Crossing the Threshold

As when a boat enters the sea, becoming engrossed by so too is the meditative mind after reading a text.  The radiance of the text, whether we sense it or not, has impacted the mind.  However, the dance between the mind and the text is not meant to remain relegated to the inner recesses of the person.  This immersion of the mind into the text is a means of lifting the mind to a perspective outside of itself.  The elevated view offers the reader to see how they are impacted by the text.  It is in this view that the person begins to examine themselves via reading.   Traditionally, this moment of the meditative process is called immediate preparation (the point of entry into meditation properly speaking).

A Call to Thankful Praise

How is one to respond with this new-found perspective of oneself?  The Carmelite tradition teaches that this moment of examination, no matter what struggles may arise, is a period for an act of praise and thanksgiving.  The knowledge gained from meditation is not meant for a single soul but is a source of nourishment for a community.  As Christians we know this community to be the Church, the Body of Christ.  Christian meditation is not a self-help program built upon a new age foundation of mere spirit.  Christian meditation, stressed strongly in Carmel, is a practice meant for the concrete and incarnated life of a disciple in the Church.  Offering a moment to give praise and thanks to God for the illumination he offers us through the words of our brothers and sisters (whether they are our friends or enemies) creates an opening for a necessary disposition for the work of the Holy Spirit through meditation.

Being Taught by the Spirit

This disposition of our soul is summed up in one word: docility.  The virtue of docility (an aspect of humility) safe guards a person from pride How? By reminding the soul that it is not its own teacher.  As disciples we are all being guided by another.  We know this other to be the Holy Spirit, the Love of God, sent to us by the Father and the Son.  Carmelites see in the practice of meditation that the spirit of docility is cultivated in the soul.  Docility allows the Carmelite to realize the practical demand that comes about from the call to allegiance with Christ, demanded by the Carmelite rule.  The rule calls forth an allegiance to Christ that is realized in a pure heart and a stout conscience.  Docility, the virtue of being teachable, allows the Spirit (who never violates our free will) to bring about the purity (focus) of heart and the stout (firm) conscience of the person.  How?  The Holy Spirit is the forge of love.  In meditation we give ourselves over to the Spirit so via the meditative text the flame of his forge can permeate us. 

The Cruciformed One

In every moment of meditation, we will always bring ourselves.  Thus, christian meditation is not a moment of abstract pondering.  Spirit, soul, and the body are all being worked over from the moment when the person enters and reads the text.  A boat out at sea is being impacted by the sea on all sides, and yet the boat floats.  It is that ability to float that calls forth a moment of gratitude.  Why?  It is through gratitude that the mind begins a journey that transforms it in untold ways.  As Christians the wood of our boat is the cross because it is through the cross that God showed us the depth of his love.  He did not deny our reality of suffering but entered it.  By this act he opened for us, via the created world, a profound way of journeying in, with, to his presence.  Christian meditation is a historic form of that cruciformed journey embraced and taught by Christ. 

(Part four: The Third Step of Meditation in Carmel from the Devotio Moderna)

“This is a serious warning cry: Surrender without reservation to the Lord who has called us. This is required of us so that the face of the earth may be renewed.” ~ St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

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