There are many and varied methods of meditation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) advises that Christians owe it to themselves to develop the desire to meditate regularly lest they come to resemble the three kinds of soil in the parable of the sower (Mark 4 v 1- 19). That is the path that hears the word but Satan immediately snatches it away, the stony soil that hears the word but falls away in persecution or trouble and the thorn filled soil that hears the word but the concerns of the world choke the word.
Remember that the methods we look at are only guides. It is the Holy Spirit who is the true guide who will lead us in the way of prayer, meditation and contemplation.
Meditation can employ your thoughts, imagination, emotions and desires. All these faculties enable us to deepen our understanding and conviction of our faith, bring about further conversion of our hearts and strengthen our will to follow Jesus. The required attentiveness is difficult to sustain.
To maintain attentiveness and focus in meditation we can be helped by the Scriptures, the writings of the spiritual masters, liturgical texts, icons or creation itself.
There are various methods of Scriptural meditation and a good way to begin is with prayerful reading of the chosen Scripture passage; giving ourselves time to listen to what God is saying to us. It is an encounter with God who comes to us through the words of Scripture.
This prayerful reading allows us to search out the implications of Gods word for our life, growth and commitment. It helps us to digest and be responsive to His word. It helps us to open our hearts to His word and treasure and ponder it there.
Let this prayerful reading lead us into wonder and awe that God has spoken to us. This wonder and awe can then lead us to a starting point for further meditative prayer and even contemplation.
The Ignation way
St Ignatius of Loyola taught a form of meditation called the Application of the Senses.
He taught that the person meditating should enter into and picture the various scenes in the Scripture being meditated upon. The person places themselves in the Scripture and in their imagination listens to what is said by those in the scene and reaches out with the senses to experience the scene. The main approach here is not one of reasoning but of touching Gods Word with the senses and the heart.
Lectio Devina (holy reading) involves three things:-
1. Reading the Scripture passage;
2. Meditating on it by trying to discover all its hidden meaning, reflecting on the ways it impacts on your life and the world around you. In Lectio Divina we do not use our imagination (as in the Ignatian way where we imagine ourselves in the Scripture passage) but use the events memories and experiences of our lives and the world around that come to mind.
3. Praying. Pray using the words of the Scripture passage you are reading. Thank Jesus for being in our lives in the events memories and experiences we have recalled. Ask forgiveness for the ways we have not lived according to the Scripture passage. Allow His grace and mercy reach out to us. Ask the Lord for His help to live according to the Scripture passage.
Meditating on our life situation
As well as meditating on God’s word in Scripture we can meditate on ourselves and what is happening in our lives. This kind of meditation must not lead us to look at ourselves in isolation but to see ourselves and our daily life as something filled with God’s presence and providence.
Close your eyes… take a second to register the darkness… the absence of movement, the absence of colour… now imagine you can’t open them again…This darkness, this absence, is all that is ever before your eyes, and is all you will ever see, for you are blind. You are sitting on the ground, beside the road into Jericho. What is it like on the road today? … Is the sun shining? … What is the air like? … Is it windy? Still? … What can you smell? ... the dust of the road … animals … What is passing by on the road today? … you can tell from the sounds and the smell alone … is it spice traders? … livestock being herded to market? … pilgrims? What do you hear? …the footfall of travellers… the sound of hooves in the gravel… …the rattle or clink of packs shifting on donkeys’ backs… hushed conversations… And occasionally the approach of a stranger… a few words of greeting… the welcome chink of coins and the cold smoothness of money in your outstretched palm … and then onwards, the comings and goings of the city passing you by.
But now there’s something happening … a commotion … now what do you hear? … something, someone is coming down the road … what’s happening around you now? … people are shouting … what are they saying? … there seems to be a crowd forming, moving … you can make out a name in all the excitement … do you hear it?
It’s Jesus! … where have you heard it before? … what have you heard about him? …remember the stories they told you …Jesus … Jesus the teacher … the storyteller … the miracle worker … the healer! He’s the one everyone has been talking about …the one your neighbours had told you about … and now here he is, passing through your village, walking down your street … You’re on your feet now, shouting.
People are pushing past you… he is so close ... Now you’re hurrying, stumbling, hands outstretched – your hands are on the backs, the shoulders of strangers in front of you, feeling for a gap in the crowd. And you’re shouting at the top of your voice, desperate, so desperate you hardly know what you’re saying – Do you find a gap? ... do you get through onto the road? … as you blunder into people in the crowd, what do they say? … where’s Jesus now in that swirl of noise and darkness? … can you make out his voice? … how close are you now?
Now there’s a hand in your face and you’re pushed away…“Be quiet! What does the king want with you, beggar?” …
Unneeded … unwanted … unwelcome.
And the man is right – what does the king want with your blind eyes and your shabby clothes, your bare feet and your dirty hands? … Now he is passing.
Like the travellers, like the city, like the opportunity to work ... He is passing… Your blindness has denied you.
But now something is happening in the crowd … There’s a ripple of silence moving through the people … Jesus has stopped… He is standing in the road… Now someone approaches you … feel the press of their fingers around your arm … the warmth of their touch … they’re leading you now, back into the road … and now that voice … what is it like? … and what is it he’s saying? … “What do you want me to do for you?” … is he speaking to you?
Now you’re blurting it out … “Lord, I want to see!” … what are the crowd doing? … are they silent? Whispering? Laughing? … what do you expect Jesus to say?
“Look and you will see! Your eyes are healed because of your faith.” See.
See that darkness slide away … see the road … the sky ... the sunshine … the crowds – what are they doing now? How are they looking at you? What are they saying? … see their faces … see their eyes as they stare at you … their hands as they raise them to their faces … and there in the middle of it all … see Jesus. What does he look like? … Where is he looking?... what is the expression on his face as he looks at you? … What do you say? … What will you do now?
As the crowd begins to move now, onwards towards the city, what do you do? …
Do you return to your begging mat? … Do you go with Jesus?
Take your time as you watch him … take some time in silence as you think now … as you see now … what will you do now?