Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Consider by a simple glance the mysteries of Christ and His love

"In [Interior Castle], St Teresa treats of persons who, having been raised to higher levels of prayer, cannot meditate as they did formerly. When once the understanding has enjoyed God, the soul can no longer seek Him as it formerly did by meditation. However, as the will is not always enflamed with love, the activity of the understanding is sometimes necessary to revive the flame. But there will be no need to have recourse to reasoning or other considerations, because the soul is no longer capable of these. It will be enough for the memory to recall the mysteries of Christ and His love, which the soul will consider by a simple glance, and this alone will be enough to enflame the will. In the same work, she speaks also of another type of prayer of recollection, in which the soul is passive and makes no further progress other than that which may properly be called mystic.

St John of the Cross also knew about this intermediary state between ordinary meditation and contemplation properly so called, or infused contemplation. He deals with it in his Ascent of Mount Carmel. What he writes there can be summarized by saying that after the soul has actively practiced meditation and has thus acquired an enlightened knowledge of the Most Blessed Trinity, its love is therefore increased; it derives from this form of prayer all the benefits to be found there, and it acquires the habit of recollection. Then, 'as soon as the soul puts itself into the presence of God, it finds itself plunged into a confused and loving knowledge of God, full of peace and calm,' without anything distinct or particular in this knowledge. Henceforth meditation becomes tasteless and impossible. If, nevertheless, the soul wanted to return to the practice of meditation, out of fear of idleness or from a desire to enjoy the sensible consolation to be found in it, the soul would only experience dryness and would lose the fruits of contemplation without obtaining those of discursive prayer.

'The soul must then be content to raise its attention with love to God, without making any particular acts. It must conduct itself passively, without making the least effort (of reasoning), applying itself to God with loving attention, simple and pure, as one does when one opens one's eyes to look on someone with love.'"

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


You may be wondering about my choice of a planetary nebula for today's excerpt. I've always been fascinated by galaxies, nebulae, etc, so much so that my favorite class in undergrad was astronomy. You'd be surprised at how many contemplatives I've met that are fascinated by the universe. If a picture like this is awe inspiring, just try to imagine what the Annunciation or the Resurrection, or any other mystery, were like. And that's why St Teresa stressed considering the mysteries of Christ's humanity regardless of how advanced we may be in the spiritual life; and St John of the Cross, in his Living Flame of Love, speaks of the soul "applying itself to God with loving attention, simple and pure..."

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