Tuesday, October 6, 2009

II. Reading for prayer

"After thus evoking the dispositions necessary for prayer and entering into contact with God, the soul completes its preparation by choosing a subject for meditation. At the beginning of the spiritual life this can be taken from a book, because the mind is not yet sufficiently conversant with the things of God. St Teresa recommends this. Later, the need to have recourse to reading will be less great; one will easily find in one's mind ideas upon which to meditate. Reading will, however, always be useful to suggest new subjects, because our ideas too easily turn back on the same themes, and then they have less power to move us. The Sacred Scriptures and the spiritual writers can always provide abundant and varied material.

Generally, St Teresa leaves one full latitude in the choice of subjects. Here are some of them:
  • God and His divine Perfections
  • The things of Heaven
  • The Person, life and mysteries of Christ
  • The Holy Eucharist
  • The Words of the Gospels
  • The Blessed Virgin and the Saints
  • The divine Perfections as manifested in creation and the beauty of creatures
  • Self-knowledge and consideration of our faults
  • The ugliness of sin and its malice. Death, hell.
However, she advises that we should preferably choose subjects which best accord with our temperament and the disposition of the soul at the time, and from which we can hope to profit most, taking into account also the liturgy of the season. She also recommends taking the advice of an experienced director.

St Teresa insists that we meditate especially on the love shown by God in giving us His Son; on the love of Jesus Himself, on His life, His mysteries, and especially His passion and death, 'through which,' she says, 'all good things have come to us and still come.' In this she is in agreement with St John of the Cross and with the Instruction for Novices cited above. This is because Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except by Him. Further, He is the head; we are His members; and He is our sanctifier. God has deposited in Him all the graces which are to be given to us. And, finally, He is our model. Christ wished to live our way of life so that we could have before our eyes a concrete example of the life of a child of God.

This contemplation of Christ and His mysteries in faith and loves makes us share in the dispositions of His own soul and communicates to us that virtus Christi which emanates from His Person and enables us to live His life. The contemplation of the Humanity of Christ is pure Carmelite doctrine. Some spiritual writers, mentioned by Teresa, believed that the Sacred Humanity of Christ could be an obstacle for souls who already enjoy infused contemplation. St Teresa undertook to refute them. She declared on the basis of the Gospels that the contemplation of the Sacred Humanity is suited to every moment of the spiritual life; she even added that many souls, after arriving at union with God, advance no further because they neglect this. Carmelite spirituality is therefore centered in Christ.

The reading must be done deliberately and attentively in order to grasp the full meaning of the sentences read and to furnish the mind with clear and precise ideas. When the person who is meditating feels that he is sufficiently enlightened and instructed, he stops reading. To prolong it would be mere curiosity and study. If after the reading is finished a person feels inclined to meditate or to contemplate some other subject, then the first subject can be dropped. The Spirit breathes where He wills."

-- The Spirit and Prayer of Carmel by Fr François Jamart, ocd

No comments: