Christian meditation

Christian meditation

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Christian meditation is a form of prayer in which a structured attempt is made to get in touch with and deliberately reflect upon the revelations of God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

. The word meditation
Meditation
Meditation is any form of a family of practices in which practitioners train their minds or self-induce a mode of consciousness to realize some benefit....

 comes from the Latin word meditārī, which has a range of meanings including to reflect on, to study and to practice. Christian meditation is the process of deliberately focusing on specific thoughts (such as a bible passage) and reflecting on their meaning in the context of the love of God.

Christian meditation aims to heighten the personal relationship based on the love of God that marks Christian communion. Both in Eastern
Eastern Christianity
Eastern Christianity comprises the Christian traditions and churches that developed in the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Middle East, Northeastern Africa, India and parts of the Far East over several centuries of religious antiquity. The term is generally used in Western Christianity to...

 and Western Christianity
Western Christianity
Western Christianity is a term used to include the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church and groups historically derivative thereof, including the churches of the Anglican and Protestant traditions, which share common attributes that can be traced back to their medieval heritage...

 meditation is the middle level in a broad three stage characterization of prayer: it involves more reflection than first level vocal prayer
Christian prayer
Prayer is an important activity in Christianity, and there are several different forms of Christian prayer.Christian prayers are diverse: they can be completely spontaneous, or read entirely from a text, like the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. The most common prayer among Christians is the Lord's...

, but is more structured than the multiple layers of contemplative prayer
Christian contemplation
In Christian mysticism, contemplative prayer or contemplation, for which the Greek term theoria is also used, is a form of prayer distinct from vocal prayer and from meditation in the strict sense .-Christian meditation and...

.

Both Eastern and Western Christian teachings have emphasized the use of Christian meditation as an element in increasing one's knowledge of Christ
Knowledge of Christ
The knowledge of Christ refers to one of two possible, and at times related, topics in Christology: one addresses how Christians come to know Christ, the other focuses on the knowledge of Christ about the world. Discussions regarding the knowledge of Christ have had a central place in Christology...

.

In Aspects of Christian meditation
Aspects of Christian meditation
Aspects of Christian meditation was the topic of an October 15, 1989 document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The document is titled "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on some aspects of Christian meditation" and is formally known by its incipit Orationis formas.The...

, the Holy See
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

 warned of potential incompatibilities in mixing Christian and non-Christian styles of meditation. In 2003, in A Christian reflection on the New Age
A Christian reflection on the New Age
A Christian reflection on the New Age refers to a six year study by the Roman Catholic Church on the New Age movement. The study, published in 2003, is highly critical of the New Age movement and follows the 1989 document Aspects of Christian meditation in which the Vatican warned Catholics against...

the Vatican
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

 announced that "the Church avoids any concept that is close to those of the New Age".

Context and structure


Christian meditation involves looking back on Jesus' life, thanksgiving and adoration of God for his action in sending the Son for salvation. In her book The Interior Castle
El Castillo Interior
El Castillo Interior or Las Moradas was written by Saint Teresa of Ávila in 1577 as a guide for spiritual development, through service and prayer...

(Mansions 6, Chapter 7) Saint Teresa of Avila
Teresa of Ávila
Saint Teresa of Ávila, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus, baptized as Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada, was a prominent Spanish mystic, Roman Catholic saint, Carmelite nun, and writer of the Counter Reformation, and theologian of contemplative life through mental prayer...

 defined Christian meditation as follows:


"By meditation I mean prolonged reasoning with the understanding, in this way. We begin by thinking of the favor which God bestowed upon us by giving us His only Son; and we do not stop there but proceed to consider the mysteries of His whole glorious life."

Quoting the Gospel of Matthew
Gospel of Matthew
The Gospel According to Matthew is one of the four canonical gospels, one of the three synoptic gospels, and the first book of the New Testament. It tells of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth...

: "No one knows the Father but only the Son and anyone whom the Son wants to reveal him" and I Corinthians: "But we have received the Spirit who is from God so that we may realize what God has freely given us", theologian Hans von Balthasar
Hans Urs von Balthasar
Hans Urs von Balthasar was a Swiss theologian and priest who was nominated to be a cardinal of the Catholic Church...

 explained the context of Christian meditation as follows:


"The dimensions of Christian meditation develop from God's having completed his self-revelation in two directions: Speaking out of his own, and speaking as a man, through his Son, disclosing the depths of man.... And this meditation can take place only where the revealing man, God's Son, Jesus Christ, reveals God as his Father: in the Holy Spirit of God, so we may join in probing God's depths, which only God's Spirit probes."


