Daily devotion to meditation is necessary to advance
in the spiritual life. How much time should we
spend in devotion daily? That depends on one’s state
in life. Saint Francis de Sales in his spiritual classic
‘Introduction to the Devout Life’ tells us, “Devotion
must be exercised differently for the noble, the
craftsmen, the servant, the prince, the widow,
the young girl and the wife; and not only that, but
it is necessary to accommodate the practice of
devotion according to the strength, the business,
and the duties of each separate individual.”
So we must be prudent in exercising our
devotions, but we must nonetheless persevere in
meditation on some level. It is good for every
person to spend at least 15 minutes a day in
meditation. Only in meditation one can we reflect
on God and our relationship with Him. This is
essential to grow in the spiritual life. No matter
what our vocation is, we must not neglect this
It is important to expound upon meditation since
it is the tool in which we also conquer temptations
that come to us throughout the day. Our
thoughts are our own worst enemies much of the
time and we are bombarded on a daily basis with
all sorts of spiritual attacks from various sources.
Temptations come from our own fallen nature,
the world, and the devil. We must have some sort
of protection from these attacks if we are to
survive the spiritual war we find ourselves engaged.
Sin comes first from desire, which is first
cultivated in our minds. We dwell on an idea
before we act. If we dwell on sinful ideas we
eventually commit them if we are not careful.
Mediation is a remedy for sinful thoughts.
It is a purifier for the soul.
Denis the Carthusian warns us of the dangers of a
mind out of control. “The mind itself is torn to pieces, poisoned and greatly tormented; for, as the proverb puts it: A mind out of control is its own tormentor.” When we turn our minds
to meditate regularly on Christ and His mysteries
we can begin to heal our minds and our transform
our sinful inclinations into charitable works. Denis
we should contemplate Our Lord on the cross,
His way of life, His teaching, His exhortations
and the way the Saints have lived their lives in
Christ. Only by doing this can we determine God’s
will for our own lives. Meditation is also an
examination of our lives in union with Christ.
It is my opinion that the devil tries the hardest to
get Christians to give up on daily mediation
because he knows it is the primary weapon of
God to transform souls. When we become
busy in worldly affairs, our daily meditation is
the first thing that gets set aside. This is known
as the sin of sloth. The sin of sloth however is
not just spiritual laziness; it is an actual detriment
to the soul's ascent to God. In the spiritual life there
are only two paths to follow, one goes up, one goes
down, we are never really on a plateau. So when
sloth enters and meditation stops, sin enters into
our thoughts and lives. Denis the Carthusian
puts this reality into a blunt condemnation of
neglecting meditation and giving oneself only to
worldly thoughts. “What have you to say to this, my wretched soul? Why pretend?.. Why are you dragged this way and that, why are you dissipated by empty and frivolous cogitations? Worse still, why do you fornicate with demons in shameful and vile fantasies? Why? After all, you have so many subjects and such copious matter for wholesome meditation; so much that is necessary and profitable for your salvation... How long will you be drunk with wine, how long will you be out of your mind?.. Rather vomit up the wine of the vineyard of Sodom and of the suburbs of Gomorrah that have intoxicated you?”
To effectively engage in meditation we must fully
give our undivided attention to God. Denis the
Carthusian tells us; “On God we must fix our gaze and our attention…I pity you who honour the presence of personages rather than the presence of God.” It is a great danger for us
to become enraptured in the worldly things.
We have bills to pay and jobs that demand
more and more of our time. We have dangerous
tendency to put off the spiritual life for a later
time in life. Yet we never know the hour of our
death when we will stand before the dread
judgement seat of Christ. We cannot make the
mistake of saying that when we find ourselves
in a more opportune state in life, then we will
focus on God. Maybe once we retire we can sit
back and pray more? This is a trick of the devil
to get you to put off working on the salvation
of your soul. He dangles before you the
enticement of procrastination hoping we
will fail in joining with God in meditation.
In case you are still not getting it, meditation
is not an option for the Christian, it is necessary
for our salvation.
How then should we meditate? Meditation is
often coupled with spiritual reading in
which one reads on a topic and then
reflects on what he has read in order to
enkindle in him the fire of divine love.
This act is known traditionally as “Lectio Divina”
One can reflect on the Sacred Scriptures,
the Psalms for example, or a spiritual
writing by one of the Saints such as St Francis de Sales,
‘Introduction to the Devout Life’. One can meditate
on the crucifix or some other image so that they may
grow closer to Our Lord and contemplate His mysteries.
St Catherine of Siena and Teresa of Avila often
meditated on the crucifix or an image of Our Lord,
to which they were then drawn into a deep
contemplation. It is critical to orient oneself
toward God in consistent daily meditation
so that they may love God above all things.
Daily meditation is best done at the beginning of
one’s day so that he may bring forth a spiritual
souvenir, as St Francis de Sales calls it, to one’s
mind many times during the day. This souvenir
is a spiritually beneficial thought that one should
bring to one’s mind as he or she encounters the
world. When one perseveres in this, over a period
of time they begin to inoculate themselves from sin.
On a final note, one cannot reach the stage
of contemplation without first meditation. These
terms are often confused and used interchangeably.
However meditation is the doorway to contemplation.
One uses the intellect and reason to engage in meditation.
He uses his memory and recalls certain to truths to
dwell upon. As Saint Anthony Mary Claret says, "...one meditates when one uses discursive reasoning from one truth to another...."
