Sunday, October 17, 2010

Prayer Of Simplicity

Ordinary prayer and acquired contemplation

First of all, a word as to ordinary prayer, which comprises these four degrees:
  1. vocal prayer;
  2. meditation, also called methodical prayer, or prayer of reflection, in which may be included meditative reading;
  3. affective prayer;
  4. prayer of simplicity, or of simple gaze.
Only the last two degrees (also called prayers of the heart) will be considered, as they border on the mystical states.
Mental prayer in which the affective acts are numerous, and which consists much more largely of them than of reflections and reasoning, is called affective. Prayer of simplicity is mental prayer in which, first, reasoning is largely replaced by intuition; second, affections and resolutions, though not absent, are only slightly varied and expressed in a few words. To say that the multiplicity of acts has entirely disappeared would be a harmful exaggeration, for they are only notably diminished. In both of these states, but especially in the second, there is one dominant thought or sentiment which recurs constantly and easily (although with little or no development) amid many other thoughts, beneficial or otherwise. This main thought is not continuous but keeps returning frequently and spontaneously. A like fact may be observed in the natural order. The mother who watches over the cradle of her child thinks lovingly of him and does so without reflection and amid interruptions. These prayers differ from meditation only as greater from lesser and are applied to the same subjects. Nevertheless the prayer of simplicity often has a tendency to simplify itself, even respect to its object. It leads one to think chiefly of God and of His presence, but in a confused manner. This particular state, which is nearer than others to the mystical states, is called the prayer of amorous attention to God. Those who bring the charge of idleness against these different states always have an exaggerated idea of them. The prayer of simplicity is not to meditation what inactive is to action, though it might appear to be at times, but what uniformity is to variety and intuition to reasoning.
A soul is known to be called to one of these degrees when it succeeds therein, and does so with ease, and when it derives profit from it. The call of God becomes even clearer if this soul have first, a persistent attraction to this kind of prayer; second, a want of facility and distaste for meditation. Three rules of conduct for those who show these signs are admitted by all authors:
  • When, during prayer, one feels neither a relish nor facility for certain acts one should not force oneself to produce them, but be content with affective prayer or the prayer of simplicity (which, by hypothesis, can succeed); to do otherwise would be to thwart Divine action.
  • If, on the contrary, during prayer, one feels the facility for certain acts, one should yield to this inclination instead of obstinately striving to remain immovable like the Quietists. Indeed, even the full use of our faculties is not superfluous in helping us to reach God.
  • Outside of prayer, properly so called, one should profit on all occasions either to get instruction or to arouse the will and thus make up what prayer itself may lack.
Many texts relative to the prayer of simplicity are found in the works of St. Jane de Chantal, who, together with St. Francis of Sales, founded the Order of the Visitation. She complained of the opposition that many well-disposed minds offered to this kind of prayer. By ancient writers the prayer of simplicity is called acquired, active, or ordinary contemplation. St. Alphonsus Liguori, echoing his predecessors, defines it thus: "At the end of a certain time ordinary meditation produces what is called acquired contemplation, which consists in seeing at a simple glance the truths which could previously be discovered only through prolonged discourse"
Link (here) to the Catholic Encyclopedia
Link (here) to Prayer of Simplicity in the Ignatian classic, Graces of Interior Prayer
Saint Ignatius says, ' Non enim abundantia scientice satiat animam sed sentire et gustare res interne.' (here)  Loosely translates into English, "For it is not the abundance of knowledge but I feel that satisfy the soul, And taste the thing, internally"

1 comment:

Laudes Divinae said...

I partiuarly enjoyed the excepts from Life and letters of Janet Erskine Stuart--having been educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart...