Contemplation is the soul’s Copernican revolution. Copernicus did not invent a heliocentric universe. He simply discovered what had always been the case. The sun never did revolve around the earth. The revolution was the integrating glimpse of the truth of things that marked a change in how we see the world. To realize that we do not search for God the way we search for fame, fortune, and fulfillment—or for anything else that we are convinced we lack—is the “pearl of great price” (Mt 13:45-46), the realization that the Kingdom of God is within you” (Lk 17:21). It signals the beginning of this spiritual revolution.
Saint John of the Cross stated it as simply as he could: “The soul’s center is God.” Indeed God does not revolve around us any more than the sun revolves around us, despite the evidence of the “I.” This Center, however, is not an object like other centers in the middle of something else, like jam or custard in the center of a doughnut. As St. Bonaventure reminds us, “God is an intelligible sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” To glimpse this, however fleetingly, is to realize that we are and always have been immersed in unfathomable Vastness that is at the same time as familiar and unremarkable as a bar of soap. This is our home.
The Center reveals itself to be everywhere. “It is within all things,” St. Bonaventure continues, “but not enclosed; outside all things, but not excluded.” The Center encompasses all things, even as it indwells all things, the way the sea fills the membrane of the sponge that makes its home in the sea. The sponge is itself immersed in the Vastness that indwells it. Yet God’s indwelling saturates us even more pervasively. As Angelus Silesius says in his Cherubic Wanderer,
God far more dwells in me than if the entire sea,
Would in a tiny sponge wholly contained be.
The sponge does not seek this out. This is its life. Nor do we seek this out. This is our life. “He is the ocean deep, contained I am in him” [Silesius].