to see or "behold" God or "uncreated light," a grace which is "uncreated. Theoria is the main aim of hesychasm , which, under the influence of St. Symeon the New Theologian , developed out of the practice of quietism. While Church authorities also taught from a speculative and philosophical perspective, Symeon taught from his own direct mystical experience, [57] and met with strong resistance for his charismatic approach, and his support of individual direct experience of God's grace.

Gregory Palamas , the teaching that God is transcendent incomprehensible in ousia , essence or being , has led in the West to the mis understanding that God cannot be experienced in this life. In the Latin or Western Church terms derived from the Latin word contemplatio such as, in English, "contemplation" are generally used in languages largely derived from Latin, rather than the Greek term theoria.

The equivalence of the Latin and Greek terms [67] was noted by John Cassian , whose writings influenced the whole of Western monasticism, [68] in his Conferences. In discursive meditation, mind and imagination and other faculties are actively employed in an effort to understand our relationship with God. Meditation serves as a foundation on which the contemplative life stands, the practice by which someone begins the state of contemplation.

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John of the Cross described the difference between discursive meditation and contemplation by saying:. The difference between these two conditions of the soul is like the difference between working, and enjoyment of the fruit of our work; between receiving a gift, and profiting by it; between the toil of travelling and the rest of our journey's end". Meditation is an activity of one's spirit by reading or otherwise, while contemplation is a spontaneous activity of that spirit. In meditation, man's imaginative and thinking power exert some effort.

Contemplation then follows to relieve man of all effort. Contemplation is the soul's inward vision and the heart's simple repose in God. An exercise long used among Christians for acquiring contemplation, one that is "available to everyone, whether he be of the clergy or of any secular occupation", [76] is that of focusing the mind by constant repetition a phrase or word. The Jesus Prayer, which, for the early Fathers, was just a training for repose, [83] the later Byzantines developed into hesychasm , a spiritual work of its own, attaching to it technical requirements and various stipulations that became a matter of serious theological controversy, [83] and are still of great interest to Byzantine, Russian and other eastern churches.

Sobriety contributes to this mental askesis that rejects tempting thoughts; it puts a great emphasis on focus and attention. The Hesychast is to pay extreme attention to the consciousness of his inner world and to the words of the Jesus Prayer, not letting his mind wander in any way at all. The Jesus Prayer invokes an attitude of humility essential for the attainment of theoria. The worldly, neurotic mind is habitually accustomed to seek perpetuation of pleasant sensations and to avoid unpleasant ones. This state of incessant agitation of the mind is attributed to the corruption of primordial knowledge and union with God the Fall of Man and the defilement and corruption of consciousness, or nous.

Theophan the Recluse , though the Jesus Prayer has long been associated with the Prayer of the Heart, they are not synonymous. Methods of prayer in the Roman Catholic Church include recitation of the Jesus Prayer , which "combines the Christological hymn of Philippians with the cry of the publican Luke and the blind man begging for light Mark By it the heart is opened to human wretchedness and the Saviour's mercy"; [87] invocation of the holy name of Jesus; [88] recitation, as recommended by Saint John Cassian , of "O God, come to my assistance; O Lord, make haste to help me" or other verses of Scripture; repetition of a single monosyllabic word, as suggested by the Cloud of Unknowing , such as "God" or "Love"; [82] the method used in Centering Prayer ; the use of Lectio Divina.

According to the standard ascetic formulation of this process, as formulated by Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite , [92] [93] there are three stages: [94] [31] [93]. Purification and illumination of the noetic faculty are preparations for the vision of God. Without this preparations it is impossible for man's selfish love to be transformed into selfless love.

This transformation takes place during the higher level of the stage of illumination called theoria, literally meaning vision, in this case vision by means of unceasing and uninterrupted memory of God. Those who remain selfish and self-centered with a hardened heart, closed to God's love, will not see the glory of God in this life.

However, they will see God's glory eventually, but as an eternal and consuming fire and outer darkness. In the advance to contemplation Augustine spoke of seven stages: [96]. Saint Teresa of Avila described four degrees or stages of mystical union:. The first three are weak, medium, and the energetic states of the same grace.

The transforming union differs from them specifically and not merely in intensity. It consists in the habitual consciousness of a mysterious grace which all shall possess in heaven: the anticipation of the Divine nature. The soul is conscious of the Divine assistance in its superior supernatural operations, those of the intellect and the will. Spiritual marriage differs from spiritual espousals inasmuch as the first of these states is permanent and the second only transitory.

In the Orthodox Churches, theosis results from leading a pure life, practicing restraint and adhering to the commandments, putting the love of God before all else.


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This metamorphosis transfiguration or transformation results from a deep love of God. Saint Isaac the Syrian says that "Paradise is the love of God, in which the bliss of all the beatitudes is contained," and that "the tree of life is the love of God" Homily Theoria is thus achieved by the pure of heart who are no longer subject to the afflictions of the passions. It is a gift from the Holy Spirit to those who, through observance of the commandments of God and ascetic practices see praxis , kenosis , Poustinia and schema , have achieved dispassion.

Purification precedes conversion and constitutes a turning away from all that is unclean and unwholesome. This is a purification of mind and body. As preparation for theoria , however, the concept of purification in this three-part scheme refers most importantly to the purification of consciousness nous , the faculty of discernment and knowledge wisdom , whose awakening is essential to coming out of the state of delusion that is characteristic of the worldly-minded.

After the nous has been cleansed, the faculty of wisdom may then begin to operate more consistently. With a purified nous , clear vision and understanding become possible, making one fit for contemplative prayer. In the Eastern Orthodox ascetic tradition called hesychasm , humility, as a saintly attribute, is called Holy Wisdom or sophia. Humility is the most critical component to humanity's salvation. By means of this stillness, the mind is calmed, and the ability to see reality is enhanced.

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The practitioner seeks to attain what the apostle Paul called 'unceasing prayer'. Some Eastern Orthodox theologians object to what they consider an overly speculative, rationalistic, and insufficiently experiential nature of Roman Catholic theology. In the Orthodox Churches, noetic prayer is the first stage of theoria. In the Roman Catholic Church, in natural or acquired contemplation there is one dominant thought or sentiment which recurs constantly and easily although with little or no development amid many other thoughts, beneficial or otherwise.

The prayer of simplicity [note 16] often has a tendency to simplify itself even in respect to its object, leading one to think chiefly of God and of his presence, but in a confused manner. In the words of Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori , acquired contemplation "consists in seeing at a simple glance the truths which could previously be discovered only through prolonged discourse": reasoning is largely replaced by intuition and affections and resolutions, though not absent, are only slightly varied and expressed in a few words. Similarly, Saint Ignatius of Loyola , in his day retreat or Spiritual Exercises beginning in the "second week" with its focus on the life of Jesus, describes less reflection and more simple contemplation on the events of Jesus' life.

These contemplations consist mainly in a simple gaze and include an "application of the senses" to the events, [] : to further one's empathy for Jesus' values, "to love him more and to follow him more closely. Natural or acquired contemplation has been compared to the attitude of a mother watching over the cradle of her child: she thinks lovingly of the child without reflection and amid interruptions. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:.

What is contemplative prayer? It is Jesus, and in him, the Father. We seek him, because to desire him is always the beginning of love, and we seek him in that pure faith which causes us to be born of him and to live in him. In this inner prayer we can still meditate, but our attention is fixed on the Lord himself. In the Orthodox Churches, the highest theoria, the highest consciousness that can be experienced by the whole person, is the vision of God.

Nothingness is a gulf between God and man. God is the origin of everything, including nothingness. This experience of God in hypostasis shows God's essence as incomprehensible, or uncreated. God is the origin, but has no origin; hence, he is apophatic and transcendent in essence or being, and cataphatic in foundational realities , immanence and energies. This ontic or ontological theoria is the observation of God.

A nous in a state of ecstasy or ekstasis, called the eighth day, is not internal or external to the world, outside of time and space; it experiences the infinite and limitless God. This theory , or speculation, as action in faith and love for God, is then expressed famously as "Beauty shall Save the World". This expression comes from a mystical or gnosiological perspective, rather than a scientific, philosophical or cultural one. In the Roman Catholic Church, infused or higher contemplation, also called intuitive, passive or extraordinary, is a supernatural gift by which a person's mind will become totally centered on God.

