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Archive for the ‘meditation’ Category

The Way of the Cross is a devotion in which the faithful follow the journey of Christ’s last day on earth. Through this devotion the Church has walked from the Mount of Olives to the hill on Calvary with Christ for many years. The Holy Land was a place of particular devotion to the Medieval Christians. Pilgrims would go to Jerusalem, walk the same path of sorrow, with stops along the way to meditate on the events of his passion, and consider the suffering of Christ.

The cross was a burden that Christ took upon himself. That burden is corrupt human nature, sin and suffering that all men are subject to in this life. However the “meaning of the way of the cross is to carry this burden out of the world.” (Hidden Life, p. 91 The Collected Works of Edith Stein, ICS Publications)

Jesus falls on the way to Calvary three times, and the “triple collapse under the burden of the cross corresponds to the triple fall of humanity: the first sin, the rejection of the savior by his chosen people, the falling away of those who bear the name of Christian.” (Hidden Life, p. 92)

The sin of our first parents brought sin and death, but Jesus freed mankind from sin and weakness by traveling this way of the cross. He embraced his passion and crucifixion so that through baptism, with the promises made to renounce sin and Satan, and through our sufferings we may rise with him in the newness of life free of self centeredness and full of joy and service to others.

Isaiah’s prophesies of the Lord’s passion were clear to all who had eyes to see. It was “our sufferings that he endured” and “he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins”. He was also “ harshly treated” and “a grave was assigned him among the wicked” although “he had done no wrong nor spoken any falsehood.” (Isaiah 53) Yet many of the chosen people rejected him as the Messiah. Even today many still reject Christ as savior. Thus the reason for the second fall.

It is the third fall that is of particular concern for our time. There seems to be so much falling away from the faith. Who doesn’t know of someone who once believed and now no longer practices the faith or even believes in God anymore? This is the cause of much heartache, especially when the person who has fallen away is held so dear and loved so much.

Therefore it is for this third fall that we are called to assist the Lord by helping him bear the cross. Jesus was not alone while he made this way to Calvary carrying the cross. There was Simon of Cyrene, Veronica and his mother to accompany him, as well as all the people who love him, and it was “the strength of these cross bearers” that helped “him after each of his falls.” (Hidden Life, p. 92)

Since by Christ’s example we know that suffering is the proof of God’s love for all mankind, we can love the cross and bear with our own sufferings and trials for the love of God and help him carry this burden out of the world. By bearing this burden we become united to God, to glorify him and prove our love for him and for others.

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rosary

From “Divine Intimacy” by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D.

For the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Rosary

October Seventh

Presence of God – O most holy Virgin, may the Rosary be my spiritual armor and my school of virtue.

Meditation

1. Today’s Feast is a manifestation of gratitude for the great victories won by the Christian people through the power of Mary’s

Rosary; it is also the most beautiful and authoritative testimony of the value of this prayer. The liturgy of the day is not only a

commentary on the Rosary, but an amplification of it : the three hymns of the Office as well as the antiphons of Matins and

Lauds, review its different mysteries; the lessons chant its glories, and the continual references to the Virgin, who “blossomed as

it were, among the flowers, surrounded by roses and lilies of the valley,” are a clear allusion to the mystical crowns of roses

which Mary’s devoted children weave at her feet when they recite the Rosary. This Feast tells us that to honor the Rosary is to

honor Mary, for the Rosary is simply a meditation on Our Lady’s life, accompanied by the devout recitation of the Hail Mary. It is

for this reason that the Church praises this practice and recommends it so insistently to the faithful. “O God,” she prays in today’s

Collect, “grant that meditating on the mysteries of the most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may both imitate what

they contain and obtain what they promise.” The Rosary, if recited well, is both prayer and instruction; its mysteries tell us that in

Mary’s life everything is judged in relation to God ; her sorrows are, so to speak, the very sorrows of God, who being made man,

willed to suffer for the sins of mankind. Mary’s only joy is Jesus : to be His Mother, to clasp Him in her arms, to offer Him for the

adoration of the world, to contemplate Him in the glory of His Resurrection, to be united to Him in Heaven. Mary’s unique sorrow

is the Passion of Jesus : to see Him betrayed, scourged, crowned with thorns, and crucified by our sins. This, then, is the first fruit

which we must gather from the recitation of the Rosary : to judge all the events of our life according to their relation to God, to

rejoice in what gives Him pleasure, in what unites us to Him, to suffer for sin which separates us from Him and is the cause of the

Passion and death of Jesus.