Building on that theme, E. P. Clowney explained that three dimensions of Christian meditation are crucial, not merely for showing its distinctiveness, but for guiding its practice. The first is that Christian meditation is grounded in the Bible. Because the God of the Bible is a personal God who speaks in words of revelation, Christian meditation responds to this revelation and focuses on it, unlike mystic meditations which use mantra
Mantra
A mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation"...

s to block thought and erase concepts. The second distinctive mark of Christian meditation is that it responds to the love of God, as in I John : "We love, for he first loved us". The personal relationship based on the love of God that marks Christian communion is thus heightened in Christian meditation. The third dimension is that the revelations of the Bible and the love of God lead to the worship of God: making Christian meditation an exercise in praise.

Thomas Merton
Thomas Merton
Thomas Merton, O.C.S.O. was a 20th century Anglo-American Catholic writer and mystic. A Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky, he was a poet, social activist, and student of comparative religion...

 characterized the goal of Christian meditation as follows: "The true end of Christian meditation is practically the same as the end of liturgical prayer and the reception of the sacraments: a deeper union by grace and charity with the Incarnate Word, who is the only Mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ." While Protestants view salvation in terms of faith and grace alone (i.e. sola fide
Sola fide
Sola fide , also historically known as the doctrine of justification by faith alone, is a Christian theological doctrine that distinguishes most Protestant denominations from Catholicism, Eastern Christianity, and some in the Restoration Movement.The doctrine of sola fide or "by faith alone"...

 and sola gratia
Sola gratia
Sola gratia is one of the five solas propounded to summarise the Reformers' basic beliefs during the Protestant Reformation; it is a Latin term meaning grace alone...

) both Western
Western Christianity
Western Christianity is a term used to include the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church and groups historically derivative thereof, including the churches of the Anglican and Protestant traditions, which share common attributes that can be traced back to their medieval heritage...

 and Eastern Christians see a role for meditation on the path to salvation and redemption. Apostle Paul stated in Epistle to the Romans
Epistle to the Romans
The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, often shortened to Romans, is the sixth book in the New Testament. Biblical scholars agree that it was composed by the Apostle Paul to explain that Salvation is offered through the Gospel of Jesus Christ...

  that salvation only comes from "God that hath mercy". The path to salvation in Christian meditation is not one of give and take, and the aim of meditation is to bring joy to the heart of God. The Word of God directs meditations to show the two aspects of love that please God: obedience and adoration. The initiative in Christian salvation is with God, and one does not meditate or love God to gain his favor.

The role of the Holy Spirit


In Western Christian teachings, meditation involves the inherent action of the Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit (Christianity)
For the majority of Christians, the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and is Almighty God...

 which helps the meditating Christian understand the deeper meanings of the Word of God. In the 12th century, decades before Guigo II
Guigo II
Guigo II was a Carthusian monk and the 9th prior of Grande Chartreuse monastery in the 12th century. He died about 1193, and is distinct from Guigo I, the 5th prior of the same monastery.Surnamed "angelic" he was the 9th prior of the monastery...

's the Ladder of the Monk, one of his predecessors, Guigo I
Guigo I
Guigo I also known as Guigues du Chastel was a Carthusian monk and the 5th prior of Grande Chartreuse monastery in the 12th century, i.e. the 5th successor of Saint Bruno. He died about 1136, and is distinct from Guigo II, the 9th prior of the same monastery.He was named prior at age 26, just three...

 emphasized this belief by stating that when earnest meditation begins, the Holy Spirit enters the soul of the meditator, "turns water into wine", and shows the path towards contemplation and a better understanding of God.

In the 19th century, Charles Spurgeon
Charles Spurgeon
Charles Haddon Spurgeon was a large British Particular Baptist preacher who remains highly influential among Christians of different denominations, among whom he is still known as the "Prince of Preachers"...

 affirmed this belief within the Protestant tradition and wrote: "The Spirit has taught us in meditation to ponder its message, to put aside, if we will, the responsibility of preparing the message we've got to give. Just trust God for that. In the 20th century, Hans Urs von Balthasar
Hans Urs von Balthasar
Hans Urs von Balthasar was a Swiss theologian and priest who was nominated to be a cardinal of the Catholic Church...

 paraphrased this teaching as follows:


The vistas of God's Word unfold to the meditating Christian solely through the gift of the Divine Spirit. How could we understand what is within God and is disclosed to us except through the Spirit of God who is communicated to us?


As a biblical basis for this teaching, von Balthasar referred to 1 Corinthians 2:9-10: "these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God".:

Distinction from non-Christian meditations



Christian meditation is different from the style of meditations performed in Eastern religions (such as Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

) or in the context of the New Age
New Age
The New Age movement is a Western spiritual movement that developed in the second half of the 20th century. Its central precepts have been described as "drawing on both Eastern and Western spiritual and metaphysical traditions and then infusing them with influences from self-help and motivational...

