In today’s readings at Mass (Latin Rite), Saint Paul tells us about those who bring good news:
But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ (Rom 10:14–15)
Now, there are two ways of reflecting on this teaching that have a contemplative angle to them: by which I mean, two ways in which the themes of contemplation are manifest.
The first concerns the missionary dimension of contemplation. The effects of contemplation overflow onto our action. In another sense, all our action is taken up into contemplation, just as Saint Hildegard teaches, in conformity with the Catholic tradition, that the body is in the soul (and not the soul in the body). So when we are sent, just going about our daily tasks, we have “beautiful feet”; in the measure that we are in Christ, even when we consciously do nothing and when we do not use our words, we have those feet that thread a path and spread Christ’s peace unconsciously.
The second angle is whether Saint Paul is talking about the progress in the spiritual journey itself. We could ask: How are they to call on one when they have not believed? – How are they to rest in the simplicity of contemplation continually, taking the action of body up into the soul where God dwells especially – and that especially in the highest parts of the soul, where all is more one? And how are they to hear without having heard? – And how are they to contemplate, if they have not meditated and built the bridges of friendships which they could, before allowing God to fix the final joints? And how are they to hear unless it is proclaimed? – And how are they to meditate unless they are taught the mysteries of faith upon which to meditate? And how are they to proclaim unless they are sent? – And how can they be taught unless there is a teacher? Saint Paul’s reflection is a reflection on the spiritual journey also. Contemplation, the personal spiritual journey: it is all encapsulated in the Church, our neighbours, those who speak and guide and lead and inspire. For there is no other normal path than this.