I was struck today by Underhill’s image “of a forest tree – the vast unseen system of roots, and their power of silently absorbing food. On that profound and secret life the whole growth and stability of the tree depends. It is rooted and grounded in a hidden world.” That rings true to me of my own experience of contemplation, as something hidden, working unseen to sustain and root my whole being.
It also reminded me of some verses from Jeremiah (17.7-8) which have been following me around for a few years:
Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
They shall be like a tree planted by water,
sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
and it does not cease to bear fruit.
That image of the rooted tree, nourished by living water, is an image of contemplation, of a life rooted in God. The tree does not rush around after the stream, nor does it panic when it encounters a dry spell. It remains, steadfast, in the place where it is planted. So it is with the life of contemplation.
When I was a fairly new Christian, trying to work out how to pray, I would have spoken of contemplation as something I did (and something I often worried I didn’t do very well!). Over time, contemplation has become for me less a matter of doing and more a matter of being. Like the tree, I do not need to be anxious, do not need to chase after God, or a particular experience of God, in order to be nourished. All I need to do is remain, immersed in the living water.
(A further reflection on Jeremiah 17.7-8 is available here.)
This year for #AdventBookClub we are reading ‘Music of Eternity: meditations for Advent with Evelyn Underhill’ by Robyn Wrigley-Carr. Join the conversation in the Facebook group, or by following the hashtag on Twitter.