When we hear the word meditation, it often brings to mind yoga poses, nature sounds, and deep breathing exercises. But Christian meditation is something that has been encouraged by saints throughout the ages. While there are physical and mental benefits to non-religious meditation, Christian meditation can significantly improve your spiritual life, because it is an encounter with the Lord.
Recently on St. Joseph’s Workshop, Father Matthew Spencer, OSJ discussed meditation, and how we can adopt this practice in our own life in order to grow closer to the Lord. He said:
“I want to talk about meditation a little bit. Because I think it’s an important topic for you and for me. St. Teresa of Avila said that if you’re still sinning, you’re not meditating enough. In other words, the more we meditate, the less we sin.
It’s not about some zen experience, it’s not about having some peaceful movement in my heart and my life, and experiencing detachment from the world, and better focus. It’s not about a human goal or aim. It’s about an encounter with the Lord Himself, with Jesus.
Every form of Christian meditation needs to have Jesus as the focus, as the goal. It needs to have the Lord as the center of it, otherwise it’s not Christian meditation.
I do know that sin will always exist in the world – at least until the Second Coming of Jesus. And that even if you teach meditation to everybody, people are going to fail at the charity that they should be practicing. People are not going to be living the lives that they should as Christians. But you’re still better off meditating, and your life is better when you’re spending time in mental prayer.
And maybe you’re thinking at this point, ‘What do you mean by meditation? Do you mean sitting down in a lotus position and humming something?’ No, that’s not what I’m talking about.
There are lots of different types of meditation … but there’s something about St. Francis de Sales, for me, that is very practical and very easy to grasp. This can be found in great depth inside his book, The Introduction to the Devout Life. I’m going to summarize it for you, just to encourage you to pick up this book.
His first point is to recognize the presence of God. Recognize that God is all around you, God is in you, God is omnipresent. And in a very special way, God is aware of who you are, because you are made in His image and likeness, and He loves you.
And we live our life, so often, without that focus. I think that’s why it’s essential when it comes to prayer in our life, and specifically when it comes to mental prayer. We need to recognize the presence of God in our lives, clearly.
You should do this before Mass, you should do this before the Rosary, you should do this before you drive, you should do this before you walk, before you eat, before you breathe. You should be recognizing that you are in the presence of God. That is the important part to begin.
The second part is invoking the Lord, calling upon Him, prostrating yourself before the Lord – spiritually at least if you can’t do it physically at that moment.
The third point of preparing for your meditation is gathering the mystery, or the point of your reflection that you are going to meditate on. And that’s where we need to pause and realize that to meditate correctly, and to have a consistent practice of mental prayer, it takes preparation. Because there are different elements to focus on.
I know we would love to just show up and hope something nice happens. I know we’d love to just show up and wait until the Lord injects into our mind some great inspiration. But all the saints say that you need to prepare yourself for that encounter.
St. Francis de Sales has other points, but you should dive into this more. Because not only will you increase in your compassion and empathy, as even non-religious people do in meditation. But you will increase in sanctity when you are doing meditation and mental prayer, and using your time spent with Jesus as a concrete way of encountering the Lord.”
Listen to the full reflection below: