Notes on the Featured art of this Blog Post: The Artistic Drawing that is featured is original art by Leanne Bowen, Etsy, that is a incredible rendering of the concept of the Eucharist: “Jesus Christ acts as a bridge between humanity and divinity. His sacrifice is our continual connection to heaven itself. The point where Jesus touches earth burns with immense love for mankind. And as man elevates the host up towards heaven, the Holy Spirit drips divinity back into the chalice of our receptive hearts. Mary is also a chalice, she is a simple and humble cup who holds divinity within her. And once a chalice holds the blood of divinity, it can never be a normal cup again. We burn illuminated candles and our hearts burn within us as we gaze upon the heart of our Savior. And as the world embraces the sacrifice of their Ultimate Love, Mary’s mantle will wrap around us in an embrace of solace.” From Leanne Bowen, Etsy artist
This week’s picture is an old image of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary re-created as a digital oil painting.
It’s a reminder that the Feast of the Assumption is August 15th, and is a perfect opportunity for us to join in Christian Contemplative Prayer to Jesus, honoring His Mother with millions of others throughout the world.
The concept of Contemplative Prayer, can be very difficult to define, because it is not the same as reading or memorizing the words to a prayer, praying the Rosary or Chaplet. Contemplative Prayer draws its’ form partly from the thoughts of the person praying. This is why there is a variety of experiences shared in this post. It is my hope these varied experiences referenced help to guide the reader in their practice and not confuse the reader. For myself, as my faith deepens, my practice of Contemplative Prayer is increasing, and I find many of the references helpful to my practice and understanding. I am drawn to the practices and writings of St. Therese of Lisieux’s “Little Way” and the writings of St. Teresa of Avila with regards to Contemplative Prayer.
What is contemplative prayer? St. Teresa of Avila, answers: “Contemplative prayer [oracion mental] 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.”6St. Teresa of Jesus, The Book of Her Life, 8,5 in The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, tr. K. Kavanaugh, OCD, and O. Rodriguez, OCD (Washington DC: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1976),I,67.
Listen to a 1 minute clip of Father Mike Schmitz, his description of Christian Contemplative Prayer, He describes an example of Jesus on the Mountainside as being there to “behold the Father and Be Held by the Father.” References I have found of Jesus praying include: Lk 9:28, Mk 6:46, and MT 14:23 “After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. “
Fr. Mike Schmitz “Christian Contemplative Prayer”.
Please note: In Fr. Schmitz Clip at about 35 seconds, He clearly emphasizes that Christian Contemplative Prayer, is praying with a focus on perhaps the Word of God, God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Mary, a Saint; it is not praying into “nothingness.” That he says is not Christian prayer, which I agree, and believe with all the media we are exposed to we have to be careful to have a purpose or focus in Christian Contemplative Prayer.
Currently I am working on a new post focused on how actively listening to Classical Religious Music is a form of Christian Contemplative Prayer, because it helps place us in a God-mindful spirit, and as we listen, we hear, we perceive, the composer’s, musical score, transporting us, to a place where we believe God is! When we think of the tools we may use to enter into Christian Contemplative Prayer, they are namely words, images and then music. Classical music has its’ roots in Liturgical Music, because many of the most famous early composers, composed music related to Liturgical worship and for special Liturgical feasts. One of the oldest forms of Classical Liturgical Music is Gregorian Chant. I have listened to some Gregorian Chant across my life, but one of the most Heavenly inspired recordings I have ever heard, are those performed by the Daughters of Mary Press. Their recordings are such that they immediately direct my thoughts to peace, beauty, love and for the Glory of Jesus and Mary! Please take a moment, to listen to one of the Sister’s recordings below, “The Salve Regina” from a “Day in the Cloister” and gaze at Mary’s Image below, and see if at the end, you can agree with me,
“you are drawn into a place with Mary, where you Behold Mary and Likewise believe that you are Held by Mary. This for me is a good example of experiencing Christian Contemplation on Mary, as Jesus’s Mother and my Mother, with Music.“
Without the benefit of Music, I have been going to sleep at the end of the day, holding my Brown Scapular and Miraculous Medal, and say, “Mary, I am thinking of you”, and I hear Mary say, “and I see you!”. That connection in the stillness of the night from my soul to Mary’s, is Christian Contemplation FOCUS on Mary as Jesus’s Mother, connected to her Son, Mary the mediatrix* to Jesus! I behold Mary in my mind and she sees, “holds” me in her gaze and I am comforted, at peace, in union with Mary! In a similar way we can also enter into Christian Contemplative Prayer with Jesus!
