Starting Christian Meditation
Meditation is one of the most important activities to develop spiritual life. It is an encounter between the soul and God. This is why it is so important. Nowadays when you hear the word “meditation,” you might worry about it being confused with New Age or Eastern spirituality traditions. But don’t worry, Christian meditation is thousands of years old.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes St. Therese of the Child Jesus as saying “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” (CCC 2559) St. Therese reveals something important about prayer life. It must be constant, in times of joy and during trials.
“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.” (CCC 2705) It is difficult to pay attention during meditation, but the will’s exercise in this point will help very much to form the habit of prayer. To help concentration, we can help ourselves by using holy images and sacred music, in addition to Holy Scripture and texts from the liturgy. The writings of the Popes, Fathers of the Church, saints and recognized spiritual authors can also be of help.
“Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire.” (CCC 2708) It is the whole person who prays during meditation. The fruit of prayer is to contemplate a divine truth and make it one’s own. This helps us 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, to union with him.” (CCC 2708)
The Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner commented once that “the devout Christian of the future will either be a ‘mystic’ – someone who has ‘experienced something’ – or will cease to be anything at all.” This experience of Christ is necessary to allow growth of spiritual life. We have to know Christ as we know a friend.
In meditation, we begin by making ourselves aware of God’s presence. It may be helpful to renew our sense of the theological virtues present in our souls. Then we go to the content of the daily meditation. Here, it is important to silence the soul, read the text, and then begin to pray and come up with a commitment for the day. Prayer should transform us. That is where we can come to experience God who gives meaning to our lives.