We often practice “centering prayer” as part of the School of Contemplation. At the heart of this practice is the language of “consent.” Since this concept is so central and stands for so much, it often takes a while to deepen in understanding of what it means. Consent has to do with making oneself available to the experience of being loved and accepted by God.
The chart below describes some of the aspects of this consent; one might see how consent refers to a response or stance that is both “simple” and yet very full. In the practice of centering prayer, one’s chosen word (or short phrase) is meant to symbolize or represent this consent. Yet, it certainly does not mean “thinking about” any of these concepts below. Such reflection may be important but not as part of the contemplation per se. Contemplation is about the act, intention or experience of consent, not the reflection on or analysis of what that consent means.
Here is a chart that reflects some of the potential meanings of consent. Today we did an activity in which thought about each line and asked ourselves how easily we could say “yes.”
Note: This chart is divided in two to provide accessibility to those who thrive on more traditional God-centred language (on the left) and to those who for various reasons find traditional language for God distracting or unhelpful (on the right).
I permit, accept, receive the gift/Presence of Divine Love
|I acknowledge that the Universe/Reality has brought about my being and accepts me|
|I accept/join the activity/work of God in and around me. I accept that God’s intentions for me are good.||I accept what is, this moment (though I may work for change)|
|The Reign/Reality of God (kingdom) is within/among us. I enter into participation.||I acknowledge and enter into the connectedness of all things.|
|I consent to trust God for what lies beyond my control. I am detached from the results of my actions. I accept both the invitation to agency and the dependence in my life.||I accept that much of life is beyond my control. I am detached from the results of my actions. I accept both the invitation to agency and the dependence in my life.|
|I accept feeling what I feel and knowing what I know. (God is not aligned with dishonesty, denial or repression.)||I accept feeling what I feel and knowing what I know.|
|I accept the grace of God’s forgiveness that welcomes me with all my mistakes and weaknesses – I may have to face the consequences of my actions, but God’s love also welcomes me||I accept myself in spite of my mistakes and weaknesses (my acceptance is not based on my performance or achievement – though I also accept the consequences of my actions)|