. While other types of meditation may suggest approaches to disengage the mind, Christian meditation aims to fill the mind with thoughts related to Biblical passages or Christian devotions. Although some mystics in both the Western and Eastern churches have associated feelings of ecstasy with meditation, (e.g. St. Teresa of Avila
Teresa of Ávila
Saint Teresa of Ávila, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus, baptized as Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada, was a prominent Spanish mystic, Roman Catholic saint, Carmelite nun, and writer of the Counter Reformation, and theologian of contemplative life through mental prayer...

's legendary meditative ecstasy), St. Gregory of Sinai
Gregory of Sinai
Saint Gregory of Sinai was instrumental in the emergence of "technical" Hesychasm on Athos in the early 14th century....

, one of the originators of Hesychasm
Hesychasm
Hesychasm is an eremitic tradition of prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and some of the Eastern Catholic Churches, such as the Byzantine Rite, practised by the Hesychast Hesychasm is an eremitic tradition of prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and some of the Eastern Catholic Churches,...

, stated that the goal of Christian meditation is "seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...

, beyond the minor phenomenon of ecstasy".

Modern Christian teachings on meditation at times include specific criticism of the transcendental styles
Transcendental Meditation
Transcendental Meditation refers to the Transcendental Meditation technique, a specific form of mantra meditation, and to the Transcendental Meditation movement, a spiritual movement...

 of meditation, e.g. John Bertram Phillips
John Bertram Phillips
John Bertram Phillips was a Bible translator, writer and clergyman, often referred to as just J. B. Phillips....

 stated that Christian meditation involves the action of the Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...

 on Biblical passages and warned of approaches that "disengage the mind" from scripture. According to Edmund P. Clowney, Christian meditation contrasts with cosmic styles of oriental meditation
Meditation
Meditation is any form of a family of practices in which practitioners train their minds or self-induce a mode of consciousness to realize some benefit....

 as radically as the portrayal of God the Father
God the Father
God the Father is a gendered title given to God in many monotheistic religions, particularly patriarchal, Abrahamic ones. In Judaism, God is called Father because he is the creator, life-giver, law-giver, and protector...

 in the Bible contrasts with discussions of Krishna
Krishna
Krishna is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is the supreme Being and considered in some monotheistic traditions as an Avatar of Vishnu...

 or Brahman
Brahman
In Hinduism, Brahman is the one supreme, universal Spirit that is the origin and support of the phenomenal universe. Brahman is sometimes referred to as the Absolute or Godhead which is the Divine Ground of all being...

 in Indian teachings. Unlike eastern meditations, most styles of Christian meditations are intended to stimulate thought and deepen meaning. Christian meditation aims to heighten the personal relationship based on the love of God that marks Christian communion. According to E. P. Clowney it is the search for wisdom, not ecstasy, that marks the path of Christian meditation, a wisdom sought in the "Christ of Scripture and the Scripture of Christ".

A 1989 document generally known as Aspects of Christian meditation
Aspects of Christian meditation
Aspects of Christian meditation was the topic of an October 15, 1989 document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The document is titled "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on some aspects of Christian meditation" and is formally known by its incipit Orationis formas.The...

set forth the position of the Holy See
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

 with respect to the differences between Christian and eastern styles of meditation. The document, issued as a letter to all Catholic bishops, stresses the differences between Christian and eastern meditative approaches. It warns of the dangers of attempting to mix Christian meditation with eastern approaches since that could be both confusing and misleading, and may result in the loss of the essential Christocentric
Christology
Christology is the field of study within Christian theology which is primarily concerned with the nature and person of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament. Primary considerations include the relationship of Jesus' nature and person with the nature...

 nature of Christian meditation. The letter warned that euphoric states obtained through Eastern meditation should not be confused with prayer or assumed to be signs of the presence of God, a state that should always result in loving service to others. Without these truths, the letter said, meditation
Meditation
Meditation is any form of a family of practices in which practitioners train their minds or self-induce a mode of consciousness to realize some benefit....

, which should be a flight from the self, can degenerate into a form of self-absorption.

Old Testament references


In the Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

, there are two Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

 words for meditation: hāgâ , which means to sigh or murmur, but also to meditate, and , which means to muse, or rehearse in one's mind. When the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

 was translated into Greek, hāgâ became the Greek melete which emphasized meditation's movement in the depth of the human heart. Melete was a reminder that one should never let meditation be a formality. The Latin Bible then translated hāgâ/melete into meditatio.

The Bible mentions meditate or meditation about twenty times, fifteen times in the Book of Psalms alone. When the Bible mentions meditation, it often mentions obedience in the next breath. An example is the Book of Joshua
Book of Joshua
The Book of Joshua is the sixth book in the Hebrew Bible and of the Old Testament. Its 24 chapters tell of the entry of the Israelites into Canaan, their conquest and division of the land under the leadership of Joshua, and of serving God in the land....

: "Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night."

