Monday, December 7, 2015

Meditation: A Purifier for the Soul and a Gateway to Contemplation

Meditation: A Purifier for the Soul and a 

Gateway to Contemplation

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,
" 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, " 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.  

Friday, November 27, 2015

Superficiality and the Loss of Souls

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.

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