Wellsprings Of Contemplation

In a close relationship with another, it is natural to want to spend time alone together — apart from the cares and distress of the world. To prepare to receive God in the prayer of contemplation (sometimes called infused contemplation), the heart makes time to dwell in love with God alone. The prayer of recollection prepares the heart, settling it into a deep silence and peace. With distractions at a minimum, the heart is prepared to open fully and attentively to the experience of God’s love.

The experience of contemplation is a pure gift from God. In scripture, the metaphor of water is often used to symbolize this prayer. David describes this prayer as “He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul.” (Psalm 23.2-3). The Lord provides this gift to whomever He prepares to receive Him in this way: “Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4.14)

The prayer of contemplation is not a fleeting feeling of spiritual consolation, but a deep, transforming touch of divine love. Those who experience contemplation are not somehow set apart from His other children; contemplation is there for all who will come and drink to quench their thirst for love. The Lord exclaims through Isaiah: “All you who are thirsty, come to the water!…Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life.” (Isaiah 55.1,3)

In the prayer of contemplation, the soul is opened to listening deeply to God without the noise of words or feelings. God is Spirit, and He communicates Himself most profoundly as Spirit pouring into our souls, as St Paul exclaims: “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Romans 5.5).

In the depths of contemplative prayer, the heart is gradually transformed by the action of grace poured out by the Spirit. This grace bears fruit in the virtues and good works which are borne of this grace.

Contemplation is an experience of love that grows ever deeper for the faithful souls who strive to remain with the One whom they know loves them. The road of contemplative prayer is not an easy one; increasing tribulations of temptations, purifications, and yearning for God abound on this road. St. John of the Cross encourages those who are going down this path: “When the spiritual person cannot meditate, let him learn to be still in God, fixing his loving attention upon Him, in the calm of his understanding, although he may think himself to be doing nothing. For thus, little by little and very quickly, Divine calm and peace will be infused into his soul, together with a wondrous and sublime knowledge of God, enfolded in Divine love. And let him not meddle with forms, meditations and imaginings, or with any kind of reasoning, lest his soul be disturbed, and brought out of its contentment and peace, which can only result in its experiencing distaste and repugnance. And if, as we have said, such a person has scruples that he is doing nothing, let him note that he is doing no small thing by pacifying the soul and bringing it into calm and peace, unaccompanied by any act or desire, for it is this that Our Lord asks of us.” (Ascent of Mount Carmel, II.24.5)

This poem expresses the wonder of the Divine love poured out in the prayer of contemplation:

Divine Wellspring

From the artesian depths Divine,
The divine springs of grace outflow,
To quench the thirsting hearts that pine
In earnest from the slopes below.

No earthly wine touches their lips;
They thirst to know His love alone.
At first, they taste only in sips;
Until they have more fully grown.

In silence, the steams trickle down
With grace purer than glacial stream;
Measured so that no one will drown –
In waters that heal and redeem.

In deep pools on the plateau,
These waters gather in reserve;
As wells of grace which will bestow
Refreshment on the souls they serve.

From the depths, Spirit is outpoured,
For all who thirst to know the Lord.

Holy Spirit, transform our hearts,
Which thirst deeply to drink of You,
That, by the grace this prayer imparts,
We may be created anew. Amen.

References:

Sources:

St John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel

Image: http://www.lillyofthevalleyva.com/

Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2709-2719

(c) Paul Buis, 2005