They include miraculous bodily phenomena sometimes observed in ecstatics. In the Roman Catholic Church, infused contemplation, described as a "divinely originated, general, non-conceptual, loving awareness of God", is, according to Thomas Dubay , the normal, ordinary development of discursive prayer , which it gradually replaces. It is a wordless awareness and love that we of ourselves cannot initiate or prolong. The beginnings of this contemplation are brief and frequently interrupted by distractions. The reality is so unimposing that one who lacks instruction can fail to appreciate what exactly is taking place.

Initial infused prayer is so ordinary and unspectacular in the early stages that many fail to recognize it for what it is. Yet with generous people, that is, with those who try to live the whole Gospel wholeheartedly and who engage in an earnest prayer life, it is common. Dubay considers infused contemplation as common only among "those who try to live the whole Gospel wholeheartedly and who engage in an earnest prayer life". Other writers view contemplative prayer in its infused supernatural form as far from common.

John Baptist Scaramelli , reacting in the 17th century against quietism , taught that asceticism and mysticism are two distinct paths to perfection, the former being the normal, ordinary end of the Christian life, and the latter something extraordinary and very rare. In the Orthodox Churches, theoria is regarded to lead to true spiritual knowledge, in contrast to the false or incomplete knowledge of rational thought, c. Hence theoria, the experience or vision of God, silences all humanity.

The most common false spiritual knowledge is derived not from an experience of God, but from reading another person's experience of God and subsequently arriving at one's own conclusions, believing those conclusions to be indistinguishable from the actual experienced knowledge. False spiritual knowledge can also be iniquitous , generated from an evil rather than a holy source. The gift of the knowledge of good and evil is then required, which is given by God. The third thought, the monitor, which is a sort of meta- thought, is the most troublesome in that it keeps a careful account of what the individual is doing and his or her productivity.

Johnston , in a slightly different manner, distinguishes between two types of anti- thetical thoughts or mental activity.

On the one hand, there are vertical, existential, or su- praconceptual thoughts, which do not move in successive images, but spiral down into the depths of being without concepts, images, and consciousness of time—that really is, instead of what really is Johnston Conversely, horizontal, essential, or conceptual thoughts are those that move in successive images, concentrating on what is rather than that it is—in this train of thought, the mind is conscious of time and place, and pursues logic and reasoning Johnston In moments of contemplation, of course, vertical thoughts are optimal, whereas horizontal thoughts distract the individual from God.

Finally, The Cloud author explains that distracting thoughts may result in pleasure or grief Bangley A memory of some pleasant past may trigger delight. After resting for a bit in the center in faith-full love, we take up a single, simple word that expresses this response and begin to let it repeat itself within. Whenever in the course of the Prayer we become aware of anything else, we simply gently return to the Presence by the use of the prayer word. This prayer helps the individual to enter into a state of loving attention toward God, which is where he or she is to stay as he or she begins to practice the second rule.

What is more, when centering prayer is coming to an end, Pennington cautions against the individual jumping from deep prayer to activity, which can be distressing. Thus, at the end of the centering prayer, the individual moves into a more conceptual type of prayer in order to slowly lift the contemplative veil Pennington In terms of the second rule, the selected word must be grounded in love and should sum up a few letters in a single syllable e.

Pennington , however, cautions not to use the word constantly, with The Cloud author warning against analyzing or interpreting the selected word Bangley Stated differently, the practitioner should not make any effort to either repeat the prayer word or not repeat the prayer word.

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Finally, regarding the third rule, which involves gently returning to the prayer word when attention shifts to anything other than God, Pennington offers a fitting analogy: Suppose we are at a cocktail party. The room is crowded. Standing in little groups, glasses in hand, everyone is talking and laughing.

We are engrossed in a conver- sation with a most wonderful person. We are wholly present to our friend, indeed, the loved one of our life. All the other chatter, the words, the sounds of glass and ice, and whatever else, are striking our ears, but we are oblivious of them.

Our attention is centered. And so it is in the Prayer. But just let someone in a neighboring group mention our name! Suddenly our attention is quite divided, or maybe it has even wholly shifted. It may be a while before our interlocutor again wholly holds our attention. But our Loved One is present. Our attention returns. Pennington , p.

