Contemplation (Part II)

In response to the question about contemplation asked in the "comments" of the last post, here is a quick explanation... The definition of contemplation, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is this:

"Saint Theresa [says], 'Contemplative prayer in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.'

Contemplative prayer seeks him 'whom my soul loves.' It is Jesus, and in him, the Father. We seek him, because to desire him is always the beginning of love, and we seek him in that pure faith which causes us to be born of him and to live in him. In this inner prayer we can still meditate, but our attention is fixed on the Lord himself." (CCC 2709)

In short, contemplation is the effortless gaze of our spiritual eyes upon the Holy Trinity. It is the highest form of prayerful communion with God, and at the same time the highest spiritual gift that God bestows upon those who love Him. In fact, contemplation of the Lord here on earth is a foretaste of the contemplation we will experience in the heavenly, "beatific vision."

Like Andrew wrote yesterday, contemplation is not something that is easily attained (if I can use that word). The grounds for deep contemplation are quite strenuous -- a spiritual life already very purified by vocal and meditative prayer. Nevertheless, we are all called to experience contemplative prayer and to ascend to the levels of sanctity that we see in the greatest of saints. Again, our moral life is the best compass we can use to determine our "level" or prayer -- we are called to sanctity in both areas, and both areas will always coincide with one another. Contemplation is not only found in the physical presence of the Blessed Sacrament, either, as some might think, but rather anywhere we can focus our hearts on the goodness of God. It is even right to say that contemplation occurs when we are prayerfully overcome by the beauty of nature, or a human relationship, which leads us to know the Glory of God. There are many forms of contemplation, and many of them are quite accessible to those of us just beginning on the long path of prayer. (For those seriously interested in the topic of contemplation, a good book to look at is Transformation in Christ, by Dietrich von Hildebrand, which I will reference in the future.) The beauty of this mystery of prayer is that the more we meditate and focus our minds on the goodness of the Lord, the easier our minds are naturally disposed to contemplating the Face of God in the world He created for us!

  1. gravatar

    # by Andrea - August 5, 2007 at 4:38 PM

    Thanks so much Andy- that helped clarify things greatly and gave me a lot to think about. I really appreciate you taking the time to explain it.