Contemplation allows one to interiorly behold
a truth of God, seeing it in a form of admiration
for that particular truth such as God's love or His
hatred for sin for example. Saint Anthony Claret
continues, "...one contemplates when interiorly one sees or grasps a truth in a simple glance, without a variety of discourse; of admiration, love, sorrow for sins, etc., etc." There is much more
to be said on meditation and contemplation which
I can elaborate on in future posts. For now, let us
make time for daily meditation for it is certainly
a purifier for the soul and a doorway to contemplation.
Saint Augustine once said that you can tell what a man loves by what does in his everyday actions. A man who lives a superficial life that revolves around meaningless temporal trivialities is a man who loves the world, not God. Many people claim to believe in God, but their lives reflect something different. Can a person "believe" in God when they do not pray, or when they do not attempt to live their lives according to God's commands? Saint Augustine also said, “If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.” A litmus test can be given according to how we live our lives day in and day out as to whether we can truly call ourselves "believers". The list below is a good starting point to determine if you truly believe in God, or whether you are just paying lip service. (Matthew 15:18)
1. Do you actually pray everyday? If you are not spending time in prayer with God, then you do not truly love Him. The old saying that those who do not pray have no chance of spending eternity with God, those who spend little time in prayer have little chance and those who spend much time in prayer have a great chance is true. Our Lord said that many would try to enter by the narrow gate, but many would fail. (Matthew 7:13-14) Prayer is the first litmus test as to whether one truly believes in God. If we read the Scriptures it is clear that prayer is a manifestation of the love of God. "Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thes 5:17-18) Saint Alphonsus Liguori tells us according to the Fathers of the Church, "Hence it is that the generality of theologians, following St. Basil, St. Chrysostom, Clement of Alexandria, St. Augustine, and other Fathers, teach that prayer is necessary to adults, not only because of the obligation of the precept (as they say), but because it is necessary as a means of salvation. That is to say, in the ordinary course of Providence, it is impossible that a Christian should be saved without recommending himself to God, and asking for the graces necessary to salvation. St. Thomas teaches the same: 'After baptism, continual prayer is necessary to man, in order that he may enter heaven; for though by baptism our sins are remitted, there still remain concupiscence to assail us from within, and the world and the devil to assail us from without.' The reason then which makes us certain of the necessity of prayer is shortly this, in order to be saved we must contend and conquer: He that strives for the mystery is not crowned except he strive lawfully (2 Tim. 2,5). But without the divine assistance we cannot resist the might of so many and so powerful' enemies: now this assistance is only granted to prayer; therefore without prayer there is no salvation."
2. Do you attempt to live by God's commandments? Jesus said that if you love Him you will keep His commandments. (John 14:15) This also means that the opposite is true. If you live your life contradicting His commandments then you do not love Him. A person who truly believes in God takes His commandments seriously. He tries to live according to the teachings that Our Lord gave him. This means one must conform themselves to Christ. In todays Protestant influenced culture many hold the false notion that Jesus pays for our sins and then we have no further obligation to actually live the commandments He gave to us. Many foolishly think that since Christ died for them, that He no longer holds them accountable for their actions. Yet if we read Scripture it is clear that those who live sinful lives do not inherit the kingdom of heaven. (1 Corinthians 6:8-10) Christ has given us the means to actually keep His commandments through grace. One must not only believe in their minds that Christ died for them, but they must also act upon what Christ tells them in virtue of His passion. A person must actually live by faith filled works which God grants through grace. This truth is heavily emphasized in Scripture. Sadly many willfully ignore this reality and live as if Christ has stamped their ticket and there is nothing more to worry about. I would encourage those who shallowly think this way to meditate on the following Scripture passages. (James 2:17, 26, Matthew 7:21, Ephesians 2:10) Living by the commandments means living by all ten of them. I cannot cover this topic in depth here in this post. I will further elaborate on only one which should orient a person towards the other nine.
3. Do you do what He tells you to do and do you give Him the honor and worship that is due to Him? Our Blessed Mother at the Wedding at Cana told those around her to do as Jesus commanded them to do. This is a universal teaching given to all those claiming to love Christ. Christ established one Church which He built upon Saint Peter. (Matthew 16:18) Jesus gave Peter and the apostles in communion with Him, the authority to continue to teach His Word. They have the authority to bind and loose. (Matthew 16:19) Those who listen to Christ are those who faithfully attend Mass on Sundays and Holy days of obligation. They are the ones who confess their sins after after offending God and turn away from sin. They receive the Sacraments faithfully and honor God because there is a worship that is due to Him alone. In effect they do what God commands them to do because they love Him. Those who sit at home watching the ballgame every Sunday clearly love the ballgame more than they love God. This is in a nutshell what the first commandment teaches. It teaches that one will put nothing above God and that one will worship God because God deserves it, and also because he loves God. Those who consciously do not go to Mass and give the honor and worship that is due to God, do not truly love Him.
Although there is much more that can be said on this subject, this gives a very basic outline on what belief in God actually requires of us. Belief in God is not a Pollyanish 'pie in the sky' idea that there is some vague higher power who saves everyone who holds to some mental idea of a "god." Unfortunately this is the "faith" of many people today. It is a superficial belief in God that causes the loss of so many souls. Let us all remain in prayer and in obedience to God or we shall lose our souls.