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Session 1, Breathing

Contemplation Retreat
Doug Floyd (2/2006)

Session 1 Breathing
1. What is contemplation?
Contemplation’s ladder, reaching up toward heaven, beings with the word of scripture, and whatever
rung we are on, we are never beyond this hearing of the word. In contemplation, just as we can never
leave the Lord’s humanity behind us, neither can we get beyond the “word” in its human form. It is in
the humanity that we find God, in the world of sense that we find the Spirit. On Prayer, Hans Urs Von
Balthasar

“Theology for St. Maximus the Confessor was theoria theolgica, the contemplation of the Trinity within
the Christian mystic and without, in the world about him. It was meant to be practical. The Greek
Fathers felt that this was the end of our human existence: to live experientially in the transforming love
of the Father, Son, and Spirit so as to be transformed into love for the world.” Invaded By God, George
Maloney

“Contemplative prayer is the re-educating of the child within us in the ways of God… Contemplative
prayer devastates our illusions about self and is far too challenging for most Christians.” Lecture, James
M. Houston

“My mind in the flash of a trembling glance came to Absolute Being—That Which Is.” Confessions,
Augustine

Contemplation is our response to God’s invitation through intentional listening to, waiting
upon and beholding the Word of the God.

2. Breathing is the most ancient and basic form of prayer.

A. Exercise – Breathing

B. Exercise – Breathe Prayers

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me a sinner.

Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy upon me a sinner.

The LORD is my light and my salvation.

Contemplation Retreat, Trinity Chapel, February 18, 2006, Doug Floyd


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Session 1, Breathing

Whom have I in heaven but You Lord? And to be near You I desire nothing on this earth.

3. The foundation of contemplation is the Word of God.

A. The Beginning - “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth….”

Highlights from Genesis 1:


• God’s Word establishes creation.
• Creation is good.
• The climax of creation is a person (creation is a cosmic nursery for humans).
• Creation includes both time and space.
• Time – The interval between the offer of love and the reciprocation of that offer.
• Space – The distinction between persons.
• Creation is made for love between God and man.
• Unfortunately man’s selfishness wrecks this beautiful plan.

B. The New Beginning - “In the beginning was the Word…”

Highlights from John 1:


John also shares “creation story.” In this story he reveals God doing a new thing in the
midst of his created world and once again it involves the Word of God.

Once again the creation story climaxes with a person. Only this time, John suggests that the
Word of God and the person are one and the same. John reveals that Word of God is a
person, that it (he) is divine, that he is in relation with God (the Father); that all things were
created through Him; that the person who is the Word of God became a human (whom we
call Jesus); that Jesus has come to make the Father known.

C. The Word of God is an Encounter with the Person of Jesus Christ.

Reading the word of God is not an intellectual exercise. It is not simply learning timeless
truths or principles for living; or learning how to be good. Reading the Word of God is
about meeting a person. This person is God and he is human and can speak to us in a way
that touches the very core of who we are. This Word of God whom we call Jesus Christ is
holding all things together: John 1:3

Contemplation Retreat, Trinity Chapel, February 18, 2006, Doug Floyd


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Session 1, Breathing
He is restoring all things to proper harmony. When we read this book we call the Bible, or
the Word of God, we are looking through it to a person, Jesus Christ, and listening Him to
speak to us and restore us to proper harmony with Himself, other people and all creation.

E. Exercise – Listening to the Word of God.

“In prayer, ., man speaks to a God who has long since revealed Himself in a Word which is so
stupendous and all-embracing that it can never be “past tense;” this Word resounds through all
times as a present reality.” On Prayer, Hans Urs Von Balthasar

“Prayer is a conversation in which God’s Word has the initiative and we, for the moment, can be
nothing more than listeners. The essential thing for us is to hear God’s word and discover from it
how to respond to him. His Word is truth opened up for us. For there is no ultimate, unquestionable
truth in man; he knows this, as, full of questionings, he looks up to God and sets toward Him. God’s
Word is His invitation to us to be with Him in the truth. We are in danger of drowning on the open
sea, and God’s word is the rope ladder thrown down to us so that we can climb up into the rescuing
vessel. It is the carpet, rolled out toward us so that we can walk along it to the Father’s throne. It is
the lantern which shines in the darkness of the world (A world which keeps silence and refuses to
reveal its own nature); it casts a softer light on the riddles, which torment us and encourages us to
keep going. Finally, God’s Word is Himself, His most vital, his innermost self; his only begotten Son,
of the same nature as himself, sent into the world to bring it home, back to him. And so God speaks
to us from heaven and commends us to His Word, dwelling on earth for a while; “This is my beloved
Son: listen to Him.’” On Prayer, Hans Urs Von Balthasar

“We yearn to restore our spirits in God, to simply let go in him and gain new strength to go on
living. But we fail to look for Him where He is waiting for us, where he is to be found: in His Son,
who is His Word….we fail to listen where God speaks; where God’s Word rain out in the world once
for all, sufficient for all ages, inexhaustible. Or else we think that God’s Word as been heard on
earth for so long that by now it is almost used up, that it is about time for some new word, as if we
had the right to demand one. We fail to see that it is we ourselves who are used up and alienated,
whereas the Words resounds with the same vitality and freshness as ever; it is as near to us as it
always was. “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (Rom 10:8). We do not
understand that once God’s Word has run out in the midst of the world, in the fullness of time, it is so
powerful that it applies to everyone, all with equal directness; no one is disadvantaged by distance
in space or time. True, there were a few people who become Jesus’ earthly partners in dialogue, and
we might envy them (in) their good fortune, but they were as clumsy and inarticulate in this dialogue
as we and anyone else would have been. In terms of listening and responding to Jesus’ real concerns
they had no advantage over us; on the contrary, they saw the earthly, external appearance of the
Word, and it is largely concealed from them the divine interior.” On Prayer, Hans Urs Von
Balthasar

“It is impossible to listen to any individual Word of God without hearing the Son who is the Word.
Moreover, it is futile to leaf through the writings of the Old and New Covenants in the hope of
coming across truths of one kind or another, unless we are prepared to be exposed to a direct
encounter with Him, with this personal, utterly free Word which makes sovereign claim upon us.”
On Prayer, Hans Urs Von Balthasar

Contemplation Retreat, Trinity Chapel, February 18, 2006, Doug Floyd


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