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Monday, 26 November 2012

The Fourth Step of the Cloister Stair-Contemplation

The first level of contemplation is listening to the Word of God, as we do in Mass, according to St. Augustine of Hippo. Therefore, the laity enter into this first step every time they go to Mass. Hearing is both an active and a passive event. We hear and appropriate what we hear.

Those who teach, such as the Jesuits, or parish priests, are involved in both the active and contemplative life, therefore. However, the laity must take time to enter into the quiet necessary for contemplation. I want to list some of the stages of contemplation, which is the call for all of us whatever our state in life. The difference for us laity is that we must seek after these gifts, unlike the religious in contemplative orders, whose primary work is that of personal perfection.

Please do not read popular, new age books on contemplation. These are deceitful and dangerous, concentrating on the person, the individual, rather than on the Trinity. This is the key. Affective prayer, which is part of contemplation, is praying listening to God, rather than focussing on ourselves. I shall say this in another way. As long as we concentrate on our own problems and grocery list of needs, we shall not enter into contemplation, which is looking, talking to God, or better yet, listening in silence to God.

The danger is concentrating, even in these posts, on one's self. No. The gaze of prayer is the love gazing on the Beloved. The God Who Loves us waits for us to come to Him in love. This gaze is what Mother Teresa noted, which I remembered in another post. This prayer of simplicity is the first type of contemplation, called Ordinary Contemplation.

This is not the mystic state of St. Teresa of Avila or St. John of the Cross, but is the stage just prior to that state, which is called Extraordinary Contemplation. This higher contemplation is not a topic which I shall cover for several days. The stage of Ordinary Contemplation is what we are all called upon to attain, and those who do, are experiencing God in a way He wants for all person, lay or religious.

To be continued....