Moving into step two an image to help us understand this step is fishing. The previous post, about step one, spoke about finding a place to fish. In this step, traditionally called proximate preparation, one must place their line into the water. Like a fisherman, we must be willing to place ourselves into the text we’ve chosen to meditate over. Yet, unlike the fisherman, who desires to catch a fish, we must first be open to the reality that we are the ones being caught. Once, we are caught by God, we can fish through His splendors growing ever more in awe of his ocean of truth.
Needing to Remain
In this stage the process of meditation is expanded on because the mind is penetrating and being penetrated by the text. Again, this is not an easy step because it requires vulnerability. The text will always impact the mind in ways that person was not prepared to face. A ship may be fitted with the necessary items to embrace the storm, but it is another thing for that ship to go through a storm. For example, having selected a text from a spiritual master in the Church, upon reading it the text causes aridity in the mind. What is to be done? A fisherman can only catch fish if he is willing to let his net into the water, meditation is only possible if a person is willing to let their mind be with the text no matter the sentiments being produced. The power of faith was only revealed to Peter after experiencing the empty nets that came about from his own labors. The wind of the Spirit offers the mind freedom from our attachments via the challenges from our texts for meditation. In the Spirit’s wind of the mind is moved to where it is meant to be.
A Call for Temperance
Remember, christian meditation is not a self-help program but a pious practice that keeps a heart focused on the things of God. Meditation may not always lead to or produce the desire sentiments that our fallen hearts hunger for but that is a good thing. Attachments are like barnacles. Barnacles, in large numbers, cause dangerous drag impeding the ability of things like ships and turtles to move freely through the water. When we read the text we selected for our times of meditation and we experience discomfort avoid the common response to simply read more. Reading more of the text or of other books only produces a gluttonous spirit that will never be satiated. When we read the text for our meditation the virtue of temperance is of the utmost importance. Moderation allows the mind to descend to the necessary depths that is placed before us by the text. Gluttony keeps the mind at the surface creating a spiritual blindness that robs the mind from the deeper current of the Spirit at work via the text.
As the warm current guides, a fisherman so the Spirit does for us. The Holy Spirit is the guide to the spiritual life, because he is the Sanctifier. Every moment of meditation is an act of faith in the Holy Spirit. Hence, before one begins to read and after they have finished reading a prayer to the Spirit needs to be made from the heart. This second of prayer is just that a second. The simple words of “Guide me Spirit” and “Thank you for the guiding wind” are enough. Many words don’t make for good prayer, but a simple act of faith from the heart does. Accordingly, as the fisherman must go out into the waters to catch his prize, so must we go out into the vastness of God’s truth made known through the written words of humanity. However, just as the sun and stars give guidance to the fisherman, so does the Holy Spirit do for us as we seek out the prize promised to us by God.
(Part three: The Second Step of Meditation in Carmel from the Devotio Moderna)
The proud person is like a grain of wheat thrown into water: it swells, it gets big. Expose that grain to the fire: it dries up, it burns. The humble soul is like a grain of wheat thrown into the earth: it descends, it hides itself, it disappears, it dies; but to revive in heaven.
~ Bl. Mary of Jesus Crucified “The Little Arab”