Meditation, like many spiritual works, are never an end in themselves. What is meditation then? Meditation is an act that plays a role in the cultivation of the heart. We are called to love God, our neighbors, and ourselves from our hearts. This command calls us to regularly reflect on our hearts. Seeing meditation as a means for cultivating the heart, the seat of love, other questions arise like: What are we letting into our hearts? Who resides there? What is our current relationship with our hearts? These are just a few of the questions that arise when we ponder the state of our heart in the light God gives via his call for us to love. Journeying deeper into the act of meditation, as a Christian, is a practice animated by the pursuit of knowledge but never merely knowledge isolated in the abstract but always in reference to God. Thus, when we turn to the Bible and then spiritual texts, we are being offered seeds to nourish and build up the soil of the heart. When we receive those seeds Christians can use meditation as the means by which those seeds enter and take root in our hearts. This blog series (7 parts in total) will try to offer a form of Christian meditation and the spiritual reasoning behind it.
Movement of the Heart
Unity is not a saccharine idea of christian belief that is to be used for merely forming a pseudo-harmonic accord on the earth. Unity is the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s task, for example, is invoked during every Eucharistic prayer. Christians are called to dwell in unity because in unity the reality of christian prayer is fulfilled (John 17). Through the Christian pursuit of unity, the kingdom of God becomes known because the Christian heart can share in the sacred rhythm made known through the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Thus, unity and the heart are linked. The later makes the former incarnational via the Spirit. Acts of meditating provide the heart with the seeds necessary for nourishing that work of unity through the strengthening of the intellect through which the beauty of the sacred rhythm flows over as the water of creek does to saturate the arid earth around it during and after powerful rains.
Our Intellect: Cultivation of a Gift
The means by which the heart becomes attuned to that sacred rhythm is again meditation. God gave us the gift to know. With that gift came knowledge to manifest it. Cultivating that gift is already an expression of love because it shows our appreciation of God for the gift. Remember, gifts are meant to be opened, embraced, used, and shared, thus meditation is the means by which we do that for our intellect. The ability to know via our intellect isn’t a means for vainglory but instead for awe and wonder. Through meditation one begins to see with a clarity the humble and loving hands of God at work in the world in the past and the present. God gives of himself through grace. His grace is like the rays of the sun that shine on a flower calling it to face the source to receive its warmth to the full. Through meditation, on the gift of the Bible, the mind begins a journey to face in the direction of the source who calls everyone so gently. Being faced in the right direction offers not only courage but joy for the heart to take the steps necessary to journey in the way shown to it through the intellect. An unfocused mind can make for a dangerous navigator.
From Head to Heart
This journey of which I write is the pilgrimage we received through our calls as disciples of Christ. An aspect of this pilgrimage is discovered when one embraces the reality that a Christian’s exterior pilgrimage is founded firstly on an interior one. The interior pilgrimage is the journey from the mind (intellect) to the heart. Ignorance impedes on the ability for the heart to love. Seeing this travesty in the world the Church has called its members to instruct the ignorant as a spiritual work of mercy. As St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) wrote “Do not accept anything as love which lacks truth.” Christian love is act of the whole person not only the sentiments. Christians love in propter deum (for/because of God). Thus, every act of Christian love makes known the truth by whom a person can love. Meditation helps the seeds of grace to penetrate the soil of the heart. It is in the soil of the heart that the mystery of God becomes revealed and begins to reach out into the world as an act of charity. I pray that this series of seven blog posts aid you in your desire to grow in christian meditation.
The intellect ponders the greatness of divine mercy, the emotions are seized by love and thankfulness, the will decides to make itself more worthy of divine love. This is how meditative prayer involves all the soul’s powers and, when practiced with faithful persistence, can gradually remake the whole person. However, the Lord has yet another way of rewarding fidelity in meditation: by elevation to a higher manner of praying.
~St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (from Love for Love)
(Part One: An Introduction of Meditation in Carmel from the Devotio Moderna)