Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Love of the Contemplated

"The contemplation of the saints is fired by the love of the one contemplated..."   Saint Albert the Great of Paris

Writing about Aescetics and meditation, Thomas Aquinas, disciple of Saint Albert the Great wrote: that "our knowledge of the deus is arrived at, on this earth, by the light of burning love."
In contrast, the contemplation of philosophers is " merely intellectual speculation on the divine nature... the beauty of mental prayer and of mystical contemplation is in the soul's abandonment and total surrender of itself... to bear witness to God. The rest is silence," wrote Thomas Merton.

Other traditions also have much to say about meditation and prayerful contemplation; however in the west, it is the aescetics and the 'desert fathers' who have perhaps spoken most loudly.
Most, east and west, will likely agree with the words of Merton, "meditation does not have to be colorful or spectacular. The effectiveness of our mental prayer is not to be judged by the interior 'fireworks' that go off inside us when we pray. On the contrary, although sometimes the fruit of a good meditation [practice] may be an ardent and sensible love springing from vivid insights into truth; these so-called 'consolations of prayer' are not to be trusted without reserve, or sought for their own sake alone.'

'We should be deeply grateful when our prayer really brings us an increase of clear understanding and felt generosity, and we should by no means despise the stimulation of sensible devotion when it helps us to do whatever we have to do, with greater humility, fidelity and courage."
Thus it is quite possible that meditation practice which at times seems 'cold,' can actually be valuable because it is without feelings and this may be, for some, the most profitable. It can be a source of strength, bring us out of our immediate sense-reactions and to a point of contemplation where we may hold the idea or the contemplated up for more careful and detailed consideration. It may assist us to spiritualize our interior self, quieting the emotions, rising above the mundane, towards a place of reason and faith.

For this reason, Merton asserts that at this point, ignorance can make progress in mental prayer difficult; "those who think that their meditation must always culminate in a burst of emotion, fall into one or two errors...either they find their emotions run dry... or else they can almost always weep at prayer... in the beginning when our senses are easily attracted to created pleasures, our emotions will keep us" from turning to anything greater [more in depth], unless they themselves give continued joy and pleasure; pure, untempered emotion tends to eat itself up and we risk "resting in these things which are by no means the end of the journey." Here, Thomas Merton a Trappist monk writes in the true vein of an aescetic.

No comments: