Chapter 1 – Theory

We all have an interior dialogue through which we filter our experience. This dialogue is composed of thoughts, feelings, and desires all of which are interconnected with our bodies. Thus we are a composite of a physical body and an interior life. The specific nature of Christian Meditation is that our interior dialogue is not a conversation simply with ourselves. Through the mediation of the sacraments, we are given access to the Divine life of the Trinity whereby we are given the grace to address God. This grace gives us access to who God is so that we are able to hear and respond to his voice speaking within the fabric of our interior dialogue.

To learn to hear how God is speaking to us, we must gently sift through our interior dialogue and discern what is the work of the Holy Spirit and what is not. This is generally referred to as discernment in the West and discrimination in the East. As we learn to enter into our experiences and sift through them, patterns begin to emerge which point to how the Holy Spirit is or is not working in our lives. The theory and practice of discernment will be discussed more in depth later, but for now it suffices to say that we must gain a sensitivity to how God speaks to us. This is not an extraordinary grace, but the ordinary path to sanctity.

The tradition is filled with many excellent methods of meditation. These methods are expected to act as training wheels. When a beginner is comfortable spontaneously receiving and responding to our Lord with simplicity and directness, all spiritual masters recommend that methods be abandoned for the less formal kind of dialogue. I will not present all the different methods, but a quick internet search will probably give you more than enough. The method I will present is the one I learned at the Institute for Priestly Formation. The method is simple and straightforward, and its key feature is that we make concrete our receiving and responding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

The method calls for us to intuitively imagine what our Lord wants to say to us. In my work with both adults and children, I have come to appreciate that most Catholics have an intuitive sense of what the Lord wants to say to them. Often, what keeps us from receiving is our desire for certainty and our fear of being led astray by illusion. The Church teaches that members of the Body of Christ have an intuitive grasp of the mysteries of the faith through the action of the Holy Spirit (sensus fidei). This principle extends to our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We have an intuitive sense of who God is and what he wants to say to us. The key is to allow ourselves the opportunity to hear his words of growth and consolation.

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