WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

The value of meditation

With extracts from a homily by Laurence Freeman OSB, Westminster Cathedral December 2007
Sr Annette Green
Meditation does not replace other forms of prayer. It revitalises them—the prayer of the heart refreshes the prayer of scripture, liturgy and devotion.
Meditation is not a technique but a discipline. Those who persevere with silent meditation soon discover the discipline of saying the mantra helps check distractions of the mind.
One gradually learns to be aware of the present moment. Being attentive to the present moment revitalises our attendance at Mass and during other prayer times. Meditation is the guard against superstition, rigidity and empty ritualism.
This simple teaching of the early monks of the fourth century, similar to the teaching on meditation of the East, namely to be content to say a mantra from the beginning to the end of the half hour and then live out the consequences of saying it is a simple practice but, simple is not easy.
Behind this wonderful practical and universal teaching is the whole contemplative tradition of Christianity and John Main’s own insight that the crisis of the modern world demands a spiritual solution.
This does not essentially mean a religious solution though John Main saw that religion is an intrinsic part of human nature. He also saw that religion without a deep contemplative spirituality is dangerous. Religion is constructive and liberating as long as it is the carrier of the contemplative spirit; as long as it is the medium of personal and collective transformation.
What we need to solve our problems, to regain our humanity and balance is a new contemplative consciousness leading to the ‘new holiness appropriate for our times’ that Simone Weil foresaw.
Mother Theresa who insisted on two hours of silent prayer for the life of her apostolic sisters said, ‘silence is God speaking to us’.
Laurence Freeman OSB in a lecture on ‘The Eucharist and Silence’, writes that in speaking about silence in the Eucharist we are talking about the law of white spaces: A group of rabbinical students were once arguing about the meaning of a biblical text. They appealed to their teacher who asked them to show him the page.
‘What do you see here?’ he asked.
‘The words we are discussing,’ they replied.
‘These black marks on the page,’ the old rabbi said, ‘contain half the meaning of the passage. The other half is in the white spaces between the words.’
This is the margin of silence around any page. It is also the necessary pause between the thoughts, the rest between bouts of activity.
Unfortunately this cannot be legislated for; it cannot be imposed; it cannot even be taught. It must be caught, entered into as a grace, as pure gift. We have to receive the gift.
Meditation, Fr John Main said, is the way we accept the gift of our being—and so we might add in the language of some contemporary theologians, become ‘gift givers’, those who receive must be sharers. Those who learn must teach. To put it simply, as John Main had the gift of doing, meditation creates community—not a club, not an institution, but community.
Christian meditation programme
Home of Compassion, Island Bay, Wellington
• March 8: Saturday: Retreat Day 10.00 am–3.00 pm
• May 17: Saturday: Retreat Day 10.00.am–3.00 pm
• June 29: Sunday: Retreat Afternoon 1.30 pm–4.30 pm
• August 8-10: Live-in Retreat Weekend with Father Denis Mahony SM.
• October 3–5: Training weekend for leaders of meditation
• November 2: Sunday: Retreat Afternoon 1.00 pm–4.30 pm
To book for the August Retreat Weekend and for further information contact: Sister Annette Phone 04 3837769 ext 851 E-mail sr.annette@compassion.org.nz