CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

Print Version    Email to Friend
Meditation movement celebrates fifth anniversary

HONG KONG (SE): Members of the Worldwide Christian Meditation Group (Hong Kong) celebrated the fifth anniversary of its foundation and the 20th year of the movement with an afternoon seminar on contemplation given by Father Laurence Freeman, its current world director, and a dinner at restaurant in Central on December 10.

The convener of the group in Hong Kong, Lina Lee, said at the dinner, which was attended by around 40 people, that there are now 11 meditation groups in the city, with five English-speaking groups, including one that operates out of St. John’s Anglican Cathedral.

At a Mass celebrated by Bishop John Tong Hon at Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Pokfulam, on December 11, eighteen group leaders, including one from Malaysia, and members of the executive committee, were commissioned by the bishop.

At a talk given by Father Freeman in the Diocese Centre on December 10, he told the 100 or so people who gathered that we learn the art of meditation and contemplation.

“It is something that we train for,” he said, citing the St. Paul’s example of the attention an athlete must pay to training.

He also quoted St. Augustine as saying that the whole reason for the Christian life is to restore to health the eye of the heart, by which God can be seen.

He described meditation as the work we do in order to receive the gift of this grace, calling it a form of contemplative prayer.

“It is an experience of living in the now,” he said, noting that God calls himself I am (invisible and unknowable). “In meditation we undertake discipline to open the eye of the heart to purify ourselves, so we can see clearly.”

He said it is about attaining self-knowledge, which he explained is an important part of prayer, as we can only know God by knowing ourselves. “It is a discipline to stop us projecting our faults or problems onto others or stereotyping them,” he said.

Father Freeman said that he recommends people meditate for about 20 minutes twice a day, saying that it is not an isolated part of life, but a way of keeping in contact with life.

“It teaches us different criteria for life,” he noted. “Instead of success and failure, we measure ourselves according to fidelity. We are called to be faithful, not succeed, and that begins with self acceptance, recognising and accepting who you are, not what you think you should be.”

Father Freeman said that there is a difference between seeing God and looking at God. “We can’t see God outside of self, only share with God through self-knowledge,” he quoted St. Irenaeus as saying.

“The focus is on entering into union with the mind of Christ,” he explained, because as St. Paul teaches us, “We do not know how to pray, but the Spirit prays within us.”

He noted that the process of prayer is unpredictable, because it is about grace and grace cannot be predicted. But he described the vision of God as responding to the needs of others and being able to recognise need.

“The vision is not a private, isolated experience,” he said. “The vision of God is shared and transcends our egotistical identity.”

The focus of the worldwide Christian Meditation Community is what is referred to as centring prayer, which its founder, Benedictine Father John Main, who had been a seminarian, but left to join the British Colonial Service and was stationed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Through a meeting with Swami Satyananda, he came to see parallels between what the swami taught him about prayer and the writings of desert father, John Cassian, and he began the practice of using a mantra in contemplation.

He later joined the Benedictines in England

Father Freeman described it as learning how to let go of thoughts, so as to go deeper into the heart, like getting past the whirling wheel of the mind to the stability and stillness of the hub.

He suggested the use of the words Maranatha, or Abba or Jesus as a mantra, repeated over and over again.

“It sounds simple,” he said, “but it is not easy. You have to make a decision to do it. It requires humility as much as determination.”

He suggests sitting still and upright, in a kitchen chair.

“Be simple like a child,” he continued, “pay attention to the body, which is always in the present, unlike the mind, which tends to be either in the future making plans, or in the past remembering.”

He described it as a process of asking God, “What do you want to do for me?” He said it is not a matter of asking for favours or benefits from God or trying to achieve any effects.

“The point is to pray without expectation,” he explained, “in poverty of spirit. We do not pray to get benefits from God, but to become like God. What happens ultimately is that your life changes.”

The group in Hong Kong has produced resources for anyone wishing to make a start and the functioning groups are always open to receiving new members. 

The group also has a Website with extensive writings and resources available. It also contains helpful hints, as well as testimonies from people.

More from this section