*In Catholic Mariology, the title Mediatrix refers to the intercessory role of the Blessed Virgin Mary as a mediator in the salvific redemption by her son Jesus Christ and that HE bestows graces through her. Mediatrix is an ancient title that has been used by many saints since at least the 5th century.
Scan the QR Code in the picture to stream the “Salve Regina”, Gregorian Chant, from the MTJ Blog as a sample of the Daughter’s of Mary Press recording available on their website.
The clips below from Fr. Richard Rhor and others on Contemplative prayer for Christians, are helpful examples of Contemplative Practice, because they focus on “listening, quieting oneself and discerning what God is asking of me,” I include them here, because I think they are good examples of a Franciscan priest and others who are quieting themselves and thinking and listening as to what God is telling them. This is something I find I try and do more of each day, and is similar to St. Therese of Lisieux’s Little Way, and what I mean by living with a God-Mindfulness.
For myself, Catholic Contemplative Prayer is somewhere between the Fr. Rhor clips below, which i find extremely unfocused with the examples provided, and Christian Meditation, described in a another post. In Meditation I am meditating on perhaps, scripture, an event e.g. the Nativity, a person e.g the fervor of Catherine Laboure to receive Holy Communion, in other words I have a specific picture or words in mind I am discerning about. In Contemplative prayer, I am less specifically drawing on external scriptures or events, and focusing more on significant truths God has told us, e.g. being open to the Love of God in our Life, His Mercy, His Commandments, Loving others as He Love’s Us. I know this can get confusing, but that is why I cited St. Teresa of Avila in the opening she expresses things, rather simply,
“Contemplative prayer [oracion mental] in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends.” Sharing my thoughts with Jesus, with Mary and discerning what they are saying to me, is how I interpret this. MTJ
Another description of Contemplative Prayer that describes my own experience, comes from the Catechism of the Church, cited below, “2724 Contemplative prayer is the simple expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gaze of faith fixed on Jesus, an attentiveness to the Word of God, a silent love. It achieves real union with the prayer of Christ to the extent that it makes us share in His mystery. “
Finally, in closing this post, I offer the reader, a good formal reference on Contemplative Prayer, Vocal and Meditative prayer, found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, from the Vatican website, following these video clips, Fiat!
What is Contemplative Prayer for Catholics?
Contemplative Prayer means “I don’t have to win!”
Author shares a personal example of Contemplative Prayer
Why Contemplative Prayer is Important to practice in our lives, it’s without ego!
My Summary thoughts on Contemplative Prayer and prayer in General
Source: Catechism of the Catholic Church This section from the Catechism below is excellent, and if you go to the link and navigate on website’s section below, in the pages before and after this page on “Prayer in the Christian Life” , you’ll find “tips” on praying and dealing with challenges while praying.