History



During the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, the monastic traditions of both Western
Western Christianity
Western Christianity is a term used to include the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church and groups historically derivative thereof, including the churches of the Anglican and Protestant traditions, which share common attributes that can be traced back to their medieval heritage...

 and Eastern Christianity
Eastern Christianity
Eastern Christianity comprises the Christian traditions and churches that developed in the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Middle East, Northeastern Africa, India and parts of the Far East over several centuries of religious antiquity. The term is generally used in Western Christianity to...

 moved beyond vocal prayer to Christian meditation. These progressions resulted in two distinct and different meditative practices: Lectio Divina
Lectio Divina
In Christianity, Lectio Divina is a traditional Catholic practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God's Word...

 in the West and hesychasm
Hesychasm
Hesychasm is an eremitic tradition of prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and some of the Eastern Catholic Churches, such as the Byzantine Rite, practised by the Hesychast Hesychasm is an eremitic tradition of prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and some of the Eastern Catholic Churches,...

 in the East. Hesychasm involves the repetition of the Jesus Prayer
Jesus Prayer
The Jesus Prayer or "The Prayer" is a short, formulaic prayer esteemed and advocated within the Eastern Orthodox church:The prayer has been widely taught and discussed throughout the history of the Eastern Churches. It is often repeated continually as a part of personal ascetic practice, its use...

, but Lectio Divina uses different Scripture passages at different times and although a passage may be repeated a few times, Lectio Divina is not repetitive in nature.
The progression from Bible reading, to meditation, to loving regard for God, was first formally described by Guigo II
Guigo II
Guigo II was a Carthusian monk and the 9th prior of Grande Chartreuse monastery in the 12th century. He died about 1193, and is distinct from Guigo I, the 5th prior of the same monastery.Surnamed "angelic" he was the 9th prior of the monastery...

, a Carthusian
Carthusian
The Carthusian Order, also called the Order of St. Bruno, is a Roman Catholic religious order of enclosed monastics. The order was founded by Saint Bruno of Cologne in 1084 and includes both monks and nuns...

 monk who died late in the 12th century. Guigo II's book The Ladder of Monks is considered the first description of methodical prayer in the western mystical tradition.

In Eastern Christianity
Eastern Christianity
Eastern Christianity comprises the Christian traditions and churches that developed in the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Middle East, Northeastern Africa, India and parts of the Far East over several centuries of religious antiquity. The term is generally used in Western Christianity to...

, the monastic traditions of "constant prayer" that traced back to the Desert Fathers and Evagrius Pontikos established the practice of hesychasm
Hesychasm
Hesychasm is an eremitic tradition of prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and some of the Eastern Catholic Churches, such as the Byzantine Rite, practised by the Hesychast Hesychasm is an eremitic tradition of prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and some of the Eastern Catholic Churches,...

 and influenced John Climacus
John Climacus
Saint John Climacus , also known as John of the Ladder, John Scholasticus and John Sinaites, was a 7th century Christian monk at the monastery on Mount Sinai. He is revered as a saint by the Roman Catholic, Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches.We have almost no...

' book The Ladder of Divine Ascent
The Ladder of Divine Ascent
The Ladder of Divine Ascent, or Ladder of Paradise , is an important ascetical treatise for monasticism in Eastern Christianity written by John Climacus in ca...

 by the 7th century. These meditative prayers were promoted and supported by Saint Gregory Palamas
Gregory Palamas
Gregory Palamas was a monk of Mount Athos in Greece and later the Archbishop of Thessaloniki known as a preeminent theologian of Hesychasm. The teachings embodied in his writings defending Hesychasm against the attack of Barlaam are sometimes referred to as Palamism, his followers as Palamites...

 in the 14th century.

The methods of "methodical prayer" as taught by the [Devotio Moderna]] group in northern Europe had entered Spain and were known in the early 16th century. The book The Imitation of Christ which was known in Spain as Contemptus mundi became known in Spain, and while Teresa probably did not initially know of Guigo II's methods she was likely influenced by its teachings via the works of Francisco de Osuna
Francisco de Osuna
Francisco de Osuna was a Spanish author, born in Seville.His book The Third Spiritual Alphabet influenced Saint Teresa of Avila. The book is considered a masterpiece of Franciscan mysticism...

 which she studied. Teresa's contemporary and collaborator, John of the Cross
John of the Cross
John of the Cross , born Juan de Yepes Álvarez, was a major figure of the Counter-Reformation, a Spanish mystic, Catholic saint, Carmelite friar and priest, born at Fontiveros, Old Castile....

 continued the tradition of Guigo II and taught the 4 stages of Lectio Divina. By the 19th century the importance of Biblical meditation had also been firmly established in the Protestant spiritual tradition.