2. The second fruit that we should derive from the daily recitation of the Rosary is a penetration into Christ’s mysteries; by Mary

and with Mary, who opens the door to them for us, the Rosary helps us penetrate the ineffable grandeurs of the Incarnation,

Passion, and glory of Jesus. Who is there who has understood and lived these mysteries as Our Lady did? And who better than

she can make us understand them? If, during the recitation of the Rosary, we really know how to put ourselves in spiritual contact

with Mary and to accompany her in the various stages of her life, we shall be able to perceive something of the sentiments of

her heart concerning these great mysteries which she witnessed, and in which she played such an important part; this, in turn,

will serve wonderfully to nourish our souls. Thus, our Rosary will be transformed into a quarter of an hour’s meditation–we might

almost say contemplation–under Mary’s guidance. This is what Mary desires, rather than many Rosaries recited with the lips,

while the mind wanders in a thousand directions! The Hail Mary, continuously repeated, should express the attitude of a soul who

is striving to approach the Blessed Virgin, hastening toward her in order to be captivated by her and given insight into the divine

mysteries. “Ave Maria!” the lips say, and heart murmurs : “Teach me, O Mary, to know and love Jesus as you knew and loved

Him.” Saying the Rosary in this way requires recollection. St. Teresa of Jesus says that “before beginning to recite the Rosary, let

the soul think of whom it is going to address, and who it is that is speaking, that it may speak to Him with due respect” (cf. Way,

22). The Saint, with her keen wit, laughs at those people “who are so fond of repeating a large number of vocal prayers in a great

hurry, as though they were anxious to finish their task of repeating them daily” (ibid., 31). Rosaries recited in this way cannot

really nourish our interior life; they will bring little fruit to the soul and little glory to Mary. On the other hand, if recited with a

real spirit of devotion, the Rosary becomes an effective means of cultivating devotion to Mary and of bringing us into intimacy

with Our Lady and her Divine Son.

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The heart stirs up an image of that organ which beats within the human body giving it life. It is the heart that preserves our earthly existence. It is also the heart that makes up that place deep within us that gives rise to emotions and desires particularly to love. The heart holds a place of prominence in the spirituality of a Carmelite. Since it is love of God and love of neighbor that are the focus of all our energies, the heart then holds a place of prominence in the spirituality of a Carmelite. For a Carmelite, God is the longing of the heart. Since a Carmelite longs for God deep within the heart, cultivation of this heart to love is necessary so that this heart will be open to those around them.


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The Rule of St. Albert no. 19 mentions the heart and instructs us on how to cultivate the heart:

“Your loins are to be girt with chastity, your breast fortified by holy meditations, for as Scripture has it, holy meditation will save you. Put on holiness as your breastplate, and it will enable you to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. Faith must be your shield on all occasions, and with it you will be able to quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked one: there can be no pleasing God without faith; and the victory lies in this — your faith. On your head set the helmet of salvation, and so be sure of deliverance by our only Saviour, who sets his own free from their sins. The sword of the spirit, the word of God, must abound in your mouths and hearts. Let all you do have the Lord’s word for accompaniment.”

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It is from the Scriptures that we are to learn to love God and our neighbor. Our preeminent model for how to do this is Jesus. Meditation on the sacred texts will show us what He said and did. It will also reveal to us the well-ordered emotions of our Lord. From the Gospels we know that Jesus had a heart. He had a broken heart and tender emotions. There are also accounts demonstrating his feelings of forgiveness and love.