PRAYER IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
THE LIFE OF PRAYER
EXPRESSIONS OF PRAYER
2700 Through his Word, God speaks to man. By words, mental or vocal, our prayer takes flesh. Yet it is most important that the heart should be present to him to whom we are speaking in prayer: “Whether or not our prayer is heard depends not on the number of words, but on the fervor of our souls.”2
2701 Vocal prayer is an essential element of the Christian life. To his disciples, drawn by their Master’s silent prayer, Jesus teaches a vocal prayer, the Our Father. He not only prayed aloud the liturgical prayers of the synagogue but, as the Gospels show, he raised his voice to express his personal prayer, from exultant blessing of the Father to the agony of Gesthemani.3
2702 The need to involve the senses in interior prayer corresponds to a requirement of our human nature. We are body and spirit, and we experience the need to translate our feelings externally. We must pray with our whole being to give all power possible to our supplication.
2703 This need also corresponds to a divine requirement. God seeks worshippers in Spirit and in Truth, and consequently living prayer that rises from the depths of the soul. He also wants the external expression that associates the body with interior prayer, for it renders him that perfect homage which is his due.
2704 Because it is external and so thoroughly human, vocal prayer is the form of prayer most readily accessible to groups. Even interior prayer, however, cannot neglect vocal prayer. Prayer is internalized to the extent that we become aware of him “to whom we speak;”4 Thus vocal prayer becomes an initial form of contemplative prayer.
2705 Meditation is above all a quest. The mind seeks to understand the why and how of the Christian life, in order to adhere and respond to what the Lord is asking. The required attentiveness is difficult to sustain. We are usually helped by books, and Christians do not want for them: the Sacred Scriptures, particularly the Gospels, holy icons, liturgical texts of the day or season, writings of the spiritual fathers, works of spirituality, the great book of creation, and that of history the page on which the “today” of God is written.
2706 To meditate on what we read helps us to make it our own by confronting it with ourselves. Here, another book is opened: the book of life. We pass from thoughts to reality. To the extent that we are humble and faithful, we discover in meditation the movements that stir the heart and we are able to discern them. It is a question of acting truthfully in order to come into the light: “Lord, what do you want me to do?”
2707 There are as many and varied methods of meditation as there are spiritual masters. Christians owe it to themselves to develop the desire to meditate regularly, lest they come to resemble the three first kinds of soil in the parable of the sower.5 But a method is only a guide; the important thing is to advance, with the Holy Spirit, along the one way of prayer: Christ Jesus.
2708 Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. This mobilization of faculties is necessary in order to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart, and strengthen our will to follow Christ. Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ, as in lectio divina or the rosary. This form of prayerful reflection is of great value, but Christian prayer should go further: to the knowledge of the love of the Lord Jesus, to union with him.
2709 What is contemplative prayer? St. Teresa answers: “Contemplative prayer [oracion mental] 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.”6 Contemplative prayer seeks him “whom my soul loves.”7 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.
2710 The choice of the time and duration of the prayer arises from a determined will, revealing the secrets of the heart. One does not undertake contemplative prayer only when one has the time: one makes time for the Lord, with the firm determination not to give up, no matter what trials and dryness one may encounter. One cannot always meditate, but one can always enter into inner prayer, independently of the conditions of health, work, or emotional state. The heart is the place of this quest and encounter, in poverty ant in faith.
2711 Entering into contemplative prayer is like entering into the Eucharistic liturgy: we “gather up:” the heart, recollect our whole being under the prompting of the Holy Spirit, abide in the dwelling place of the Lord which we are, awaken our faith in order to enter into the presence of him who awaits us. We let our masks fall and turn our hearts back to the Lord who loves us, so as to hand ourselves over to him as an offering to be purified and transformed.
2712 Contemplative prayer is the prayer of the child of God, of the forgiven sinner who agrees to welcome the love by which he is loved and who wants to respond to it by loving even more.8 But he knows that the love he is returning is poured out by the Spirit in his heart, for everything is grace from God. Contemplative prayer is the poor and humble surrender to the loving will of the Father in ever deeper union with his beloved Son.
2713 Contemplative prayer is the simplest expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gift, a grace; it can be accepted only in humility and poverty. Contemplative prayer is a covenant relationship established by God within our hearts.9 Contemplative prayer is a communion in which the Holy Trinity conforms man, the image of God, “to his likeness.”
