In Philippians 1: 3-11 St. Paul says: God“who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day ofJesus Christ.” Conversion is not a one-time event, but an ongoing process; forSt. Paul speaks of knowledge, love and perception that “never stops growing.”
I shared earlier an experience of my changing perceptionof God and his love for me. Now let’s see the changes that take place along theentire spiritual journey.
This overview of 9 stages of prayer istaken from several works of St. Teresa of Jesus, with the help of Jordan Aumann.[Commentary in brackets are his. Here is a link for in-depthreading.]
1. Most children learn their first VOCAL prayersfrom mommy at the bedside. The Our Father,for example, is repeated withoutexperiencing a profound response from God.
[VocalPrayer, with attention to what one is saying or reading and God, whomone is addressing]
2. Desire for more is satisfied by READINGand REFLECTING on the Bible and on spiritual books, such as “Imitation ofChrist.” This calm reflection leads to simple colloquies with God and isaccompanied by alternating Consolationsand Dryness.
[DiscursiveMeditation: consideration of a spiritual truth; application tooneself, and resolve to do something about it]
3. As the soul makes its own the principlesof the Gospel it needs less intellectual food. Ideas begin to take root in theheart. One can thus remain longer in LOVING REFLECTION ON A SPIRITUAL IDEA. Recollection become easier, althoughthere are still periods of dryness.
[AffectiveMental Prayer: one turns to "other," namely, God, andprayer becomes "the language of love".]
4. In a natural way love for God and spiritualthings becomes SIMPLE. With a few ideas and a fervent heart we can remain inGod’s presence with love. This is ACTIVE RECOLLECTION and consolation and spiritual dryness both continue.
[AcquiredRecollection: also called prayer of simplicity, prayer of simpleregard, acquired contemplation, the loving awareness of God.]
… Just like we saw with the virtues, as of acertain point in the spiritual life, God beginsto take over …
5. The soul begins to be taken up by God intoa PASSIVE RECOLLECTION. Experience and especially an “awareness” of God’sactive PRESENCE are a gift from God.A presence that one cannot sense, but that is nonetheless real, fills the soul with strength, peace andlight. Prayer alternates between God’s action and the soul’s own efforts.
[InfusedRecollection: the first degree of infused, mystical contemplation.]
6. Later God takes over in the PASSIVERECOLLECTION more and more, such that the soul allows God to act almost continually.
[Prayer ofQuiet: the will is totally captivated by divine love; sometimesall the faculties are likewise captivated (sleep or ecstasy).]
7-9. In the last three stages, St. Teresaspeaks of an ever increasing union of the soul with God. At least for now, Ithink it suffices to list them according to Aumann:
[Prayer ofSimple Union: both the intellect and the will are absorbed in God.]
[Prayer ofEcstatic Union: this is the "mystical espousal" or"conforming union".]
[Prayer ofTransforming Union: also called the "mystical marriage"because it is the most intimate union of the soul with God that is possible inthis life.]
As we shall see more and more, virtue,prayer, and purification are intimately related. No area grows or weakens withoutaffecting the others.
Fr. Nathan is editor of www.formationtoolbox.com
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