During the 18th and early 19th century some components of meditation had started to be de-emphasized in some branches of Western Christianity. However, the early part of the 20th century witnessed a revival and books and articles on approaches such as Lectio divina
Lectio Divina
In Christianity, Lectio Divina is a traditional Catholic practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God's Word...

 aimed at the general public began to appear by the middle of the century.

In 1965 one of the principal documents of the Second Vatican Council
Second Vatican Council
The Second Vatican Council addressed relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the modern world. It was the twenty-first Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church and the second to be held at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. It opened under Pope John XXIII on 11 October 1962 and closed...

, the dogmatic constitution Dei Verbum
Dei Verbum
Dei Verbum was promulgated by Pope Paul VI on November 18, 1965, following approval by the assembled bishops by a vote of 2,344 to 6.23...

(Latin for Word of God) emphasized the use of Lectio divina
Lectio Divina
In Christianity, Lectio Divina is a traditional Catholic practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God's Word...

 and on the 40th anniversary of Dei Verbum in 2005 Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI
Benedict XVI is the 265th and current Pope, by virtue of his office of Bishop of Rome, the Sovereign of the Vatican City State and the leader of the Catholic Church as well as the other 22 sui iuris Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the Holy See...

 reaffirmed its importance.

Approaches to meditation


A number of saint
Saint
A saint is a holy person. In various religions, saints are people who are believed to have exceptional holiness.In Christian usage, "saint" refers to any believer who is "in Christ", and in whom Christ dwells, whether in heaven or in earth...

s and historical figures have followed and presented specific approaches to Christian meditation. Both Eastern and Western Christian teachings have emphasized the use of meditation as an element in increasing one's knowledge of Christ
Knowledge of Christ
The knowledge of Christ refers to one of two possible, and at times related, topics in Christology: one addresses how Christians come to know Christ, the other focuses on the knowledge of Christ about the world. Discussions regarding the knowledge of Christ have had a central place in Christology...

. The Spiritual Exercises
Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola
The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, are a set of Christian meditations, prayers and mental exercises, divided into four thematic 'weeks' of variable length, designed to be carried out over a period of 28 to 30 days...

of Ignatius of Loyola
Ignatius of Loyola
Ignatius of Loyola was a Spanish knight from a Basque noble family, hermit, priest since 1537, and theologian, who founded the Society of Jesus and was its first Superior General. Ignatius emerged as a religious leader during the Counter-Reformation...

 use meditative mental imagery, with the goal of knowing Christ more intimately and loving him more ardently. In The Way of Perfection, St. Theresa of Avila taught her nuns how to try to get to know Christ by using meditation and mental prayer. Hesychastic prayer and meditation continues to be used in the Eastern Orthodox tradition as a spiritual practice that facilitates the knowing of Christ.

St. Ignatius of Loyola


The Spiritual Exercises
Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola
The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, are a set of Christian meditations, prayers and mental exercises, divided into four thematic 'weeks' of variable length, designed to be carried out over a period of 28 to 30 days...

of St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556), the founder of the Jesuits, contain numerous meditative exercises. To this day, the Spiritual Exercises remain an integral part of the Novitiate training period of the Roman Catholic religious order of Jesuits.

The exercises are intended as notes to guide a spiritual director who is leading someone else through an experience of Christian meditation. The entire experience takes about 30 days and often involves a daily interview with the director. The process begins with a consideration of the purpose of one's life and the relationship with the rest of creation. It is followed by a week of meditation about sin and its consequences. Next comes a period of meditating on the events of the life of Jesus, and another for thinking about his suffering and death. The final week is to experience the joy of the resurrection, and in conclusion to reflect on God's love and the response of love for God.

The exercises often involve imagery in which one enters a biblical scene. For example, the practitioner is encouraged to visualize and meditate upon scenes from the life of Christ, at times asking questions from Christ on the cross, during crucifixion.

St. Teresa of Avila



St. Teresa of Ávila
Teresa of Ávila
Saint Teresa of Ávila, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus, baptized as Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada, was a prominent Spanish mystic, Roman Catholic saint, Carmelite nun, and writer of the Counter Reformation, and theologian of contemplative life through mental prayer...

 (1515–1582) a Doctor of the Church
Doctor of the Church
Doctor of the Church is a title given by a variety of Christian churches to individuals whom they recognize as having been of particular importance, particularly regarding their contribution to theology or doctrine.-Catholic Church:In the Catholic Church, this name is given to a saint from whose...

, practiced contemplative prayer for periods of one hour at a time, twice a day. St. Teresa believed that no one who was faithful to the practice of meditation could possibly lose his soul. Her writings are viewed as fundamental teachings in Christian spirituality.

St. Teresa taught her nuns to meditate on specific prayers. Her prayers described in
The Way of Perfection involve meditation on a mystery in the life of Jesus and are based on the faith that "God is within", a truth that Teresa said she learned from St. Augustine
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo , also known as Augustine, St. Augustine, St. Austin, St. Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed, was Bishop of Hippo Regius . He was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman Africa Province...

