centering prayer, control, crucifixion, emptied, Holy Week, Jesus, judgment, kenosis, Last Supper, letting go, meditation, paschal mystery, Paul, Philippians, prejudice, The Sophia Center for Spirituality
There is a concept in Paul’s letter to the Philippians that describes a path of spirituality that was the way of Jesus (PHIL 2:6-11). The Greek word kenosis means “emptying out” and as a theological principle calls us to empty ourselves of everything in order to be filled with God. In a practical way it means living simply so as not to be distracted by “things” as well as letting go of judgments and prejudices in order to move toward unity with all of creation and ultimately with God. Paul expresses it in the following way: Although he was in the form of God, Jesus did not deem equality with God as something to be grasped at. Rather he emptied himself being born in the likeness of humanity…
Centering prayer is a spiritual practice that has become important in my life as a means of imitation of this kenotic path of Jesus. This meditation practice is a prayer of intention where one sits for a period of time in silence (usually 20-30 minutes). The intention includes the gentle letting go of any thoughts that come during that time, not pushing them away but letting them go in order to return to God’s presence. It is simple but not easy, as our minds are continually in motion. I can attest, however, that over years of such practice there is, in the gesture of letting go of thoughts, a deeper letting go happening where one slowly becomes able to let go of judgments and prejudices and needing control of situations and relationships, etc. It does not mean becoming dispassionate and passive in life but rather more positive and accepting of all manner of experiences. It is, I believe, how Jesus could surrender to all that was asked of him, even to his death. It is how I hope to move toward each challenge that life offers for imitation of Christ. The rituals of the Paschal Mystery that we celebrate this week give us ample evidence of the kenotic actions of Jesus, from the washing of the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper to the Crucifixion – an example and opportunity not to be missed!