Keith Egan Syllabus

THEO 60292. Contemplation, Contemplative Life, Contemplative Prayer (HC, ST, SS) Syllabus
3 credits, Keith J. Egan
8:30 - 11:30 am; MTWRF
July 8 - July 26, 2013


            In an era when is a call for a New Evangelization, significant voices claim that the church must become a more contemplative church, a truly listening church where life, prayer and ministry come under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Vatican II broke with a religious culture that too often seemed to reserve holiness to the few. Lumen gentium, Chapter Five, changed all that when it proclaimed its “Universal Call to Holiness.” This course explores the holiness tradition as it is expressed in “Contemplation, the Contemplative Life and Contemplative Prayer.” These activities will be investigated as they are reported in the Hebrew Scriptures, that is, in the practice of haga in the Psalms and as well in what the major theophanies in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures reveal about the divine encounters of Moses, Elijah and Jesus Christ. The intent of this course is to gather from the Judeo-Christian tradition a theological understanding of meditation and contemplation in the twenty-first century. The prayer of Jesus of Nazareth will be explored as this prayer bespeaks a connection with the contemplative tradition especially in the reports of Jesus going off alone to pray and in the Priestly Prayer of Jesus, John 17. Classical moments in the patristic era will be sampled with selections from Origen, Gregory of Nyssa (The Life of Moses, full text), Pseudo-Dionysius in the East, and from the West Augustine, John Cassian and Gregory the Great. For the Medieval era there will be selections from Bernard of Clairvaux, Guigo II (Ladder of the Monks), Thomas Aquinas along with the full text of The Cloud of Unknowing. From the sixteenth century selections from Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, John of Saint Samson, Francis de Sales, Lawrence of the Resurrection. From the recent and contemporary eras, selections from Garrigou-Lagrange, Raȉssa Maritain and from Thomas Merton with a reading of a full text from Thomas Keating, OCSO, and from John Main, OSB. Some additional explorations will be: the relationship of liturgy and contemplation, relationship of poetry/music and prayer, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s “Letter on Christian Meditation,” (1989).

            All will be urged to follow a theological method in the reading and interpretation of texts and for the composition of papers. The method described by Bernard Lonergan, S.J., is recommended with attention to what Martin Heidegger has called “meditative thinking” and “openness to mystery” as these processes are related to the various meanings of contemplation. It is hoped that the explorations described above will help one understand what a more contemplative church would be like.

Required Texts:

1.         Gregory of Nyssa, The Life of Moses. (Classics of Western Spirituality) NY: Paulist           Press, 1978. ISBN: 08091-2112-3.                                                                                  

2          The Cloud of Unknowing. Ed. James Walsh, S.J. (Classics of Western Spirituality). NY:                            Paulist Press, 1981. The Introduction in this edition is important for this course.                             ISBN: 0-8091-2332-0.

3.         Ernest E. Larkin, O. Carm., Contemplative Prayer for Today: Christian Meditation.                                    Singapore: MedioMedia, 2007. ISBN: 978-1-933182-55-1.  Available in the                                   United States at Product 6192.  $11.95.                               

4.         Thomas Keating, OCSO, Intimacy with God. 3rd ed. Crossroad Publishers, 2009. ISBN:                            9780824525293. Note that this is 3rd edition, 2009.

5.         John Main, OSB., Word into Silence: A Manual for Christian Meditation. Norwich,                                    England: Canterbury Press, 2006. ISBN: 9781853117541. Available from                                      Presbyterian Publishing, USA: 1-800-227-2872.


Resources online:

1.         The Bible—New American or New Revised Standard Version or another academically     acceptable English translation.

2.         The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Part/Pillar IV: Christian Prayer.                               

3.         Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae 2.2.179,180, 182. (Second Part of the Second Part                Questions 179, 180, 182). Blackfriars Editions 1966 or 2006. Can be accessed on       line.     Earlier translation: Summa theologica also on line. For the           print edition of the      Blackfriars Edition 1966 or 2006 of Summa theologiae, for these three questions, see volume 46 of the Summa theologiae.


A collection of shorter readings will assigned regularly as topics arise during the course. These “handouts” will be available, some by attachment and some in hard copy. It is presumed that one will bring “written” comments on these texts for assigned conversations.

The following papers on the indicated texts will be due:

1)         Saturday, July 13, no later than 1:00 p.m.: “Contemplation in Gregory of Nyssa’s Life of   Moses.” (3 pp)

2)         Saturday, July 20, no later than 1:00 p.m.: “Contemplation and Contemplative Prayer in    The Cloud of Unknowing” (4 pp)

3)         Saturday, July 27, no later than 4:00 p.m.: “An Exploration of How the Tradition is           Gathered up in Current Contemplative Prayer Practices.” (5 pp). In place of the final          paper there may be an opportunity for an oral examination. Eligibility for the oral will be         determined at the beginning of the second week of the course.

Professor:  Keith J. Egan:; 574-273-6064.