.

In her Life, she wrote that she taught herself from the instructions given in the book, The Third Spiritual Alphabet - by Francisco de Osuna
Francisco de Osuna
Francisco de Osuna was a Spanish author, born in Seville.His book The Third Spiritual Alphabet influenced Saint Teresa of Avila. The book is considered a masterpiece of Franciscan mysticism...

 - which relates to Franciscan
Franciscan
Most Franciscans are members of Roman Catholic religious orders founded by Saint Francis of Assisi. Besides Roman Catholic communities, there are also Old Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, ecumenical and Non-denominational Franciscan communities....

 mysticism. Her starting point was the practice of "recollection", i.e. keeping the senses and the intellect in check and not allowing them to stray. In her meditations, one generally restricts attention to a single subject, principally the love of God. In The Way of Perfection she wrote: "It is called recollection because the soul collects together all the faculties and enters within itself to be with God". She would use devices such as short readings, a scene of natural beauty or a religious statue or picture to remind her to keep her focus. She wrote that in due course, the mind naturally learns to maintain focus on God almost effortlessly.

St. Theresa viewed Christian meditation as the first of four steps in achieving "union with God", and used the analogy of watering the garden. She compared basic meditation to watering a garden with a bucket, Recollection to the water wheel, Quiet (contemplation) to a spring of water and Union to drenching rain.

St. Francis de Sales


Saint Francis de Sales (1576–1622) used a four part approach to Christian meditation based on "preparation", "consideration", "affections and resolutions" and "conclusions":
  • In the preparation part, one places oneself in the presence of God and asks the Holy Spirit
    Holy Spirit
    Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...

     to direct the prayer, as in the Epistle to the Romans
    Epistle to the Romans
    The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, often shortened to Romans, is the sixth book in the New Testament. Biblical scholars agree that it was composed by the Apostle Paul to explain that Salvation is offered through the Gospel of Jesus Christ...

    : "The Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know what to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words."
  • In the consideration part, one focuses on a specific topic, e.g. a passage from the Bible.
  • In the affections and resolutions part, one focuses on feelings and makes a resolution or decision. For instance, when meditating on the Parable of the Good Samaritan
    Parable of the Good Samaritan
    The parable of the Good Samaritan is a parable told by Jesus and is mentioned in only one of the Canonical gospels. According to the Gospel of Luke a traveller is beaten, robbed, and left half dead along the road. First a priest and then a Levite come by, but both avoid the man. Finally, a...

     one may decide to visit someone sick and be kind to them.
  • In the conclusion part, one gives thanks and praise to God for the considerations and asks for the grace to stand by the resolution.

Catholic Church




Saint Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas, O.P. , also Thomas of Aquin or Aquino, was an Italian Dominican priest of the Catholic Church, and an immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism, known as Doctor Angelicus, Doctor Communis, or Doctor Universalis...

 (1225–1274) said that meditation is necessary for devotion, and the Second Vatican Council
Second Vatican Council
The Second Vatican Council addressed relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the modern world. It was the twenty-first Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church and the second to be held at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. It opened under Pope John XXIII on 11 October 1962 and closed...

 called for "faithful meditation on God's word" as part of the spiritual formation of seminarians.

Saint John of the Cross (1542–1591), a close friend of St. Teresa of Avila, viewed Christian meditation as a necessary step toward union with God, and wrote that even the most spiritually advanced persons always needed to regularly return to meditation.

Saint Padre Pio (1887–1968), who was devoted to rosary meditations
Rosary devotions and spirituality
Devotion to the rosary is one of the most notable features of popular Catholic spirituality. Pope John Paul II placed rosary devotions at the very center of Christian spirituality and called them "among the finest and most praiseworthy traditions of Christian contemplation."From a historical...

, said:


"The person who meditates and turns his mind to God, who is the mirror of his soul, seeks to know his faults, tries to correct them, moderates his impulses, and puts his conscience in order."


The Catechism of the Catholic Church
Catechism of the Catholic Church
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the official text of the teachings of the Catholic Church. A provisional, "reference text" was issued by Pope John Paul II on October 11, 1992 — "the thirtieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council" — with his apostolic...

 encourages meditation as a form of prayer: "Meditation is above all a quest. The mind seeks to understand the why and how of the Christian life, in order to adhere and respond to what the Lord is asking" (Catechism section # 2705) and that Christians owe it to themselves to develop the desire to meditate regularly (# 2707). Emphasizing union with God, it states: "Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. This mobilization of faculties is necessary in order to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart, and strengthen our will to follow Christ. Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ, as in lectio divina or the rosary. This form of prayerful reflection is of great value, but Christian prayer should go further: to the knowledge of the love of the Lord Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

, to union with him" (#2708). Meditative prayer is different from contemplative prayer (See CCC 2709- 2724).

