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Meditation

Med­i­ta­tion dif­fers from prayer, even from silent prayer, in that med­i­ta­tion is thought about God and con­tem­pla­tion of His word and His works.

Med­i­ta­tion nor­mal­ly begins by read­ing from the holy Scrip­tures, the Word of God. This is called in the spir­i­tu­al tra­di­tion lec­tio div­ina. It is the slow and atten­tive read­ing of the Bible, or per­haps the writ­ings of the church fathers and saints, not for the pur­pose of gain­ing infor­ma­tion, but for the pur­pose of com­mu­nion with God.

Such med­i­ta­tive read­ing may be of the sort where the per­son tries, with the pow­er of his thought and imag­i­na­tion, to enter into the event about which he is read­ing in order to become its con­tem­po­rary par­tic­i­pant. Or, it can be of the sort where the per­son mere­ly reads and lis­tens in silence, with­out imag­i­na­tion or ratio­nal thought, in order to let the Word of God enter his mind and heart in order to remain there, to bring forth its fruit at the appoint­ed time.

Psalmody, done either alone or in the church­ly assem­bly, exists for this lat­ter pur­pose. When read­ing or chant­i­ng the psalms, the per­son does not try to think about each word and phrase. Rather he cuts off all rea­son­ing, and opens his heart to the Lord, unit­ing “his mouth with his mind,” (St Bene­dict) and allow­ing the Word of God to be plant­ed with­in him to blos­som in his soul with the fruits of the Spir­it. This also is the case with church­ly hym­nol­o­gy. It is sung for the glo­ry of God and the edi­fi­ca­tion and expan­sion of the soul through the con­tem­pla­tion of the Lord in His words and works of sal­va­tion, much more than for any intel­lec­tu­al instruc­tion. This type of med­i­ta­tion is espe­cial­ly advised in times of despon­den­cy.

There is also the type of med­i­ta­tion and con­tem­pla­tion done total­ly in silence, with­out any words or images or thought­ful activ­i­ty at all, not even psalmody. The per­son mere­ly sits in silence, often in the pres­ence of holy icons, and emp­ty­ing his mind of all thoughts, imag­i­na­tions and desires, lis­tens to God in silence, the divine “lan­guage of the King­dom of heav­en.” (St. Isaac of Syr­ia) This type of med­i­ta­tion, for a per­son of unceas­ing prayer, will be the “prayer of silence,” with the “bub­bling spring” of the Jesus Prayer as its only foun­da­tion and back­ground. In such con­tem­pla­tive prayer and prayer­ful con­tem­pla­tion, the spir­it of man becomes one with the Spir­it of God. (cf. I Corinthi­ans 6:17)