Happy Moltmann Monday! Today’s excerpt is from The Spirit of Life, in a chapter where he’s talking about meditation and contemplation. I’ve bolded my two favorite parts:
Christian meditation is not transcendental meditation. It is a meditation on an object. It is at its innermost heart meditatio passionis et mortis Christi- the stations of the cross, meditation on the passion, Good Friday mysticism. Here the history of Christ is perceived as an open, inclusive history ‘for us.’ His giving of himself to death ‘for us’ makes that manifest. That is why this history is accessible to the knowledge mediated through meditation–the participatory knowledge, that is, which transforms the knower. The observer is drawn into the history of Christ. He does not apply the history to himself; he applies himself to Christ’s history. He then discovers himself in that history, finding himself accepted, reconciled and liberated for God’s kingdom.
So, usually when we think of meditation, we think of the Eastern way, which is to quiet your mind and attempt to rid yourself of all thoughts. Or, more specifically, it’s the practice of being less attached to your thoughts, letting them drift by you as soon as they come into your head. This is a worthy thing, because it helps us become more centered people when we can find some healthy distance from our reactions and emotions. It’s an important spiritual practice, and these two kinds of meditation are not exclusive but related to one another. The kind of meditation Moltmann means differs in that the goal of Christian meditation is not to rid your mind of thoughts but to focus your mind solely on Christ. It requires the same kind of laser-like focus, the same practice of letting all other thoughts go. But the difference is that it’s meditation on an object, or an idea; it’s meditation on who Christ is and what he has done for us in his life, death and resurrection.
The problem I have with the way some people approach “meditating” on the passion of Christ, particularly, is that it’s meant to induce some sort of guilt; the goal is perhaps not the idea of the passion itself, but the realization that we are not worth of what God has done. I don’t find this type of meditation helpful, when the central goal is such a negative one. If there is any reason at all for meditation on the work of Christ, it is because it is so big that we cannot possibly know the depths of it. How else can we move into knowledge of this unless we still our hearts, bodies and minds long enough to contemplate and meditate on it deeply?
When we do that, something really beautiful happens. We become active in what Moltmann calls participatory knowledge. It’s the kind of knowledge that transforms us. It’s not just something we know; it’s something we are becoming. When we attempt to fathom the mystery uttered at the communion table- Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again- we are brought into the history of Christ, which pulls us both backward and forward. Most importantly, though, in our meditation, it brings us most fully into the present. We participate in the life of Christ, where we know, even as we are fully known. That is the eternal present, the divine now. And that is where transformation happens.
To do this as modern people we are required to move our thinking in a counter-cultural way. Rather than seeing the world as it relates to us, we see ourselves as we relate to Christ. This is the most life-transforming shift we can make. This is salvation, because in it we enter into the wholeness and fullness of God, and through it we find our way back into ourselves, too. We become transformed people, because we begin with the work of God, and then find our way into our work for God and for others. We become able to be present to the world, and to God, because we have found our home in the life of Christ.