Sunday, October 18, 2009

We must undertake prayer with generosity and confidence

"We said that prayer will be fruitful only if one takes pains to perform it well. God, of course, will help us to do this, but in the begining it is we ourselves who must do the work. We must therefore undertake it with generosity and confidence. The greater the effort we make, the sooner we shall succeed. But we must be careful to avoid excesses. If we let the imagination work too much, we run the risk of falling into illusions. By wanting to meditate, to reflect and analyze too much, we run the danger of fatiguing the mind so as to make it incapable of any work requiring application. 'In any case, the important thing is not to do a lot of thinking, but to love much!' The affections themselves ought to be tempered so that the soul may not be drawn into an excess of sentiment. Medidation requires effort, but also moderation.

The Simplification of Prayer

When the soul has faithfully practised discursive prayer for a period of time, the acts which were so numerous at the beginning gradually become more simple. For souls given to the contemplative life, a life of solitude and recollection in prayer, a life ordinarily well nourished by instruction and reading, this simplification comes rather early.

First, the considerations entertained by the mind and discursive reasoning decrease. Once the soul is instructed and persuaded, it needs little reasoning to be enlightened and to make decisions. A few discursive moments, an idea or two recalling previous considerations, are enough to nourish the mind and move the will. The soul passes quickly to contemplation and acts of love. Prayer is then characterized by the affectionate colloquy , words of thanksgiving and praise, and acts of petition.

For this reason spiritual writers have called it affective prayer. Usually they consider this as a special type of prayer, or at least as the second defree in the life of prayer. But Carmelite authors, who regard prayer as esentially affective, see in this only the simplification of the same type of prayer. However, these affective acts, too, are reduced little by little. Immediately upon putting itself into the presence of God, the soul is recollected in Him or gazes with faith and love upon Christ, and without engaging in any reasoning processes, without any noise of words, the soul contemplates and loves. St Teresa treats of this type of prayer in her Way of Perfection under the name of prayer of actve recollection."

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

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