The best Biblical picture of Contemplative Christianity is found in the furniture and function of the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies in the Old Testament Tabernacle in the Wilderness. After coming though the Outer Gate, past the Brazen Altar and the Brazen Laver, the priest went through the curtain into the Holy Place. To his left the Seven Branched Menorah, to his right a Table of Showbread on which were 12 loaves, and in front of him the Altar of Incense. Past the Altar of Incense was the Veil, the entrance to the Holy of Holies where the Glory of God was resident between the two Cherubim, over the Ark of the Covenant which was covered with the Mercy Seat.
The symbolism in the Holy Place is prophetic and profound. Each element and artifact represents many things but for our purposes each lamp of the Menorah represents one of the seven facets of Contemplative Christianity: Silence, Solitude, Stillness, Simplicity, Scriptures, Sacraments, and Servanthood. The flame on the Altar of Incense represents our prayer and praise, sweetened by the Incense ("beaten very small" Ex. 30:36) of our response to Suffering.
Two aspects of Contemplative Christianity are doubly represented, first in the Menorah, and even more powerfully by the loaves on the Table of Showbread. The showbread represents the Scriptures on which we feed. It also represents the Sacrament of the Eucharistic Offering of the bread of His Broken Body. In both ways He is the Bread of Life, food for our souls. The magnificence of His gifts well deserves a double representation, indicating their high importance to anything we do in our Contemplative lives.
Holy Place Presentation
The gift of
cannot be gained,
it can only be given.
In the Holy Place we are in the quiet, hidden away from the noise of the Outer Court and the bustle of life in the Camp. Yet while presenting ourselves to Him in the Holy Place, we dare not, indeed we cannot, intrude into the Holy of Holies. True Contemplation is a gift of the more pure grace for which we can do absolutely nothing to avail ourselves. That awesome privilege is exclusive to an act of God on our behalf. All we can do is to daily be present in the Holy Place, simply delighting in Him there, and at His pleasure await His call. The gift of true Contemplation cannot be gained, it can only be given.
Holy Place Preparation
The Holy Place is a place of preparation for this intimacy with the Almighty. It is not a place of presumption or entitlement. Not a place from which we "press in" or "pray through" or "pursue". Nothing we do there entitles or enables us to enter the Holy of Holies. Nothing gives us any rights or privileges; on our own we still deserve nothing. Here we merely present ourselves to God.
We are simply like a Royal Spouse keeping ourselves in a state of constant readiness and availability. Our ego and ambition was slain on the Brazen Altar when we first entered the Outer Court. We were cleansed of our false motives with the washing at the Brazen Laver. We came into this Holy Place clean, purified by the Blood of the Lamb. We await the call of the King.
The Holy of Holies
The Holy of Holies pictures the state of true Contemplation. While we offer ourselves to Him and receive His good gifts in the Holy Place, there are moments during which we are beckoned from beyond the veil and, with fear and trembling, our spirit enters the pure Presence of the Almighty in the Holy of Holies.
The Holy of Holies is a place of joy and ecstasy, but it is also a place of fear and trembling. This is where the King of Kings holds forth His scepter. This is the Throne Room where dwell the Cherubim. Here is the Ark of the Covenant in which on the Tablets of Stone are engraved the immutable Laws of God, before which we stand inadequate and fatally flawed. Presumptuous and unprepared entrance means death. Divine invitation means the joy of the ultimate intimate encounter with the Almighty. When invited, the way is prepared by the Blood of the Lamb.