12 February 2009

The Prayer of Quiet

What is this prayer of quiet? It may be described as dominantly a peace experience which seems produced in the soul rather than the resultant of its own activity. It is a period in which repeated acts of mental activity come to an end. But it is far from inactivity. It is possible for the soul to analyze this peace experience while it is going on, but it does not like to do so. Such an analysis shows that it is dominantly an intense abiding love of God. In the period of acts, ardent flames of love burst out, shoot up toward heaven. But in the peace experience flaming ceases; and the fire of charity settles down to a constant glowing… Love is not the only activity in the prayer of quiet, though it has a tendency to dominate the focal region of consciousness. There is also a subconscious intellectual realization of the Presence of God. He is very near, certainly He does not seem far away. And then from time-to-time there are likely to take place more or less dim flashes of a quasi-perceptual seeing of the Divine Immensity, but through a glass, as it were, and in a dark manner. All muscular activity ceases of its own accord and the body may remain motionless in whatever position it may have been when the mind was inducted into the prayer of quiet.

The prayer of quiet has a tendency to remain as a beautiful peace experience long after one has finished the period allotted to prayer. In fact it may abide with the soul the whole day long… Several of our collaborators have actually attained a habitual all-day life of prayer that goes on day after day without cessation.

Thus a lay woman writes as follows:
“For many years mental prayer has consisted in placing myself in God’s Presence in silent adoration and love. All external duties in the day are done as acts of perfect love which do not interfere with His Presence within me.”

The following is a young man’s description of his ordinary period of mental prayer:
“Sometimes when praying in a place where there may be external distractions I begin my prayer by saying to God, ‘I love You,’ a few times. After this I remain in a very peaceful and loving contact with God. I strive to remove all thoughts from my mind and simply rest in this peaceful state of love. Usually I do not need to say, ‘I love You’ at the beginning of prayer but simply enter into the aforesaid prayer. Also, often during this prayer I find any movement, even the moving of the lips in vocal prayer, undesirable and requiring an effort.”

One is not always capable of entering into the prayer of quiet even after God has made it relatively habitual. Mental sorrow or physical pain may make it necessary to return to acts and aspirations.

Thus a nun writes of her difficulties of attaining to perfect recollection in prayer:
“In times of peace my usual form of prayer is simply allowing myself to be penetrated by the Divine Presence – a simple reflection sufficing to recollect me, for example, ‘quoniam tu solus sanctus’ or ‘tomorrow eternity’ or a psalm verse or thought from current liturgy or office. Most often I experience the silence of receptivity. In times of trial my prayer often consists of: acts of resignation; thanking our Lord for the suffering and begging help; lifting up my soul with all its misery to be purified. In times of illness or fatigue there may be nothing more than simple endurance of the time allotted for mental prayer.”

It is in mental prayer that we see God, as well as He can be seen in this life: as through a glass and in a dark manner. All men are called to this vision of God. He who would heed the call of God to live with Him in union of mind and heart, “let him refrain his tongue from evil and his lips that they speak no guile. Let him decline from evil and do good: let him seek after peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:10-11). “Let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow” (Luke 9:23) Christ.

~Excerpted from “The Life of Man with God” by Thomas Verner Moore, Carthusian~