The very emergence of the monks, the early Desert Fathers and Mothers, is an unexpected and surprising third-century movement because there is nothing in Jesus’ teaching to suggest there should be different levels of discipleship in his vision. We are all equally called to follow Jesus, but we created our own caste system; some people were supposed to “get it” and take it seriously, and some were just along for the ride. The very term layperson implies someone who doesn’t know anything. We were left with the professionals and the amateurs. But we were all meant to be professional disciples.
Could meditation or contemplative prayer be the very thing that has the power to both democratize and mature Christianity? Meditation does not require education; it does not need a hierarchy of decision makers; it does not argue about gender issues in leadership or liturgy; nor does it demand licensed officials for sacraments. Meditation does not need preachers and bishops; it does not have moralistic membership requirements. Meditation lives and thrives with dedicated pray-ers who have every chance of becoming healers in their world, each according to his or her gift. And let’s be very honest, Jesus talked a lot more about praying and healing than anything else.
Christians who meditate are self-initiating. Since we no longer have formal rites of passage in our cultures, we need contemplation to change us. Faithfulness to contemplative practice can achieve the same radical inner renewal as sacraments and formal initiation rites. Contemplation addresses the root, the underlying place, where illusion and ego are generated. It touches the unconscious, where most of our wounds and need for healing lie. With meditation or contemplation, I think we have every likelihood of producing actual elders for the next generation, and not just elderly people.