The Student and the Contemplater — From the Letters of James B. Stoney

The Student and the Contemplater

This is a sifting time. The good grain is winnowed from the chaff by the sieve. The chaff has size but has not weight. The grain passes through the sieve, the chaff does not; it consorts with its own, as the grain does with its own sort: all solemn work.

I remark that there is a very marked difference between the student of the word, and the contemplater of Christ. The student of the word may be able to give you a text for everything; he is a good musician, he can play any piece. Now the contemplater of Christ may not always have a text at hand, but he has the manner and grace of Christ without being conscious of it; he is transformed. The student is enlightened; and in the darkness he seems to be much helped, and to help others; but though a good musician as I have said, he has not the ear that the contemplater has. Where the ear is good, the soul of music is there. Mary Magdalene was the contemplater and she surpassed Peter and John. I believe that often one gets more from praying, when near the Lord, than one is asking for. I mean that by being near, one acquires the “peace of God” though one has not asked for the peace of God. It is quite interesting to note the difference in every detail between the student and the contemplater. The one is rigid and correct, walking by line and rule, and often glad to be off parade, and able to relax. The other is transformed, and though he may not know the why or the wherefore, his taste is changed; he turns away from things which once attracted him, his ear is so sensitive that sounds which once amused him now grate on him, and even when the musician plays well he feels a lack. I do not think that the student, though he may be very sincere, has this delicacy of ear; he can notice an incorrect quotation. Of course the two should be combined, because it is as the Lord is in the vision of my soul that His word fully affects me; like the disciples going to Emmaus; they were not in the efficacy of the word until He was seen by them, and then, why and wherefore they could not tell, they go the same road as He went, and to the same place that He went to, though He did not tell them, and this I call communion. The student is thinking how he shall act. The contemplater is like the mariner at sea looking for the sun, looking for the Lord. When I see Him I shape my course with respect to Him, and then it is that I not only play, or act correctly, but the music or the act is only the echo of the divine note or thrill within.

May you be more and more the contemplater and thus your knowledge of the Lord will enable you to play skilfully of Him who dwells by faith in your heart. May thus the best of blessings abound to you.

Letters Volume 2 p. 38

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