Catholic Contemplative Affiliation

Contemplative Notes

Contemplative Notes

Posted, November 4, 2018

After a long, dark but faithful wrestling with God through the praying of Vigils at 4 AM and the silence of centering prayer and Lauds at 7 AM, a sense of the presence of Jesus as Savior and Beloved at the center of my soul, an insight, a sensing— “jugiter sentiamus”—confirmed at Mass and during the Holy Hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.

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Contemplative  Notes
Definitions of contemplation or the mystical as an aspect of the full Christian life within the Catholic Church…
This definition  is given by St. John of the Cross in his Spiritual Canticle, Stanza XXXVIII, no. 9. P. 172. (1953). The Complete Works of St. John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church. Vol. II. E.A. Peers, tr. & ed. Westminister, Maryland: The Newman Press
The night, wherein the soul desires to see these things [i.e. God … inasmuch as He is life and being, to all creatures, for she knows that in Him are the beginning and duration of them and for them, for without Him naught is given to the soul….] is contemplation;
[the night wherein the soul sees God as the ground and cause of all being and life is contemplation]
For contemplation is dark, and for that reason is called by its other name, ‘mystical theology,”
Contemplation—mystical theology—signifies secret and hidden wisdom of God, wherein without noise of words
and without service and aid of any bodily or spiritual sense,
as in the silence and quiet of the night,
hidden by darkness from all this is of he senses and of nature,
God reaches the soul after a most hidden and secret manner,
without her knowing how;
this is what some spiritual men call “understanding yet understanding not.”
For this is not done by the active understanding, as the philosophers call it,
which works in forms and fancies and apprehensions of things;
but it is done in the understanding as much as it s possible and passive,
when without receiving such forms,
it passively receives substantial knowledge,
which is given to it without any active office or work of its own.
Another definition, building on the first…
St. John of Cross, the Mystical Doctor of the Church,
on the Contemplative Prayer Practice
        The soul, then will frequently find itself in this loving or peaceful state of waiting upon God without in any way exercising its faculties—that is, with respect to particular acts—and without working actively at all, but only receiving.  In order to reach this, it will frequently need to make use of meditation, quietly and in moderation; but, when once the soul is brought into this other state, it acts not at all with its faculties, as we have already said.  It would be truer to say that understanding and sweetness work in it and are wrought within it, than that the soul itself works at all, save only by waiting upon God and by loving Him without desiring to feel or to see anything.  Then God communicates Himself to it passively, even as to one who has his eyes open, so that light is communicated to him passively, without his doing more than keep them open.  And this reception of light which is infused supernaturally is passive understanding.  We say that the soul works not al all, not because it understands not, but because it understands things without taxing its own industry and receives only that which is given to it, as comes to pass in the illuminations and enlightenments or inspirations of God.
        Although in this condition the will freely receives this general and confused knowledge of God, it is needful, in order that it may receive this Divine light more simply and abundantly, only that it should not try to interpose other lights which are more palpable, whether forms or ideas or figures having to do with any kind of meditation; for none of these things is similar to that pure and serene light.  So that if at this time the will desires to understand and consider particular things, however spiritual they be, this would obstruct the pure and simple general light of the spirit, by setting those clouds in the way; even as a man might set something before his eyes which impeded his vision and kept from him both the light and the sight of things in front of him.
        --The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book II, chapter XV, nos. 2-3, pp. 120-121
And if in aught, I stray, whether through my imperfect understanding of that which is said in it or of matters unconnected with it, it is not my intention to depart from the sound sense and doctrine of our Holy Mother the Catholic Church; for in such a case I submit and resign myself wholly, not only to her command, but to whatever better judgment she may pronounce concerning it.
--The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Prologue, no. 2, p. 11 in the E. Allison Peers translation, The Newman Press, Westminster, Maryland.  (Underlining added by the author.)


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William Fredrickson