Let’s say you are not Catholic, or Christian, or even a believer in any faith tradition. Or, let’s say you are Catholic, Christian, Islamic, Jewish, or a believer in any faith tradition including a spirituality focused on the mysteries of nature and the cosmos. None of this matters when it comes to meditation and prayer. All of us appreciate the guidance of leaders in these permutations of belief and we can apply and live this guidance despite our specific faith tradition. That is what I find appealing in the teaching of meditation and prayer from different belief perspectives. I hope you will find something here that you can apply in your spiritual life to help you find the peace and deep centeredness that hermits seek. So, read on, my anonymous angels, read on.
Last week I encouraged you to practice spiritual reading, the first requirement for an eremitical life, the life of a hermit. Today I am asking that we engage this week in the second and third requirements of the eremitical life: meditation and prayer. Meditation is often confused with reflection and simple musing or imaginative recalling of an event in memory. But, meditation leaves no loose ends as these practices do. Religious meditation is a very practical process of a prayer that leads to a resolution or direction.
For the sake of space I have to over simplify this practice but I’ve narrowed it to three points. First, keep yourself grounded in the meditation by focusing on a story from your faith tradition. The story has a lesson for you but you have to get through the weeds to see it. Second, imagine the setting of the story and its characters and pretend you are one of the characters. Describe the emotions you have as this character. Finally, decide what action you would take in the story and in your real life. For example, how would you react if you were a guest in Simon’s home when a woman entered to anoint the feet of Jesus? Judgmental? Thoughtful? Perplexed? A meditation like this would take about 25 minutes. Most religious sisters and priests in the Catholic tradition were trained in this method but other faiths practice it as well. I have given numerous presentations to members of other faiths on this type of meditation commonly referred to as Ignatian meditation after St. Ignatius Loyola its originator. But you can adapt it to any spirituality with which you are comfortable.
Can I say anything profound in one paragraph about our third requirement of the eremitical life: prayer? Prayer is a hunger. It is a craving that comes from deep inside that convulses the soul that reaches for an answer or a consolation. It begs and cries like Jesus in Gethsemane. It harmonizes with nature like David’s harp. It swells the roots and humus of the earth like Solomon’s humble whisper: “Give your servant an understanding heart.” I once referred to the thin space of Celtic spirituality, a space where one stands at the threshold of entering something new and totally unexplainable. Prayer is the entrance into that space. No matter how you pray, it’s your openness to the mystery beyond that will fulfill your prayer. Prayer is not a formula or a framework. It does not insist on miracles. Prayer is walking into that thin space and once you do, this is miracle enough.
This week bring meditation and prayer to your eremitical life, your fifteen minutes or more of time in the quiet of the Advent hours. Satisfy the hunger of your soul.
Both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures are full of stories of how prayer helped believers in times of fear and anxiety. There are also examples of how prayers of praise and joy were offered in times of blessings. Take your scriptures and find some of these examples to meditate on and include in your understanding of prayer.
What do you find most difficult to understand when it comes to prayer?
What joys or consolations have you experienced in prayer?
Remember, I am doing this with all of you and including you in my prayer each day.