I asked one of the monks about contemplative prayer and what it meant. He told me, “if you have to ask for a definition, you need to do more contemplation.” Although I am still not sure what he meant, I do know that my human side wants to know more, while my spiritual side just wants to be in the presence of Christ and wait. I am the sum of those two approaches (of course, much more than that). Prayer is the mind wants to know more because the more you know, the more you can understand the how, why, when, where, and so what it means to praise and glorify God. The heart wants to do all that the mind does but has the added dimension of feeling where the mind is content with just knowing. The prayer of the heart has no agenda, nor does it seek to boss around God so that God must fit my image and likeness. The prayer of the heart merely seeks to love, much like human love is just willing to be in the presence of the one you love and enjoy whatever takes place together.
I know (the mind) that Jesus is my Christ Principle and seek to discover whatever I can about who that is. I feel The Christ Principle and seek to sit next to that Jesus on the park bench in the cold of winter and share together WHATEVER GOD WANTS ME TO KNOW, LOVE, AND SERVE about myself and others around me.
I want to share with you what I did due to these thoughts. In this case, I went to some core resources, The Catholic Catechism, as part of my Lectio Divina (knowledge) to re-read what contemplation means. “Knowledge,” says St. Thomas Aquinas, “precedes love.” I learned that to know what it means, I have to do it over and over until I don’t realize I am praying in the silence of my heart.
Contemplation, for me, is resting on a park bench in the middle of winter and waiting for Christ to show up. When my knowledge of whatever is cluttering my mind slowly dissipates, what becomes more apparent is that Christ has always sat next to me. Still, I have not had the abandonment of the world to listen with the “ear of the heart,” as St. Benedict counsels.
Below is a section from The Catholic Catechism on contemplation. Read it slowly and prayerfully. Make a conscious effort to move it from thinking about it to doing it. Meditation is about thinking about Jesus. Contemplation is about being present to Jesus and loving it.
III. Contemplative Prayer
2709 What is contemplative prayer? St. Teresa answers: “Contemplative prayer [oracion mental] in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.”6
Contemplative prayer seeks him “whom my soul loves.”7 It is Jesus, and in him, the Father. We seek him, because to desire him is always the beginning of love, and we seek him in that pure faith which causes us to be born of him and to live in him. In this inner prayer we can still meditate, but our attention is fixed on the Lord himself.
2710 The choice of the time and duration of the prayer arises from a determined will, revealing the secrets of the heart. One does not undertake contemplative prayer only when one has the time: one makes time for the Lord, with the firm determination not to give up, no matter what trials and dryness one may encounter. One cannot always meditate, but one can always enter into inner prayer, independently of the conditions of health, work, or emotional state. the heart is the place of this quest and encounter, in poverty ant in faith.
2711 Entering into contemplative prayer is like entering into the Eucharistic liturgy: we “gather up:” the heart, recollect our whole being under the prompting of the Holy Spirit, abide in the dwelling place of the Lord which we are, awaken our faith in order to enter into the presence of him who awaits us. We let our masks fall and turn our hearts back to the Lord who loves us, so as to hand ourselves over to him as an offering to be purified and transformed.
2712 Contemplative prayer is the prayer of the child of God, of the forgiven sinner who agrees to welcome the love by which he is loved and who wants to respond to it by loving even more.8 But he knows that the love he is returning is poured out by the Spirit in his heart, for everything is grace from God. Contemplative prayer is the poor and humble surrender to the loving will of the Father in ever deeper union with his beloved Son.
2713 Contemplative prayer is the simplest expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gift, a grace; it can be accepted only in humility and poverty. Contemplative prayer is a covenant relationship established by God within our hearts.9 Contemplative prayer is a communion in which the Holy Trinity conforms man, the image of God, “to his likeness.”
2714 Contemplative prayer is also the pre-eminently intense time of prayer. In it the Father strengthens our inner being with power through his Spirit “that Christ may dwell in (our) hearts through faith” and we may be “grounded in love.”10
2715 Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. “I look at him and he looks at me”: this is what a certain peasant of Ars used to say to his holy cure about his prayer before the tabernacle. This focus on Jesus is a renunciation of self. His gaze purifies our heart; the light of the countenance of Jesus illumines the eyes of our heart and teaches us to see everything in the light of his truth and his compassion for all men. Contemplation also turns its gaze on the mysteries of the life of Christ. Thus it learns the “interior knowledge of our Lord,” the more to love him and follow him.11
2716 Contemplative prayer is hearing the Word of God. Far from being passive, such attentiveness is the obedience of faith, the unconditional acceptance of a servant, and the loving commitment of a child. It participates in the “Yes” of the Son become servant and the Fiat of God’s lowly handmaid.
2717 Contemplative prayer is silence, the “symbol of the world to come”12 or “silent love.”13 Words in this kind of prayer are not speeches; they are like kindling that feeds the fire of love. In this silence, unbearable to the “outer” man, the Father speaks to us his incarnate Word, who suffered, died, and rose; in this silence the Spirit of adoption enables us to share in the prayer of Jesus.
2718 Contemplative prayer is a union with the prayer of Christ insofar as it makes us participate in his mystery. the mystery of Christ is celebrated by the Church in the Eucharist, and the Holy Spirit makes it come alive in contemplative prayer so that our charity will manifest it in our acts.
2719 Contemplative prayer is a communion of love bearing Life for the multitude, to the extent that it consents to abide in the night of faith. the Paschal night of the Resurrection passes through the night of the agony and the tomb – the three intense moments of the Hour of Jesus which his Spirit (and not “the flesh [which] is weak”) brings to life in prayer. We must be willing to “keep watch with (him) one hour.”14https://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P9M.HTM