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Here it is evening. I have just finished evening prayer which closes with the following prayer:

“Stay with us, Lord Jesus,
for evening draws near,
and be our companion on our way
to set our hearts on fire with new hope.
Help us to recognize your presence among us in the Scriptures we read
and in the breaking of bread,
for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.”

           (Evening Prayer, Monday Week IV, The Liturgy of the Hours)
This prayer is reminiscent of the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. “ And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them.” (Luke 24:15) As I reflect over my day, filled with conversations and various activities, I wonder if I had been aware of His presence with me. Perhaps he was there along and my “eyes were prevented from recognizing him.”

But now it is evening, things have quieted down “the day is almost over”. It is time to urge the Lord to “stay with” me as I break open the Scriptures. Pouring over these words I will let him speak to me and set my “heart burning”.

As a Carmelite the Scriptures hold an important place in my daily life and prayer. Secular living does have an impact on the amount of time I can devote to this each day, but even a short amount of time spend in Scripture reading will help to foster love and devotion for the Lord.

Tomorrow I will arise early and go to Mass. There I will meet the Lord in the “breaking of the bread” and in hearing him speak as the priest “opens the scriptures to us” who have gathered to hear Mass. Another opportunity in my day for the Lord to “make himself known” and to be my “companion along the way”.

emmaus

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sponge

A dry sponge does not have any water, but put it in a bucket of water, and the water will enter the sponge. Water will seep into the large holes and will then fill the tiny spaces until it has penetrated throughout the sponge completely saturating it. In addition, the sponge will also expand a little in its size.

The soul is like this sponge. God is represented by the water. Most souls are dry like a sponge, but after spending time with God, drinking in His Presence, His Divinity will gradually fill up the soul until it is saturated and will even expand it a little.

The soul has a capacity for being filled with God. However, this depends on the soul’s capacity to absorb the Trinity. Meditation initiates this union. The more the soul spends time meditating on God allowing itself to be transformed, the more intimate and tender will the daily conversation become even in the midst of daily duties and activities. Drinking daily of His fullness allowing itself to be permeated by Him, like this sponge by water, the soul will be filled with God.

The Lord told St. Teresa to “Labour thou not to hold Me within thyself enclosed, but enclose thou thyself within Me”. This can only be accomplished by meditation and growth in self-knowledge. And this is why daily intimate conversation with God is so necessary to the Carmelite.

Through her communion with God, St. Teresa also felt a communion with all creation. “It seemed to me that I saw the Three Persons within my soul, and communicating Themselves to all creatures abundantly without ceasing to be with me.” Through our communion with God, we also know His presence within the bonds of friendship, which is why the community is important. We are called to live a trinitarian life in the Church, with Christ, under the power of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God.

“I, being accustomed to the presence of Jesus Christ only, always thought that the vision of the Three Persons was in some degree a hindrance, though I know the Three Persons are but One God.  Today, while thinking of this, our Lord said to me ‘that I was wrong in imagining that those things which are peculiar to the soul can be represented by those of the body; I was to understand that they were very different, and that the soul had a capacity for great fruition.’ It seemed to me as if this were shown to me thus: as water penetrates and is drunk in by the sponge, so, it seemed to me, did the Divinity fill my soul, which in a certain sense had the fruition and possession of the Three Persons. And I heard Him say also: ‘Labour thou not to hold Me within thyself enclosed, but enclose thou thyself within Me.’ It seemed to me that I saw the Three Persons within my soul, and communicating Themselves to all creatures abundantly without ceasing to be with me.” (St. Teresa of Avila, Spiritual Testimonies no. 14)

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Struggling with distractions at prayer? Check out the discussion on this short video here.

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What is the difference between meditation and contemplation? A great 4 minute video that explains the difference can be found here at Catholic Spiritual Direction.

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