Friday, August 01, 2008

"Meditate on the mysteries of Christ"

Eucharistic Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. Summer series continues! I will give a reflection, "How Do I Pray?" Also, we will have LIVE (praise and worship) music! I hope you can join us!
In tonight's reflection, I will attempt to briefly answer the question of how to pray in the different stages of the spiritual life: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. In the "advanced" stage, I will discuss something I wrote about in Tuesday's post: meditation and contemplation. A blogger has already commented that this method appears to be for mystics only. The comment is appreciated, but please keep in mind that the general question of 'how do I hear God?' is mystical by nature. We are all called to engage in mystical prayer on some level; a good spiritual director can help to determine the best way for each of us to enter into it.

The Church shows us that meditation and contemplation is something each Catholic should attempt to enter into by including a section on each in her catechism. We will provide a handout tonight of these catechism sections. Below are excerpts from the sections; I have edited some of them so that they are not so intimidating.

2705 Meditation is above all a quest. The mind seeks to understand the why and how of the Christian life, in order to adhere and respond to what the Lord is asking. The required attentiveness is difficult to sustain. We are usually helped by books, and Christians do not want for them: the Sacred Scriptures, particularly the Gospels, holy icons, liturgical texts of the day or season, writings of the spiritual fathers, works of spirituality, the great book of creation, and that of history the page on which the "today" of God is written.

2706 To meditate on what we read helps us to make it our own by confronting it with ourselves. Here, another book is opened: the book of life. We pass from thoughts to reality. To the extent that we are humble and faithful, we discover in meditation the movements that stir the heart and we are able to discern them. It is a question of acting truthfully in order to come into the light: "Lord, what do you want me to do?"

2707 There are as many and varied methods of meditation as there are spiritual masters. Christians owe it to themselves to develop the desire to meditate regularly, lest they come to resemble the three first kinds of soil in the parable of the sower. But a method is only a guide; the important thing is to advance, with the Holy Spirit, along the one way of prayer: Christ Jesus.

2708 Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. This mobilization of faculties is necessary in order to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart, and strengthen our will to follow Christ. Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ, as in lectio divina or the rosary. This form of prayerful reflection is of great value, but Christian prayer should go further: to the knowledge of the love of the Lord Jesus, to union with him.

2709 What is contemplative prayer? St. Teresa answers: "Contemplative prayer [oracion mental] in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.”…

2710 The choice of the time and duration of the prayer arises from a determined will, revealing the secrets of the heart. One does not undertake contemplative prayer only when one has the time: one makes time for the Lord, with the firm determination not to give up, no matter what trials and dryness one may encounter…

2711 Entering into contemplative prayer is like entering into the Eucharistic liturgy: we "gather up:" the heart…

2712 Contemplative prayer is the prayer of the child of God, …

2715 Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. "I look at him and he looks at me”…

2716 Contemplative prayer is hearing the Word of God…

2717 Contemplative prayer is silence, the "symbol of the world to come" or "silent love."…


At 12:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My frame of reference regarding meditation, centering prayer and contemplation have been influenced by Eastern philosophy. In that, it doesn’t reflect on Christ’s redemptive power but more on our own abilities to empower ourselves. So, the Church’s process in those things must be the opposite in nature though look similar in exercise.

How did we come to know God except through the Gospel, His word revealed? While a number of methods and thoughts could give temporary inner peace and calm emotion, things I know I’ve experienced, a relationship with God must rely upon listening to His revelation. To me, it seems Scripture is the means for knowing God. They are without error and should guide in all matters. I know faith is not based on speculation or man-made philosophy. It is based on a history and divine law that’s recorded by canon. So it would seem to me that matters for meditation and contemplation should only be those events and tenets that are written in Scripture. Couldn’t contemplation on anything else presume to know God in a way in which He hasn’t revealed Himself but, instead, only our limited perception? That’s a stumbling block for me and question I consistently go back to as a result of prayer- is this MY understanding or God’s revelation, MY will revealed or God’s?

The two ways in which I am secure are that I am coming to know God and building a relationship with Him is through reading Scripture and receiving the Eucharist. Anything beyond that requires some faith in myself to understand what is “beyond” right in front of me, doesn’t it? And if so, how would that be any different from some of those other philosophies that seem to require a kind of reliance on self.

At 2:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

12:41 anon;

Some of my thoughts:

You say “a relationship with God must rely upon listening to His revelation” and that His revelation is recorded in Scripture, thus, the reading of Scripture “is the means to knowing God. You also mention that “faith is not based on speculation or man-made philosophy. It is based on a history and divine law that’s recorded by canon.” Faith is not a fixed concept. It is a fluid, multifaceted, complex concept, one that has no end point, a concept I believe is difficult for us to understand, given that we only know, or think we know, the finite.

You mention contemplating and meditating should only be those events and tenets that are written in Scripture and contemplation on anything else might equal knowledge of God in a way that He Himself has revealed, but revealed only through our limited perception? How can our knowledge and understanding of God be anything but limited to our perception?

Fitz James Stephen sheds some light on these deep philosophical questions;
" What do you think of yourself? What do you think of the world? . . . These are questions with which all must deal as it seems good to them. They are riddles of the Sphinx, and in some way or other we must deal with them. . . . In all important transactions of life we have to take a leap in the dark.... If we decide to leave the riddles unanswered, that is a choice; if we waver in our answer, that, too, is a choice: but whatever choice we make, we make it at our peril. If a man chooses to turn his back altogether on God and the future, no one can prevent him; no one can. Each must act as he thinks best; and if he is wrong, so much the worse for him. We stand on a mountain pass in the midst of whirling snow and blinding mist through which we get glimpses now and then of paths which may be deceptive. If we stand still we shall be frozen to death. If we take the wrong road we shall be dashed to pieces. We do not certainly know whether there is any right one. What must we do? ‘Be strong and of a good courage.' Act for the best, hope for the best, and take what comes. . . . If death ends all, we cannot meet death better." [Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, p. 353, second edition. London, 1874.]


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