Sunday, 10 August 2014
Still Confusion on Prayer
Posted by Supertradmum
I have written many times on the confusion in some circles as to the terms "meditation" and
"contemplation". Sadly, even some priests and nuns or sisters, who mean well, and are teaching about prayer, get these types of prayer confused.
I shall outline the differences one more time here. Look at the perfection series and tags marked as below for more posts.
The reason why the distinctions are important is not academic, but rooted in the reality of where a person is in the walk with God.
First of all, meditation is the taking of a Scripture passage and using the active imagination to enter into the Life of Christ. St. Ignatius and other saints taught this method. Meditation for the Catholic must be centered on the Incarnation, and not on anything else, above all, not one's self.
Second, there are two types of contemplation, which can be examined in greater depth through the tags.
The first type is "active contemplation", where one puts one's self in the Presence of God, such as before the Eucharist in the Monstrance and one becomes quiet and focused. In active contemplation, one may contemplate on the Attributes of God, and not on the Scriptures. One is reflecting without the aid of anything else. Again, one can follow the tags to the posts on the Attributes of God.
I do not recommend setting a stage for active contemplation, as one should move beyond the externals.
For example, some teachers insist on active contemplation being done with candles or other symbols.
I strongly recommend only the Crucifix if anything. Why? Because when one practiced active contemplation, one can do it anywhere...in a bus station, or in a train.
One merely needs to go into one's little cell of the mind and heart.
The third type of prayer is "infused contemplation" or "passive contemplation", which is totally a gift from God. One cannot "do" this by will. God comes to the person, either in a very short period of time, or longer times. This is not the same as ecstasy, which is the complete taking over of all the senses and soul in God. Infused contemplation would be happening in the unitive state, or in the later stages of the illuminative state.
I am still concerned, after years of addressing this, that there is confusion. One must follow the stages in the normal course of events. Can God intervene and lead someone directly to infused contemplation? Of course, but that person would be one of extreme purity of heart, mind, and soul.
Do not use these terms in a lax manner. Some priests and nuns or sisters confuse those who come to prayer workshops, or at retreats by mixing up the terms. In the Catholic Church, we have been given a long history of spiritual writings back to the Gospels and Epistles on these types of prayer.
Be careful not to be deceived about these types of prayer. The purity of the pray-er determines the type of prayer. If one is a beginner, meditation grounds one in the Incarnation, which is good.
If one is involved in active contemplation, one has learned how to get rid of extraneous noises and thoughts and focus on Christ and the goodness of God. Contemplation finally leads to the Prayer of Quiet, another misunderstood level, which, if one looks at the posts against Quietism, is not that, but the taking over of the senses and spirit by God, when one is led into the quiet garden of His love.
It is the interior life of the person which determines the level of prayer. In other words, the exterior follows the interior.
Too many people still are confused on the terms, which is why I prefer Garrigou-Lagrange and St. John of the Cross, who are, in my opinion, the clearest on these levels.
In passive contemplation, Christ takes over, even for a few minutes. One knows the difference once one has experienced this.
Some people are brought into passive contemplation when reading, or even listening to music, but it is the Will and action of God, not one's self.
Infused knowledge of the Scriptures can come at all three stages: meditation, active contemplation, and passive contemplation.
Those young saints who were pure of heart, body and soul experienced the higher levels of prayer. Age has nothing to do with it. There are some older people, even elderly, who are still beginners, only saying vocal prayers and not attempting meditation. Sadly, they have been taught, incorrectly, that only nuns, sister, monks and priests do this sort of thing.
So, there are two extremes of faulty teaching: one that the laity should not attempt the levels of prayer, which is against the teaching of the Church; and, two, the sloppiness of definitions which not only confuse people but can lead to deceit.
The devil disguised as an angel of light and watching us daily, carefully, can make one deceived as to the real level of prayer one is attaining. Without the corresponding purification, one is not "otr" to the higher levels or prayer.
And, God wants all to finally come without intermediaries-without other saints or writers, but in the intimate relationship He desires us all to come into through the seeking of perfection.