Growing in Faith

Awakening to the indwelling Spirit of Christ

The most important thing to know in life is that God is, that God is love, and that meditation can be a direct and powerful way to know this. So believed Benedictine monk Fr John Main. Roland Ashby explains why he has been inspired by him, and his final book, Moment of Christ.

By Roland Ashby

October 4 2018I read Moment of Christ shortly after beginning to meditate in 2001, and it had a profound effect on me, powerfully capturing the joy and truth of the Risen Christ. Fellow Benedictine monk Laurence Freeman, Main’s protégé, says of the book, which is based on Main’s talks and was completed just before his untimely death in 1982:

“As everyone who heard these talks in person could testify, they communicated an energy and extraordinary spirit. To be in that room was to know you were in the presence of a man who knew the Presence, was filled with it, joyfully, humorously and profoundly, and who embodied it.”

For me, this same energy, spirit and Presence shines out of the book.

Freeman is the Director of the World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM), an international ecumenical organisation which was founded to promote Main’s teaching. It now has thousands of affiliated meditation groups in over 100 countries.

Meditation taught Main that “the really important thing to know in life is that God is and God is love”, and that “there is no way to the truth or the Spirit that is not the way of love”.

He adopted the use of a mantra as his method of meditation – something he was initially introduced to by a Hindu Swami, when he was working as a diplomat in Malaya. When he later became a Benedictine monk he discovered that Christianity had its own tradition of meditation using a mantra. A mantra is a prayer word or phrase which is repeated continuously.

For Main, to meditate using the mantra was to leave the self, the ego, behind, and to do this, he believed, it was necessary, apart from the mantra, to leave words, images and ideas behind.

For him, this is what Jesus meant when he said we must lose our life in order to gain it. He believed the saying of the mantra enabled us to leave self behind so that we could also experience the fullness of life Jesus mentioned in John 10:10: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”.

For Main, such fullness was fullness of being, and fullness of being means becoming conscious of life, ‘our being’, as the pure gift of a creator whose love for us is overflowing and infinite. This, for him, was the source of our true selves and the basis of all reality. Fullness of being for him meant becoming conscious of the power of love as the ground of our being, the great life-source and energy-source which is in us and surrounds us.

He believed this is the energy or life-force which was most perfectly incarnated in Jesus, and is now available and present to us in the Spirit of Christ at the deep centre of our being.

The purpose of the mantra and meditation is to strip away everything which stands in the way of our discovering this “mysterious and silent presence” – our desires, fantasies, memories, all our mental distractions, all the jumble and jangle of the mind.

All of this is illusion – it is all passing away. What we need to do is to tune into what is abiding and eternal.

We can do this, Main says, by lovingly, faithfully, gently and silently repeating our mantra throughout the period of meditation, and by simultaneously letting go of our attachment to the concerns, thoughts, anxieties, regrets, imaginings and desires of the self, the ego.

Through meditating using a mantra, we experience a first death, a dying to the ego.

For Main, the mantra was the means by which we awaken to Jesus’ Spirit, the Holy Spirit. He drew extensively on the writings of St Paul to support the claim that “our faith is a living faith precisely because the living Spirit of God dwells within us”.

He cites several passages of St Paul to support this claim, including Rom. 5:1-5, “God’s love has flooded our inmost heart through the Holy Spirit he has given us”. This is evidence, Main says, of Paul’s “great conviction… that the central reality of our Christian faith is the sending of the Spirit of Jesus”.

By awakening to the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, we become aware of “the communion within God Himself in which we are called to share”.

 

From Moment of Christ

It is [my] conviction that the central message of the New Testament is that there is only one prayer and that this prayer is the Prayer of Christ. It is a prayer that continues in our hearts day and night. I can describe it only as the stream of love that flows constantly between Jesus and his Father. This stream of love is the Holy Spirit.

Again it is [my] conviction that it is the most important task for any human life that we should become as open as possible to this stream of love… this great cosmic river of love.

In order to do this we must learn a way that is a way of silence – of stillness, and this by a discipline that is most demanding. It is as though we have to create a space within ourselves that will allow the higher consciousness – the consciousness of the prayer of Jesus – to envelop us in this powerful mystery.

How to meditate

Sit down. Sit still and upright. Close your eyes lightly. Sit relaxed but alert. Silently, interiorly begin to say a single word. We recommend the prayer-phrase ‘maranatha’. Recite is as four syllables of equal length. Listen to it as you say it, gently but continuously. Do not think or imagine anything – spiritual or otherwise. It thoughts and images come, these are distractions at the time of meditation, so keep returning to simply saying the word. Meditate each morning and evening for between 20 and 30 minutes.

Moment of Christ is published by  Darton, Longman and Todd.

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