2714 Contemplative prayer is also the pre-eminently intense time of prayer. In it the Father strengthens our inner being with power through his Spirit “that Christ may dwell in [our] hearts through faith” and we may be “grounded in love.”10
2715 Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. “I look at him and he looks at me”: this is what a certain peasant of Ars in the time of his holy curé used to say while praying before the tabernacle. This focus on Jesus is a renunciation of self. His gaze purifies our heart; the light of the countenance of Jesus illumines the eyes of our heart and teaches us to see everything in the light of his truth and his compassion for all men. Contemplation also turns its gaze on the mysteries of the life of Christ. Thus it learns the “interior knowledge of our Lord,” the more to love him and follow him.11
2716 Contemplative prayer is hearing the Word of God. Far from being passive, such attentiveness is the obedience of faith, the unconditional acceptance of a servant, and the loving commitment of a child. It participates in the “Yes” of the Son become servant and the Fiat of God’s lowly handmaid.
2717 Contemplative prayer is silence, the “symbol of the world to come”12 or “silent love.”13 Words in this kind of prayer are not speeches; they are like kindling that feeds the fire of love. In this silence, unbearable to the “outer” man, the Father speaks to us his incarnate Word, who suffered, died, and rose; in this silence the Spirit of adoption enables us to share in the prayer of Jesus.
2718 Contemplative prayer is a union with the prayer of Christ insofar as it makes us participate in his mystery. The mystery of Christ is celebrated by the Church in the Eucharist, and the Holy Spirit makes it come alive in contemplative prayer so that our charity will manifest it in our acts.
2719 Contemplative prayer is a communion of love bearing Life for the multitude, to the extent that it consents to abide in the night of faith. The Paschal night of the Resurrection passes through the night of the agony and the tomb – the three intense moments of the Hour of Jesus which his Spirit (and not “the flesh [which] is weak”) brings to life in prayer. We must be willing to “keep watch with [him] one hour.”14
2720 The Church invites the faithful to regular prayer: daily prayers, the Liturgy of the Hours, Sunday Eucharist, the feasts of the liturgical year.
2721 The Christian tradition comprises three major expressions of the life of prayer: vocal prayer, meditation, and contemplative prayer. They have in common the recollection of the heart.
2722 Vocal prayer, founded on the union of body and soul in human nature, associates the body with the interior prayer of the heart, following Christ’s example of praying to his Father and teaching the Our Father to his disciples.
2723 Meditation is a prayerful quest engaging thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. Its goal is to make our own in faith the subject considered, by confronting it with the reality of our own life.
2724 Contemplative prayer is the simple expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gaze of faith fixed on Jesus, an attentiveness to the Word of God, a silent love. It achieves real union with the prayer of Christ to the extent that it makes us share in his mystery.
2 St. John Chrysostom, Ecloga de oratione 2:PG 63,585.
3 Cf. Mt 11:25-26; Mk 14:36.
4 St. Teresa of Jesus, The Way of Perfection 26,9 in The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, tr. K. Kavanaugh, OCD, and O. Rodriguez, OCD (Washington DC: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1980),II,136.
5 Cf. Mk 4:4-7, 15-19.
6 St. Teresa of Jesus, The Book of Her Life, 8,5 in The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, tr. K. Kavanaugh, OCD, and O. Rodriguez, OCD (Washington DC: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1976),I,67.
7 Song 1:7; cf. 3:14.
8 Cf. Lk 7:36-50; 19:1-10.
9 Cf. Jer 31:33.
10 Eph 3:16-17.
11 Cf. St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, 104.
12 Cf. St. Isaac of Nineveh, Tract. myst. 66.
13 St. John of the Cross, Maxims and Counsels, 53 in The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, tr. K. Kavanaugh, OCD, and O. Rodriguez, OCD (Washington DC: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1979), 678.
14 Cf. Mt 26:40.
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