Meditation: Seeking God With Reason


Today I am going to provide my reflection on how Fr. Dubay talks about St. Teresa of Avila's views on meditation in his book Fire Within. One note, I do not intend to provide a complete or systematic handling of meditation with this post(this would be impossible and I am not capable of it), so please add any comments about meditation you think will be helpful. Also, as you read please feel free to ask questions in your comments. I might not be able to answer them, but I may be able to at least point you in the right direction.

First, I think it will be helpful if I clarify some of the things meditation is not. Unfortunately, I think when someone in our modern culture hears the word meditation they do not think of their parish priest, a monk, or the old lady who is always twenty minutes early for the earliest Mass in the city. What pops into our minds is some Buddhist monk or Kung-Fu master sitting on the ground somewhere humming. I am still guilty of this. The point of meditation in not to create a state of awareness, or to simply empty the mind by using some complicated technique. I think this misconception is the reason so many of us think we are not capable of meditation. We make it something that it is not.

The most simple definition on meditation I can give is this: trying to find God in something He has created or done. When we are meditating we need to look for the infinite in the finite. This can be done with anything you can think of. Find the creator in the created. An example of this is to see the beauty and vastness of the sky, and then realize that God is infinitely greater(not in a physical sense) and infinitely more beautiful than the sky. This same thing can be done with the truths of the faith and scripture. For example, the Incarnation is a bottomless well for meditation. Christ has both a human and Divine nature! God loves us so much that he was willing to become a child that could not even speak, feed itself, or control its own bowls! This can teach us what love is, and this can teach us about real humility.

This brings us to the purpose of our meditation. In meditation we should always try to remain open to some inspiration from God, but we also must actively use the mind that God gave us to try to understand what God has done here on earth. This will slowly transform us, especially because, at least in my own experience, when we see God's goodness more fully in our world, it helps us to try to do the same. In this exercise do not expect that you will receive some new undiscovered truth. What will happen is that the truths you already know about the world will come alive and take new meaning for you; the distance between your mind and your heart will slowly be overcome.

I do not think the way to get better at meditation is to learn new techniques. Although we should know some techniques to meditate, this is only the first step (I will discuss how to advance in our prayer life next week). I do not suggest looking farther than your own Catholic tradition to find the techniques we need. Although there may be some truth in the traditions of the far east and elsewhere, they do not possess the fullness of truth. What we have in the Church has made saints! They are proven methods. A good place to go for a tried and true technique for meditation is The Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales. The first two sections give a good method for prayer. It is good to read both sections completely through once, then go back and read them slowly, chapter by chapter, as you are trying to start using the method.

More to come on contemplation and prayer growth, soon.

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    # by Anonymous - July 27, 2007 at 10:21 AM

    Andrew,

    Good post. I was wondering if you could tell me about the picture you posted at the top. It looks like a movie? If so, is this also something I could look at to learn about mental prayer?

    Thanks!

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    # by Andrew Reinhart - July 27, 2007 at 12:08 PM

    I forgot to mention the picture didn't I. It is the cover of the English version of a independantly filmed documentary about a Carthusian Abby in France(or around France). I think it won a lot of awards, and I had a chance to see it at a theatre on OSU campus Columbus. It is a very powerful movie. It is about to three hours long, and there is probably less than ten minuts of dialog. This is because the Carthusians spend their life in silence, except for one period each Sunday. They are practically hermits that live in the same building together. Watch it if you have a chance. You will be inspired.

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    # by Andrea - July 27, 2007 at 1:55 PM

    Andrew-
    First, thank you for all the posts about prayer- they have been a great help- especially the post about speaking to God. I was wondering if you or Andy would continue this theme and include how Mary works in our prayer life. Thanks!