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Contemplative Living with James Finley, Ph.D
The Contemplative Way Newsletter Christmas 2015
Christmas Greetings Everyone,

I am concluding this newsletter on Christmas morning, which prompts me to begin by wishing all of you a peaceful and grace-filled Christmas season. In this newsletter I will share with you a Christmas reflection that will hopefully help you to enter into the contemplative experience of Christ's birth in your life. For those of you are not in the Christian tradition I hope the contemplative quality of this reflection will allow you see the underlying, universal spiritual principles of awakening that shine out from all authentic and helpful spiritual teachings. At the end of the Christmas reflection I will briefly share some details about current projects I am involved in these days.

The Christmas story begins with an angel coming to Mary, saying, "Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus." As this angelic visitation was actually occurring, Mary was immersed in a mystery she did not see coming. In that brief span of silence before Mary responded she was no doubt aware of being silenced in realizing herself to be in the midst of a graced event that was too immense and wonderful for her to comprehend. When she spoke out of that silence, her words expressed what her awakened heart prompted her to say; "Be it done to me according to your word." And with her "let it be" Jesus came into the world. What adds to the far-reaching implications of Mary's yes was that she was to live out that yes in her ongoing, daily fidelity to being Christ's mother that would lead her to the foot of the cross, and through the cross into glory.

Listening to the story of the angelic visitation in a sincere manner characteristic of heartfelt faith and devotion provides a way we can meditate and pray during this Christmas season and really throughout the year. For we can pause to ponder the angelic visitations that have and continue to transform our lives. By angelic visitations I am speaking in a poetic way about the graced moments in our life we did not see coming.

To help you in your prayerful considerations of the angelic visitations that have transformed your life, I will briefly list some of ways that these visitations tend to occur in our lives. There is the angelic visitation of those amazing moments in which we realize we were falling in love with someone who was falling in love with us. There is the angelic visitation of conceiving and giving birth to a child. There is the angelic visitation of discovering a gift or talent that you are invited to cultivate and share for the benefit of others. There is the angelic visitation that comes as a quiet recognition of being interiorly drawn into a deeper, wordless communion with God in prayer.

As you make your list the angelic visitations that have transformed your life, I encourage you not to overlook the visitations that have come into your life in moments of sorrow and loss and other forms of suffering. The angel is not the suffering itself but rather the transformative effects of all you experienced and learned about yourself in your efforts to free yourself and others from suffering. Then, too, there are the angelic visitations that come our way in those moments we realize that we are being asked to accept some ongoing source of suffering that we are powerless to free ourselves from. The angel is not the ongoing pain and loss itself but rather the intimate and mysterious ways that we learn to experience the deep mystery of God as a presence that protects us from nothing even as God unexplainably sustains us in all things.

You will also want to include in your list of the angelic visitations those moments you were asked to acknowledge and repent of all those times you said no instead of yes to God calling you to love and forgive yourself and others as God so tenderly loves and forgives you come what may. You might want to consider that the angels that come to visit in your sincere repentance are perhaps the same angels that came to console Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. For is it not true that the tears of repentance can teach us things about the mercy of God few other things can? And as you make your litany of angelic visitations, you and God can carefully go over your list together. As you do so you may discover this prayerful remembrance of the angelic visitations, in God's presence, will evoke an angelic visitation of your renewed and deepened awareness of all the ways Christ is born in your life day by day.

And, finally, be sure to ask for the grace to be ever more open and receptive to the angels waiting their turn to awaken you and draw you into the each visitation that lies hidden in all your unknown tomorrows. And among the flock of angels that have yet to arrive in our life, there is among them, the angel of death that is quietly and patiently willing to be last until the time comes to take you home.

You might be inclined to explore a more distilled, contemplative way to ground yourself in your experience of the angelic visitations in your life. You can do this by sitting still and straight. As you inhale, sincerely receive each inhalation as an angelic visitation in which you are invited to experience and accept God being poured out and wholly given away as the gift and miracle of being alive and real in this and in every moment of your life. Then, with each exhalation, exhale yourself as way to give yourself to God, who is always being given to you in the angelic visitation of each passing moment of your life. In this simple and distilled manner you can join Mary and all the saints in bearing witness to the mystery in which Christ is born in our lives now and forever in ways we do not and do not need to understand.

As indicated above I will end with a few brief comments on current projects I am involved in these days. The first is that the four-week video retreat titled Exploring the Foundations of Contemplative Living that I gave for the Contemplative Journal is still available for you to download on the Internet. You can find out more about this series of four video recorded retreat conference by going to: Streamed Retreat. There is $49.00 charge for series of four video retreat conferences, which you can continue to view for three months after the conclusion of the fourth and final session.

Plans are underway to offer more audio and video presentations on this website. Some of these presentations will be offered free of charge and others will be offered for a fee. I am doing this as part of my transition into semi-retirement in which I feel the need to conserve my energy and not be on the road so much. I also hope to provide links to other Christian and non-Christian sites that offer helpful guidance in contemplative traditions of the world's great religions as well as other sites that explore contemplative living and healing with spiritual sensitivity and insight.

Also know that three, possibly four more retreats still need to added to my 2016 Retreat Schedule that is now posted on my website. As soon as these final events are listed I will send out a brief newsletter to let you know that the new items have been posted and my 2016 travels are complete. If you have any questions about any of these retreats it is always best to first contact the people hosting the retreat, but when this does provide the information you need, feel free to contact me and I will see what I can do.

Once again, Christmas peace and blessings to all of you.
Jim Finley

You can find a continuously updated schedule at my website Contemplative Way Website

Copyright © 2015 Dr. James Finley
Copyright © 2015 Dr. James Finley