ONLINE Frequently Asked Questions - Page 7 of 9

Q. Doesn't Meditation mean Ignatian Meditation?

* The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius (16th Century) contain certain methods of mental prayer, and since the time of their composition many religious congregations have adopted the spirituality taught and practised by the Jesuits. The Ignatian way has come to be known and practised as a method of "discursive meditation". Other schools of spirituality have also emerged in the life of the church, for example St. Francis de Sales in An Introduction to the Devout Life. St. Ignatius also, however, taught the importance of contemplation as the goal of all prayer and action.

* Contemplative prayer has a long history in the Western and Eastern Churches. St. Benedict (c.480 - 547) has been called the Father of monasticism in the West. In writing about St. Antony (c.250 - 356) of Egypt, 'the father of all monks', St. Athanasius wrote that, "He prayed frequently, for he had learned that one ought to pray in secret, and pray without ceasing."

Q. What about Reason?

* Meditation is not anti-rational. The clarity and insightfulness of reason and imagination are enhanced by the practice of meditation, [See Pope John Paul 11's letter on Faith and Reason]

* In Christian meditation the mind is alert, yet not aiming at anything other than being still and silent in God's presence. Recall the psalmist says 'Be still and know that I am God.' (Ps. 46)

Q. Where does it say that Jesus meditated with a mantra?

It doesn't. Jesus taught no "methods" of prayer but his teaching on prayer directs us to the condition of interiority, trust and simplicity. We know from Jesus' teaching on prayer that he instructs us not to 'heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

"Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be your name..." (Mt. 6: 7-9) In Christian meditation there is an implicit recognition that the Father knows what we need before we ask. St. Augustine said 'we say nothing that is not found in this prayer of the Lord, if we pray, properly and fittingly', and 'we have Christ within us as our Teacher'.

Q. Is meditation the same as contemplation?

Now and then we will find these words with a different meaning. However, we note that in the general introduction to "Word into Silence" Fr. John Main chooses to use the term meditation 'synonymously with such terms as contemplation, Contemplative prayer, meditative prayer, and so on.' Then he adds, "The essential context of meditation is to be found in the fundamental relationships of our lives, the relationship that we have as creatures with God, our Creator." Meditation could be said to be the work we do in faith and love to receive or enter fully into the gift of the state of contemplation already present in us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

From "Coming Home: An Introductory Seminar to Christian Meditators, Resources for Presenters." Published and (C) Copyright 1999. The World Community for Christian Meditation. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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