Centering prayer and Kenosis

KENOSIS

I want to share with you a few of my own reflections on kenosis and why it is so important for our spiritual journey.  So your first question is, what in the world is kenosis?  Kenosis is found in the Apostle Paul’s admonition to his readers in his letter to the Philippians.  “Let this same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who . . . did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant. . . .”  (Philippians 2: 5-7)

The phrase “emptied himself” is the English translation of the Greek word “kenosis.”  It is the opposite of the word “cling.”  In everything Jesus did, he lived and breathed kenosis.  He did not cling to his life or to any self-importance, not even his divine nature.  In his living and in his dying, he let go without resistance.  That self-emptying humility was the mind of Christ into which Paul invites his readers and us.  The mind of Christ is one of profound trust in the Divine Indwelling and that trust invites our consent and our surrender.  Surely this self-emptying kenotic mind of Christ informed his prayer life as well.

The mind of Christ, that self-emptying humility, is very counter to our predominant culture, which prioritizes power, esteem, security, success, achievement, status, and wealth.  Values like self-emptying humility, generosity, vulnerability and service to others are in short supply.  If we’re lucky, the last five minutes of the national news may tell a story about someone who demonstrates those values, which of course serves to remind us how rare they are.

The mind of Christ invites us to let go.  But letting go is not our inclination.  Our inclination is to cling to our lives, to hang on, to keep ourselves safe and secure.  We resist making ourselves vulnerable.  It is only by God’s grace that we can begin to have the self-emptying kenotic mind that was in Christ.

And that mind is central to our spiritual journey.   You and I know down deep that if we want our lives to be full and rich, we can’t count on our achievements, or our success, or our wealth to deliver what we’re looking for.  It is only as we let go that our lives are transformed into a new way of being.  Contemplative practice reveals the paradox that as we empty ourselves, we are filled with God’s presence, God’s love, God’s grace.

Self-emptying, kenosis, letting go:  it is the path of Jesus.  As we follow that path ourselves, as we let our thoughts go without clinging to them, without commentary, as we let go of our attachments to our old ways and to what we think is so important, as we consent to the Divine Indwelling, something new is born within us.  Centering Prayer is a practice of self-emptying that opens us to the mind of Christ and creates space for humility, compassion, kindness, patience, forgiveness, service and justice.  Those are the fruits of a spiritual journey centered on the mind of Christ and that’s where true happiness is found.

In Centering Prayer we empty ourselves and wait in silence trusting that God will give us what we most need for our healing and transformation.  It is a practice that exercises the letting go muscle in our mind.  Our intention is to consent to God’s presence and action within and that consent is set in motion as we sit in silence letting thoughts come and letting them go.  And whenever we find ourselves engaged with a thought, or a memory, or a reflection, or a body sensation, or anything at all, we use our sacred symbol to renew our intention to consent.  That is our practice of kenosis, the self-emptying, that invites us into the mind of Christ and into the Divine Indwelling presence of unconditional love and grace, which over time, transforms everything we say, do, think and feel.

Simone Weil said; “Grace fills the empty spaces but it can only enter where there is a void to receive it, and it is grace itself which makes this void.”  (Quote from a Richard Rohr daily meditation, May 27, 2017)

Grace leads us into the emptiness and grace alone fills it with love.

– Donald Bredthauer

 

Summer labyrinths continued..

chartres

June 4th I am again at First United Methodist Church’s labyrinth. I am reminded to slow down. My reflections dealt with our pace of life. Doing things in a hurry generally are not good for us: eating, driving, breathing, making decisions…

The only need for hurry is in an emergency: fire, police, EMT or in an ER room! Things take time: healing, sleeping, listening… Value going slow…be intentional about slowing down.

June 11th Creighton University Retreat Center (Iowa) has a beautiful labyrinth on the back of their property in a wooded area. It is a Chartres labyrinth made of white interlocking stones. I have walked it many times on my private retreats and it is one of my favorites. I startled a deer when I approached.

Here are my thoughts: Change direction when you need to. Sometimes you are close to the center, sometimes not. Go slow around the corners.

I am learning a bit about the difference between walking into the center and walking out of the labyrinth.

Right before I arrived at the center I noticed a small red pony bead. I went into the center and when I was ready to leave thought I’d take the bead with me as a remembrance. On my journey out I started to notice all kinds of little treasures I had walked right by on the way in.

There were 3 butterflies on the path I had noticed on the way in but didn’t think much of. As I walked out I stopped to enjoy the way they danced and played with each other. Another was a strange small, brown ball. When I picked it up it felt hollow. When I cracked it open there was a beautiful seed in the center with threads connecting to the sides.

I saw three different kinds of feathers, a perfect small acorn and a small red mushroom (at least I think that’s what it was). I felt like it was a little scavenger hunt God had for me. He delighted in me finding the treasures, and I delighted in the “finds”.

My labyrinth intention for the summer is growing in me an ability to enjoy the moment and not have to figure out or know “why” exactly I am doing it. I am sharing these reflections because I am enjoying the experience and you might too.

Cathy C.

my summer project

My summer intention is to visit all the Labyrinths I can find here in Omaha Nebraska.  I thought I might keep you posted on which ones I have walked and share insights and reflections I have during the experience.

I have always enjoyed labyrinths.  I’m not sure why.  They are at the same time very simple and yet very complex.  To start my summer intention I have now read more about them and even how to build one so I am even more amazed at their complexity!!

I begin:

On Friday, May 26th I went to First Central Congregational Church, close to downtown about 36th and Harney.  Their Chartre labyrinth is painted blue on a grey patio.  (11 rings plus a 6-petal center)

While it was a busy afternoon with traffic nearby I was surprised how easy it was to ignore all the noise and busyness while walking the labyrinth.  That is what must come from a daily Centering Prayer practice!

My thoughts:

The meaning comes in the walking.

Am I willing to follow the path?

The path takes twists and turns similar to life’s journey. There are longer spaces without a turn which I enjoyed.  Hummm…

Sometimes it feels like I am going backwards.

Sometimes it is monotonous.

Then I reached the center and felt relief.

I walked out much more confident.

 

On June 3rd I walked the outdoor labyrinth at First United Methodist Church at 70th and Cass after the monthly Taíze service.  It was a warm sunny afternoon but the labyrinth was shaded by large old trees.   There is a sign by the area that has helpful information.  It is a Cretan Labyrinth dedicated in 2008.

My thoughts:

Shortcuts don’t produce what the long journey produces.

What does it mean to walk with God?

Follow where the path leads.

The spiritual journey requires intentionality.

 

If you have a summer intention you’d like to share, or a labyrinth I should know about,

please email me at centering@nebraskaconteplativeoutreach.org

Cathy Mann Christiansen, Co-coordinator, Nebraska Contemplative Outreach

 

“You can’t get lost on a prayer labyrinth.”   Zachary Christiansen