Eucharistic meditations


Christian meditation performed along with Eucharistic adoration
Eucharistic adoration
Eucharistic adoration is a practice in the Roman Catholic Church, and in a few Anglican and Lutheran churches, in which the Blessed Sacrament is exposed to and adored by the faithful....

 outside of Mass has been associated with a large amount of Catholic writings and inspirations specially since the 18th century. The Eucharistic meditations of the two Saints Pierre Julien Eymard
Peter Julian Eymard
Saint Peter Julian Eymard was a French Catholic priest, founder of two religious orders, and a canonized saint....

 and Jean Vianney
Jean Vianney
Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney , commonly known in English as St John Vianney, was a French parish priest who in the Catholic Church is venerated as a saint and as the patron saint of all priests. He is often referred to as the "Curé d'Ars"...

 (both promoters of the Eucharist
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

) were published as books.

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux was devoted to Eucharistic meditation and on February 26, 1895 shortly before she died wrote from memory and without a rough draft her poetic masterpiece "To Live by Love" which had composed during Eucharistic meditation.

Significant portions of the writings of the Venerable
Venerable
The Venerable is used as a style or epithet in several Christian churches. It is also the common English-language translation of a number of Buddhist titles.-Roman Catholic:...

 Concepcion Cabrera de Armida
Concepcion Cabrera de Armida
The Venerable Concepción Cabrera de Armida was a Mexican Roman Catholic mystic and writer....

 were reported as having been based on her adorations of the Blessed Sacrament
. Similarly, in her book Eucharist: true jewel of eucharistic spirituality Maria Candida of the Eucharist
Maria Candida of the Eucharist
Blessed Maria Candida of the Eucharist, O.C.D., was a Roman Catholic Carmelite nun, beatified by Pope John Paul II. The daughter of an appellate court judge, Pietro Barba, the family home was in Palermo, Sicily, but she was born in Catanzaro, Italy, during a brief assignment of her father to that...

 (who was beatified by Pope John Paul II) wrote about her own personal experiences and reflections on eucharistic meditation.

Rosary meditations



Meditation is an integral part of the rosary
Rosary
The rosary or "garland of roses" is a traditional Catholic devotion. The term denotes the prayer beads used to count the series of prayers that make up the rosary...

. This mode of meditation is the process of reflecting on the mysteries of the rosary. With practice, this may in time turn into contemplation on the mysteries. The practice of meditation during the praying of repeated Hail Mary
Hail Mary
The Angelic Salutation, Hail Mary, or Ave Maria is a traditional biblical Catholic prayer asking for the intercession of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. The Hail Mary is used within the Catholic Church, and it forms the basis of the Rosary...

s dates back to 15th century Carthusian
Carthusian
The Carthusian Order, also called the Order of St. Bruno, is a Roman Catholic religious order of enclosed monastics. The order was founded by Saint Bruno of Cologne in 1084 and includes both monks and nuns...

 monk
Monk
A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism, living either alone or with any number of monks, while always maintaining some degree of physical separation from those not sharing the same purpose...

s, and was soon adopted by the Dominicans
Dominican Order
The Order of Preachers , after the 15th century more commonly known as the Dominican Order or Dominicans, is a Catholic religious order founded by Saint Dominic and approved by Pope Honorius III on 22 December 1216 in France...

 at large. By the 16th century the practice of meditation during the rosary had spread across Europe, and the book Meditationi del Rosario della Gloriosa Maria Virgine (i.e. Meditations on the Rosary of the Glorious Virgin Mary) printed in 1569 for the rosary confraternity of Milan
Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

 provided an individual meditation to accompany each bead or prayer.

Saint Teresa of Avila
Teresa of Ávila
Saint Teresa of Ávila, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus, baptized as Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada, was a prominent Spanish mystic, Roman Catholic saint, Carmelite nun, and writer of the Counter Reformation, and theologian of contemplative life through mental prayer...

's meditative approach of focusing on "the favor which God bestowed upon us by giving us His only Son" can be viewed as the basis of most scriptural rosary meditations. In his 2002 encyclical
Encyclical
An encyclical was originally a circular letter sent to all the churches of a particular area in the ancient Catholic Church. At that time, the word could be used for a letter sent out by any bishop...

 Rosarium Virginis Mariae
Rosarium Virginis Mariae
Rosarium Virginis Mariae is the title of an Apostolic Letter by Pope John Paul II, issued on October 16, 2002. This Apostlic Letter deals with the Holy Rosary and views it as compendium of the Gospel message:...

, Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II
Blessed Pope John Paul II , born Karol Józef Wojtyła , reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of Vatican City from 16 October 1978 until his death on 2 April 2005, at of age. His was the second-longest documented pontificate, which lasted ; only Pope Pius IX ...

 placed the rosary at the very center of Christian spirituality. Emphasizing that the final goal of Christian life is to be transformed, or "transfigured", into Christ he stated that the rosary helps believers come closer to Christ by contemplating Christ. He stated that the rosary unites us with Mary's own prayer, who, in the presence of God, prays with us and for us. and stated that: "To recite the rosary is nothing other than to contemplate with Mary the face of Christ."

Eastern Christianity



During the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

, between the 10th and 14th centuries, a tradition of prayer called hesychasm
Hesychasm
Hesychasm is an eremitic tradition of prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and some of the Eastern Catholic Churches, such as the Byzantine Rite, practised by the Hesychast Hesychasm is an eremitic tradition of prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and some of the Eastern Catholic Churches,...

 developed, particularly on Mount Athos
Mount Athos
Mount Athos is a mountain and peninsula in Macedonia, Greece. A World Heritage Site, it is home to 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries and forms a self-governed monastic state within the sovereignty of the Hellenic Republic. Spiritually, Mount Athos comes under the direct jurisdiction of the...

 in Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

, and continues to the present. St. Gregory of Sinai
Gregory of Sinai
Saint Gregory of Sinai was instrumental in the emergence of "technical" Hesychasm on Athos in the early 14th century....

 is considered by most to be the founder of the hesychastic approach to prayer. This tradition uses a special posture and breathing rituals, accompanied by the repetition of a short prayer (traditionally the 'Jesus Prayer
Jesus Prayer
The Jesus Prayer or "The Prayer" is a short, formulaic prayer esteemed and advocated within the Eastern Orthodox church:The prayer has been widely taught and discussed throughout the history of the Eastern Churches. It is often repeated continually as a part of personal ascetic practice, its use...

') giving rise to suggestions that it may have been influenced by Indian approaches. "While some might compare it [hesychastic prayer] with a mantra, to use the Jesus Prayer in such a fashion is to violate its purpose. One is never to treat it as a string of syllables for which the 'surface' meaning is secondary. Likewise, hollow repetition is considered to be worthless (or even spiritually damaging) in the hesychast tradition." This style of prayer was at first opposed as heretical by Barlam in Calabria
Calabria
Calabria , in antiquity known as Bruttium, is a region in southern Italy, south of Naples, located at the "toe" of the Italian Peninsula. The capital city of Calabria is Catanzaro....

, but was defended by Saint Gregory Palamas
Gregory Palamas
Gregory Palamas was a monk of Mount Athos in Greece and later the Archbishop of Thessaloniki known as a preeminent theologian of Hesychasm. The teachings embodied in his writings defending Hesychasm against the attack of Barlaam are sometimes referred to as Palamism, his followers as Palamites...

. Coming from hesychia ("stillness, rest, quiet, silence"), hesychasm continues to be practiced in the Eastern Orthodox Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

 and some other Eastern Churches of the Byzantine Rite
Byzantine Rite
The Byzantine Rite, sometimes called the Rite of Constantinople or Constantinopolitan Rite is the liturgical rite used currently by all the Eastern Orthodox Churches, by the Greek Catholic Churches , and by the Protestant Ukrainian Lutheran Church...

. Hesychasm has not gained significance in the Western churches.

In hesychasm the Jesus prayer
Jesus Prayer
The Jesus Prayer or "The Prayer" is a short, formulaic prayer esteemed and advocated within the Eastern Orthodox church:The prayer has been widely taught and discussed throughout the history of the Eastern Churches. It is often repeated continually as a part of personal ascetic practice, its use...

, consisting of the phrase: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me" is repeated either for a set period of time or a set number of times. Hesychasm is contrasted with the more mental or imaginative forms of Christian meditation in which a person is encouraged to imagine or think of events from the life of Jesus or sayings from the Gospel. Sometimes hesychasm has been compared to the meditative techniques of oriental religions and it is possible that there were interactions between Hesychasts and Sufis, but this has not been proven.

See also

  • Aspects of Christian meditation
    Aspects of Christian meditation
    Aspects of Christian meditation was the topic of an October 15, 1989 document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The document is titled "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on some aspects of Christian meditation" and is formally known by its incipit Orationis formas.The...

  • Christian meditation music
    Christian Meditation Music
    New Age music meets with disapproval among some Christians. The expression Christian meditation music is sometimes used to describe similar music produced by members of the Christian faith community. In the same way as New Age music has never been a well-defined genre, so too a broad range of...

  • Contemplative prayer
  • Prayer, meditation and contemplation in Christianity
  • The Cloud of Unknowing
    The Cloud of Unknowing
    The Cloud of Unknowing is an anonymous work of Christian mysticism written in Middle English in the latter half of the 14th century. The text is a spiritual guide on contemplative prayer in the late Middle Ages.Manuscripts of the work are today at British Library and Cambridge University Library...


External links