The Meditative Evangelist

In his 1997 text called Gospel, Catechesis, and Catechism before becoming Pope Benedict XVI, on the topic of evangelization, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger wrote “… evangelization is the proclamation of God’s nearness in word and deed together with instruction in his will through initiation into communion with Jesus Christ” (pg. 63).  Through his insight on evangelization Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI offers a necessary insight in the four part of meditation of the Carmelite tradition.  In this fourth step the intellect is given fully over to the text to engage with it.  However, this engagement is not in the abstract but always done in Christ.  In meditation one grows in knowing and experiencing the nearness of God.  The incarnation is thus a crux to all periods of meditation, whether explicitly or implicitly acknowledged.  In this light we see that each moment of meditation in Carmel is a time of evangelization.  The soul of the Carmelite is being evangelized via the text because through the process of meditation Christ’s nearness is proclaimed to the soul. 

Wrestling in Nearness

Yet, this moment of awareness where we acknowledge God’s nearness is not merely a passive period.  As mentioned, this fourth steps calls for the intellect to engage the text.  This moment of engagement is captured in words like consideration or wrestling depending on what items called forth a period of pondering.  The intellect might be called to wrestle with a sensible reality present in the text like a person in scripture or a more spiritual object like the end of a season.  In this time of intellectual wrestling it is important to keep the mind on the item at hand.  Remaining focused (to the best of one’s ability) is a means of exercising justice in the meditative process. God has given us the time to meditate while, while also engaging our minds, through justice, a religious atmosphere is maintained, because we are rendering to God what is his already.

Call to Unity

Carmelite meditation has as its end unity.  A unity of the mind and heart to the will of God.  Through the engaging of intellect with the text are minds are called to grow in internal unity. Meditation is not a means to bifurcate the mind into a variety of sections a person can travel through.  God calls for love totally focused on him that is realized through care of neighbor and self.  Thus, meditation as a means of this unity, by the grace of God, brings about an internal integrity in the person over time.  This integrity is realized through the life of a person committed to the practice because those around them will begin to see that their yes means yes and their no means no, and when these are spoken it carries with it an air of authenticity.

Being Directed

Through the desire of unity, unity with God and internal integrity, our lives can grow into a living a whole as Bl. Titus Brandsma wrote about while reflecting on Carmelite mysticism.  Reading over and over our text for meditation and allowing it to grow into what we have already received, God offers to the mind a certain directedness to follow his ways.  Following in the way of the Lord calls for a need to apply what it is we have received via the intimacy of meditation.  As God’s nearness was exposed to us through meditation, as evangelizers, we must be willing to aid in this universal process of proclaiming the nearness of God.  The engagement of the intellect during this period of meditation shapes the mind making it possible to proclaim Christ the Lord and not Christ of our ego.  The former offers the life the latter steals it.  As Jacob was transformed through his moment of wrestling with God in the darkness, so must our mind be open to transformation.  A transformation that is realized through this period in the process of Carmelite meditation. 

(Part five: The fourth Step of Meditation in Carmel from the Devotio Moderna)

May nothing disturb my peace nor draw me forth from You, O my immutable Lord! but may I penetrate more deeply every moment into the depths of Your mystery. 
~ St. Elizabeth of the Trinity

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