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Becoming Christ: Transformation Through Contemplation

For those who are willing to be transformed, Taylor unfolds the process and practices of becoming Christ through contemplation.

But Brian C. Taylor guides the reader past this shallow misconception to a much more accessible possibility. In Becoming Christ: Transformation Through Contemplation, he offers insights and practical suggestions for those who are interested in spiritual growth through this classic discipline.  <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
Having a deep, personal encounter with God is certainly a central facet of the practice of contemplation. But <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Taylor makes it clear that searching for an emotional experience is not the ultimate goal of this prayer practice. “For the Christian,” he writes, “the purpose of faith and prayer is the transformation of our lives, so that they resemble the quality of being that Jesus Christ shared with us.” In this age, where the experience economy is booming (sometimes even inside the church), Taylor’s focus is striking, and biblical.
 
Closely connected with this focus is Taylor’s emphasis on Jesus. Nowhere does he advocate a New-Age absorption into the unknown cosmos. Prayers are offered to and in his name. Thought processes are aimed toward Christ. Even when icons and objects are used, the purpose is to point the mind to Christ. It is refreshing to find such a distinctly flavored, Christ-centered approach to silent prayer.
 
For those who feel led to step into this stream, the first three chapters are a rich resource. Various approaches to contemplation and silent prayer are described. Common obstacles, such as mental interruptions, are addressed. Taylor gives particular attention to the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” He shares how this ancient prayer from the Eastern church can be used by modern disciples to enhance their prayer life. 
 
Anyone who has ever tried to develop this type of spiritual practice knows the difficulty of maintaining the discipline over time. So Taylor wisely points out sources of support. As the Rector of St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Albuquerque, N.M., he understands the role a local congregation can have in the process of transformation. 
 
He introduces classic traditions such as the Daily Office and almsgiving. For those with little exposure to these historical disciplines, Taylor pulls back the curtain on an exotic, enticing spice market. Somewhere among these suggestions will be the right blend to encourage any disciple to press on. 
 
Taylor admits, “Contemplative prayer is not the best, highest, and ‘most spiritual’ path to God. It is simply the best way for some of us.” However, for too many hyperactive American believers, this way has been ignored or summarily dismissed. That is a real loss.
 
But for those who are willing to be transformed, Taylor unfolds the process and practices of becoming Christ through contemplation. 
 
David Benjamin is pastor of King’s Cross Church in Tullahoma, Tenn.
 
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