The individual is neither to get rid of them nor entertain them Pennington Instead, according to Pennington , the individual gives these mental experiences to God, and lets God do with them what God wants to do with them. By gently returning to his or her prayer word when he or she becomes aware of this mental activity, that is, when the thoughts, feelings, and images draw him or her away from the Beloved, the individual is able to draw back to God. Worthy of note, though, none of the following benefits of centering prayer are empirically supported in the psychological literature.

Instead, they are observations made by Pennington , among others, based on years of personal experience and tradition and can serve as useful starting points for further empirical investigation into the effectiveness of centering prayer for depression relapse prevention.


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Nevertheless, to begin, in centering prayer, the individual is able to receive God fully Pennington It is a new kind of knowing that is affective and experiential, rather than intellectual Pennington Second, centering prayer helps the individual to increase in love Pennington So, the more the individual draws closer to God, the more his or her love becomes like that of God Pennington Merton eloquently summarizes this type of love, which leads to acceptance of what truly is, with the following: A tree gives glory to God by being a tree.

For in being what God means it to be it is obeying him [sic]. It is expressing an idea which is in God and which is not distinct from the essence of God, and therefore a tree imitates God by being a tree. Pennington suggests that this false self is the source of all unhappiness and is organized around what the individual has, what he or she does, and what others think of him or her Pen- nington see Matthew — Letting go of the false self, essentially, is similar to the Buddhist teaching of letting go of desire Pennington Pennington additionally explains, When we come to experience how truly magnificent we are, how we are at every moment affirmed by the ever-present creative love of God, we come into a new freedom.

No longer do we have to care about what others think of us. We know who we are, and out of that reality we can simply be. Fourth, centering prayer has a profound impact on, and, ultimately, reduces, loneliness, which is defined simply as an absence or emptiness Pennington Loneliness, according to Pennington , is one of the great sufferings of our time. Pennington suggests that centering prayer converts loneliness into solitude, which is loneliness transformed into a space wherein God, self, and others can show up.

Finally, centering prayer helps the individual to release tension Pennington Pennington explains, Just as the flow of dreams in sleep releases the tensions we have built up in the waking state, so the flow of thoughts and images, which takes place while we rest deeply in God, carries away tensions and refreshes the psyche. The thoughts that most strongly attempt to pull us out of the Prayer are those that have the strongest hold on us and are causing the most tension. Overall, though, Pennington cautions that centering prayer is not meant to reap self-benefits.

Third, both encourage the individual to decenter from negative cognitions—MBCT suggests that cognitive fusion leads to depression relapse and centering prayer argues that cognitions distract the individual from union with God. Fifth, both interventions endorse thought distraction, rather than thought rumination—MBCT coaches the individual to focus on other senses e. Even so, several apparent differences exist between MBCT and centering prayer. First, the core features of each model—mindfulness and contemplative prayer, respectively—are defined much differently.

What differentiates these two interventions is their focus of attention—MBCT encourages the individual to focus on modes of self-experience other than mental activity see, e. In other words, MBCT does not utilize mindfulness as a stepping-stone toward something else—mindfulness is used to exit, or step out of, self-perpetuating cognitive routines Segal et al.

On the other hand, centering prayer is used merely as a starting point toward a sort of self-God sym- biotic state. In terms of a second point of departure, as noted above, MBCT is rooted in Buddhism, which believes in no-self, that is, the self is an illusion, whereas centering prayer helps the individual to find his or her true self in God. To end, MBCT helps clients to distance themselves from mental activity by getting in touch with body sensations e. Overall, though, in that centering prayer overlaps considerably with MBCT, its benefits may be similar to those of MBCT in preventing depression relapse.

To be sure, centering prayer teaches many MBCT skills—concentration i. Centering prayer practitioners also learn to relate differently to their negative cognitions by simply noticing them—which creates distance or space between self and thought—and then gently returning to their sacred word. Finally, those practicing centering prayer get into the habit of letting go of goals—there is no goal in centering prayer other than to simply be present with God.

Six female and three male psy- chotherapy clients, 21—58 years old, were given a set of cassette tapes on contemplative prayer by Main , which provided 3 h of instructions. Once the participants listened to the tapes, the researcher met with them to review the content of the tapes and prayed with them in the prescribed manner. After the conclusion of this initial session, the par- ticipants were encouraged to follow the written procedure carefully, which included 20 min of contemplative prayer per day in addition to their weekly psychotherapy sessions.

A time series quasi-experimental design was utilized for this study, with no control group. Two addi- tional test administrations were completed at six-week intervals, with weekly psychotherapy and daily contemplative prayer ending at 18 weeks. Still, several limitations of their study are worth noting. Yet, no breakdown of the denominations of the participants was given.

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Next, no diagnoses of the participants were given, with the authors only stating that the participants were not diagnosed with schizophrenia or bor- derline personality disorder. Also, the contemplative prayer technique was never practiced in psychotherapy; rather, the participants only practiced the intervention at home alone.

Finally, the authors did not give a detailed explanation of the contem- plative prayer exercise, only stating that it was based on a set of audiotapes by Main Nevertheless, in a much more detailed pilot study, Johnson et al. Six women were Protes- tant, three were Roman Catholic, and one had no religious preference. Their ages ranged from 51 to 74 years, with six reporting attending religious service three or more times per month and nine reporting that they prayed daily.

The centering prayer intervention consisted of four steps, including a sitting comfortably with eyes closed and taking several minutes to relax, b choosing a sacred word that is gently present as a symbol of sincere intention to be in the divine presence, c centering on the word, and d remaining in silence for a few moments at the closure of the 20 min, consistent with the teachings of Keating and Pen- nington The centering prayer sessions were led by a centering prayer teacher who was identified in the local religious community as being credentialed in spiritual direction and trained in centering prayer practice by a mentor over several years.

The centering prayer teacher led three one-hour sessions over 9 weeks. The first session consisted of three min increments, including a the introduction, whereby the teacher met the participants, learned their background and religious history, provided a description of centering prayer i. Unfortunately, though, five of the ten participants reported only using centering prayer in the three sessions, rather than also at home, which may have prevented them from fully benefiting from the intervention.

Although the above studies are a useful starting point in understanding the psycho- logical benefits of Christian meditation, they relied exclusively on a spiritual leader or audiotapes of a spiritual teacher, rather than a psychotherapist, to implement their inter- ventions. Thus, research is still necessary that examines the effects of centering prayer as a psychotherapeutic intervention for preventing depression relapse. Utilizing a similar structure as MBCT, a future pilot study on the effectiveness of centering prayer for depression relapse prevention might involve an eight-session format, with approximately 12 Christian participants who are in remission from a depressive episode.

The core aim might be to help Christians shift their focus of attention to God, in love rather than knowledge, when they experience low moods. In other words, when Christians experience overwhelming sadness, centering prayer may help them to focus outwardly, rather than inwardly, so as to avoid getting caught up in negative mind states. By doing this, they will circumvent overreliance on verbal activity that reestablishes negative thinking patterns, which, according to MBCT, leads to depression relapse. Also, Christians may be better able to simply be in the presence of God if they relinquish unhelpful, negative mind states that accompany depression.

Drawing from the Johnson et al. Specifically, the introduction in the first session might explain the history of centering prayer, including the apophatic tradition, and how over- reliance on cognition a prevents the Christian from fully experiencing God, and b leads to depression relapse. Also, the introduction in sessions two through eight might involve reviewing how each participant is progressing in developing the above skills.

The middle min segment of each session might involve a guided centering prayer led by a psy- chotherapist in order to help the participants a shift away from unhelpful mind states, and b develop concentration, calmness, and mindfulness Kabat-Zinn This middle segment might be comparable to the body scan exercise in MBCT in that the psycho- therapist guides the clients through the exercise each week in order for them to learn how to implement the practice on their own at home.

At the end of each session, participants might be strongly advised to practice centering prayer every day for at least 20 min and as needed in order to continue to a draw closer to God, and b develop the aforementioned skills to prevent depression relapse.

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Similarly, the Teasdale et al. To summarize, MBCT and centering prayer overlap considerably with regard to their characteristics and effects. Both offer depressed individuals the ability to decenter from unhelpful cognitions and live in the present moment.