Christian Contemplative Prayer and Meditation A Short History

Contemplative prayer or Christian meditation has been part of Christianity from the beginning. Jesus spent whole nights alone in prayer. His advice on prayer was to go to your room and use few words. Matthew 6: 6-8.

The Desert Fathers in the first centuries and the Celtic saints sought places to be alone with God. St Gregory the Great in the 6th Century referred to this form of prayer as the knowledge of God that is impregnated with love, and as resting in God.

In the 14th Century there was a great flowering of English mystics. In particular an anonymous monk who wrote a classic text on contemplative prayer - 'The Cloud of Unknowing'. He says 'By Love He may be caught and held. By reason, never.'

Also in the 14th Century in Norwich, England, Mother Julian of Norwich was having her visions and writing her book 'Revelations of Divine Love'. 'Love was His meaning' she wrote. She said that the highest form of prayer consists in simply waiting on God.

But then, for various reasons, the Christian churches neglected this form of prayer, even discouraging it. It was thought to be only suitable for monastics.

In the 1960s and 1970s, with the great interest in eastern religion's forms of mysticism and meditation many people realised that the Church had neglected its own tradition of meditation or contemplative prayer.

In 1973 a letter in English church papers of various denominations led to people in eleven areas setting up contemplative prayer groups. Today there are around 300 Julian Meetings in the UK and worldwide and around 500 individual magazine subscribers.

The movement was named after Julian of Norwich. Her writings are often used in meetings. But we are not a Julian cult and have no connection with other organisations named after her.


© The Julian Meetings 2014

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