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Christian Contemplation

rays of light

The Golden

Contemplative prayer is a little known aspect of the Christian faith. This is surprising because Christian contemplatives include the greatest and happiest Christian saints - Patrick, Lady Julian of Norwich, and Francis of Assisi.

Christian contemplation is a prayer of love. The person who first described the experience for generations of Christians was Dionysius the pseudo Aereopagite, probably a monk, who lived in the late fifth or early sixth century. He described the "ray of divine darkness" that illuminated the soul in contemplation.

Over the centuries Christian contemplatives have found contemplation to be a source of compassion, courage, healing, freedom, and wisdom. This is not surprising since contemplation is "a loving relationship with God" and in Christian theology God is the source of wisdom, freedom, healing, courage, compassion, and joy.

The contemplative hymn Veni Sancte Spiritus (Come, Holy Spirit) first appeared in liturgical books around the year 1200. The prayer came to be known as the "Golden Sequence" because of its golden thought and expression.

Its author is believed to be Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, who led the struggle for Magna Carta, which was granted by King John on June 15, 1215. To those who have experienced contemplative prayer it is plain as day: Contemplative prayer gave Stephen Langton the clarity and strength to help establish the great constitutional affirmation of justice and freedom.

Langton wrote in Latin. The following is an English translation -

Veni, Sancte Spiritus

Come, holy Spirit, and send out from heaven,
The beam of thy light.

Come, father of the poor, come, giver of all we have,
Come, light of our hearts.

Best of consolers, sweet guest of the soul,
And comfort of the weary.

Thou who gives rest in labour, relief in burning toil,
And solace in grief.

O blessed light, fill the innermost hearts
Of those who trust in thee.

Without thy indwelling, there is nothing in us,
And nothing free of loss.

Cleanse what is sordid, give water in dryness,
And heal our wounds.

Bend what is proud, make the frigid warm,
Bring back the wayward soul.

Give to the faithful who trust you
Thy seven sacred gifts.

Give virtue's reward, salvation when we depart,
And perennial joy.




Boy about to sailBig Ben London

The seven sacred gifts described in the Golden Sequence are very likely the seven powers, or vitues, described in
A Few Ideas in Our Heads



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Copyright 2006, 2007, 2008 David Abbott & Catherine Glass