Monday, November 08, 2010

Little Catechism of Prayer: Chapter 4: Meditation and Colloquy

1.  Is meditation always treated in the same way by Carmelite authors?
 There are some differences among Carmelite authors in the manner of presenting meditation, but all are in accord as to the essentials.  Some speak of it without distinguishing its various elements.  Others distinguish the loving colloquy  from the meditative reflection which leads to it, and call this colloquy contemplation.  Others subdivide meditation itself into the elements of representation and reflection.  Those who do not specifically treat of these various elements still make some allusion to them.  We may therefore assert that the majority of our Carmelite authors distinguish three elements in meditation:
1. Representation- the work of the imagination.
2. Reflection- the work of the intellect
3.  Colloquy- the work of the will.

2.  In what does REPRESENTATION consist?
It is an activity of the imagination with which we form "within ourselves" that is to say, without having the objects before us, a sort of picture or representation of the mystery on which we desire to meditate, or, as the case may be, a representation of material objects by means of which our minds are raised to God.

3.  What is the purpose of representation?
Its purpose is to facilitate the work of reflection which is naturally dependent on the representations of the imagination.  It is undoubtedly easier for us to think of the Scourging before a picture of it.  The picture offers the advantage of holding the imaginative powers which easily wonder when they have no object to fasten.  Stability of the imaginative faculty helps us to think clearly.

4.  Is representation always necessary?
Carmelite authors do not insist much on the necessity of this element of meditation, but rather indicate in what way it may be useful.  Representation is useful when there is question of considering the life of Christ, or of the Saints.  Even in the consideration of the most abstract mysteries, for instance, the Divine Attributes, the intellect can start out from the consideration of sensible objects represented by the imagination.  Thus we may rise from the contemplation of the beauty of nature to that of God, the Supreme Beauty.  In treating of this element of meditation, Carmelite authors distinguish the different aptitudes of souls who meditate.  Some persons have a lively imagination which can picture things with ease; others, on the contrary, feel almost incapable of constructing any image whatsoever.  The former will do well to make use of this faculty in representation; the latter will profit by the knowledge that this exercise is not absolutely necessary.  Imaginative representation need not be very detailed in order to be useful.  A rather vague representation may suffice.

5.  How should the representation be made?
We may give these rules:
1.  We must, of course, give this exercise our earnest attention; otherwise, nothing worthwhile will be accomplished.  Nevertheless, it is not expedient to excite the imagination too much, making the subject on which we wish to meditate too lifelike.  Those persons especially who have a vivid imagination should try to proceed with great simplicity; otherwise, their imagination may lead them into illusion and make them think they are having visions.
2.  As for the perfection of the representation, it is not advisable to picture details.  Carmelite authors point out that an outline representation may suffice for a person not gifted with much imagination.  But a rather precise representation is more useful because it is more readily holds the attention.  Carmelite authors never speak of what is called application of the senses. 
3.  It is not necessary to devote much time to the forming of a representation; a few moments suffice.  It goes without saying, however, that we may keep it before us during the whole time of meditation.  If we succeed in doing this, we shall find in it the further advantage of more easily avoiding distractions.  
Let us conclude by saying that without being actually necessary, representation is often useful, and those who succeed therein should not deprive themselves of this aid.  But those who find it more of a hindrance may omit it and begin immediately with reflection.

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