Stillness and Contemplation
Words from Matta El Meskeen Practicing Presence with God “Very few people spend any time practicing being with God. Fewer still enjoy the great blessing, by God’s grace, of interior prayer. Interior prayer is, in fact, the fruit of the spiritual life. It is a return of Adam to the beauty of his former spirituality” (55). The Difference between Meditation and Contemplation “Meditation requires delving deep into mental investigation, requiring excessive mental and intellectual activity. Contemplation, on the other hand, needs total quietude of man’s mental powers and the cessation of all investigation or deep penetration… The more the mind is quiet and silent, the more divine truth radiates, shines, and is transfigured within it” (56). Who Is It For? “Contemplation is a kind of prayer accessible to everybody. It is free from any restriction to a particular class of people. It is for the man of the world as it is for the monk, for the married as it is for the celibate, for the young as it is for the old” (56). The Benefits “Contemplation...[is] an impregnable fortress. It protects God’s people against the vices of the environment…enhances man’s will and strengthens his personality…Regular contemplation is considered one of the richest means for building up the soul” (59). How to Begin Contemplation “The exercise could be summarized as focusing the mind upon a small verse, which is called monologistos. Man repeats it constantly without stopping for long hours every day. He should restrict his mind to the narrowest confines of the meaning of the verse. Or he might choose a single supplication in the name of the Lord Jesus, which is called here Onomatolatreia. He should train his mind not to step out of its bounds. Whenever his mind transgresses, he summons it back without boredom. This goes on until the mind learns how to stop meandering here and there, to calm down, and to be at peace” (58). Sitting in Stillness “Some instructions: sitting in a quiet place without moving and fixing one’s mental sight upon the heart that the mind may first share with the heart in reiterating the prayer. The mind will finally fall under the sway of the heart and relax its grip” (59). Restoring the Soul to the Natural State of Repose “In the prayer of repose, man repeats the name of Christ or a short verse…This is nothing but a spiritual attempt to restore to the human soul and mind their original natural and spiritual state of repose. In such repose, man may hear the voice of God and see his light in the heart. In short, it restores to man his authentic spiritual and contemplative state” (59).