01 June 2009

Reading, Meditation, Prayer, Contemplation

Reading is the careful study of the Scriptures, concentrating all of one’s powers on it.

Meditation is the busy application of the mind to seek with the help of one’s own reason the knowledge of hidden truth.

Prayer is the heart’s devoted turning to God to push away evil and obtain what is good.

Contemplation is when the mind is in some manner lifted up to God, and held above itself, so that it tastes the joys of everlasting sweetness.

Reading seeks the sweetness of a blessed life, meditation perceives it, prayer asks for it, contemplation tastes it.

Reading as it were puts food whole into the mouth, meditation chews and breaks it up, prayer extracts its flavor, contemplation is the sweetness itself which gladdens and refreshes.

Reading comes first and is, as it were, the foundation. It provides the subject matter to be considered for meditation. Meditation considers more carefully what is to be sought after. Prayer lifts itself up to God with all its strength, and begs for the treasure it longs for, which is contemplation. Contemplation… rewards the labors of the other three; it inebriates the thirsting soul with the dew of heavenly sweetness.

Reading, meditation, prayer and contemplation are linked together, each one working for the other. The first degrees are of little or no use without the last, while the last can never or hardly be won without the first.

What is the use of spending one’s time in continuous reading, unless we extract nourishment from it by chewing and digesting this food in order that its strength can pass into our inmost heart? If meditation is to be fruitful, it must be followed by devoted prayer, and the sweetness of contemplation may be called the efficacy of prayer.

Let all my world be silent in Your presence, Lord, that I may hear what the Lord God may say in my heart. Your words are so softly spoken that no one can hear them except in deep silence. He who sits alone and listens will be raised above himself.

Guigo II, Scala Claustralium