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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

More on Prayer and Contemplation


I am not going to summarize anything or write an article. Rather, I am going to allow an expert, Father Thomas Dubay to speak out of his own expertise and synthesis of the Saints, St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross.

On infused contemplation:

Note: {The bracketed text is mine}
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"Infused contemplation is by no means a dry or sterile intellectualism, a platonic gazing upon abstract essences. or is it an oriental, impersonal awareness. {Centering Prayer} Rather, it is a 'loving awareness of God...a loving contemplation...a loving wisdom'. When we put these traits together, a yearning or delightful loving with a cognitive contact touching the divine, we have, as John {of the Cross} so well puts it, an inflow of God Himself. Contemplation is a deepending self-communication of the Trinity, a self-communication that we are given to experience. (p. 63)

Thought we have said it already, the point must be made explicitly and with some development: the prayer of which we are speaking can in no way be originated, intensified, or prolongued by anything we can do. It is divinely given in its entirety. This is the literal meaning of infused, a word stemming from the Latin infudere, infusum, to pour in, that which is poured in. John therefore writes of a 'tranquil reception of this loving inflow...the touch of burning in the will...the touch of understanding int he intellect...an inflaming of love'. These experessions make it clear that the prayer is not a result of our efforts, our reading, imagining, or reasoning. It is not of human origin." (63)

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Now, on to Fr. Dubay's synthesis of what St. Therese of Avila had to teach us about infused contemplation:

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"Anyone who studies carefully our two masters of contemplation and then turns to lesser luminaries, the popular writers and speakers of our day, {Keating, Pennington} will find a number of important differences in outlook and approach...We find here one of the concretizations of the Isaian statement that God's thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways not our ways (Is 55:8-9). It is likewise a predictable consequence of getting one's ideas about prayer from the atmosphere of the day rather than from the purity of the biblical word and the people who live that word best, the saints.

"Living as we do in a consumerist age that looks to technology to solve most of its problems, we will, unless immersed in a serious prayer life ourselves, assume as obvious that prayer is mainly something produced in a human manner. This is partially true of beginning discursive meditation, but the trouble begins when the assumption is unclear when one reads books and articles on the subject of contemplation, or if one simply reads advertisements to see what is being sold. The literary and audio markets are replete with techniques and methodologies, oriental and occidental: methods, ways, mantras, centering, ashrams, gurus, koan exercises, yoga techniques, discursive procedures...While some of this is good for some people at some times, the extension of it to most people at most times is more than misleading. Extended indiscriminately...it blocks real prayer growth.

What we find in Ss. Teresa and John and in Scripture is a very different message. Though I shall detail this statement as we go along, we may note at the moment that the inspired pages have, as far as I can find, not a single sentence that speaks of metholology as a means to deep communion with the God of revelation. Contemporaries rarely recognize this obvious fact, which is in itself indicative of inattention to Scripture and the lives of those who do in fact enjoy profound contemplative prayer." (p. 111)


~ Dubay, Thomas, S.M., "Fire Within", Ignatius Press, 1989

3 comments:

Theocoid said...

I read this book last year, and quite frankly, it terrified me. I became suddenly aware just what it means to abandon oneself to Christ, and I didn't know how I could possibly do it.

Of course, I overlooked two things:

- In God, all things are possible.

- It wasn't going to happen overnight (unless, of course, that was God's will).

It's an inspiring book and a real eye opener.

Adoro te Devote said...

Thanks, theocoid.

I actually haven't read all the way through it. I started it a couple years ago, but it really was over my head. I wasn't ready for it so I sort of abandoned the book.

But lately I've been inspired to pick it up again, and amazingly, it makes so much more sense now!

I'm looking forward to fininishing it this time. I suspect I'll have the same reaction to it as I did. St. Francis de Sales "Devout Life."

uncle jim said...

providing segments from these writers' texts is very helpful - thanks