23. Meditative Prayer
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In our meditative prayer each of us seeks intimate communion with God. Quietness and freedom from interruption are needed for us to enter deeply into this prayer. Accordingly, each house of the Society shall have one hour of strict silence set aside each day so that all the brothers can spend this time in meditative prayer completely undisturbed. Occasional necessity may compel a few of us to have their hour of prayer at another time of day, but the community hour is sacrosanct. Although we usually pray alone we are especially close in this hour, bearing one another up.
In times of struggle the sense of unity in prayer will be a great support. When we are away on vacation or mission we shall aim at spending half an hour in prayer each day.
“There are varieties of gifts but the same Spirit.” We shall not all have the same ways of prayer, but we will be united in seeking to open our hearts to “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that [we] may be filled with all the fullness of God.” The focus of our meditation may be on the Word of God in Scripture or holy writings. We may use our imaginations to enter into the deep meaning of a scriptural story. Or in slow, reflective reading we may wait for the Spirit to alert us to the words or image that are to be the means of God’s particular revelation to us on this day: “The Spirit of truth . . . will take what is mine and declare it to you.” Then meditation opens our minds and hearts, and our response to God’s gift and disclosure is kindled by the Spirit within us. God may touch us through icons, images and symbols, impregnating our hearts with grace and furthering our transformation “from one degree of glory to another.” Sometimes God’s word is waiting to be heard in our own current experience. The call may be to sift through it in company with Christ to see how he is at work in our lives and where he is leading.
Our prayer may distill our heart’s desire in single words or hallowed phrases lovingly repeated, while we lay aside discursive thoughts in order to be unified in Christ. Or we may simply wait on God expectantly until our affections are kindled, and our hearts find a few words to give voice to our worship. When God wills, we may be drawn to contemplation. In the radical simplicity of contemplative prayer we surrender ourselves to the mystery beyond words of Christ’s abiding in us, and our abiding in him close to the Father’s heart.
Meditative prayer is the receptive and responsive prayer of our whole selves. Our bodies are at prayer in the postures and breathing that enable us to be centered. The solitude of the cell gives us the freedom to be spontaneous in expressing prayer through gestures, movements, tears and singing.
Is it the combination of the Episcopal liturgy, chant, and the groundedness the Brothers bring from their daily hour of silence that makes worship at SSJE so satisfying to me? I was raised Quaker. The Quaker worship service consists of one hour of corporate, meditative silence, broken by people speaking when the spirit so moves them. I left as a teenager because there was no singing, and because it was unnecessary to believe in the Resurrection which I believed to be critical. I became Episcopalian when I married. I feel fulfilled worshipping at the monastery because all my worship needs are met and honored.