Contemplative Prayer

The prayer specific to Carmel

Two hours a day of contemplative prayer in the choir
kneeling next to the stalls, visible in this contemporary photo.
What happens during this silence ? 

 an aspiration of the heart

a simple glance

directed to heaven

a cry of gratitude and love...

                                                                                                                                                                                                         Ms C, 25r

The great Teresa of Avila was passionate about the presence of God in each person. Her main activity was to keep Him company. As well, when she reformed Carmel in the 16th century she wished to fit into the daily schedule two hours two hours of intense attention to this divine presence; two hours of silent prayer that are specified in the text of the Constitutions contemporary to the little Thérèse.

Contemplative prayer is an exchange of love with God, a conversation, an encounter. This exchange of love with God causes us to seek God in ourselves, at the center of the soul. Heavens live entirely in our soul and faith creates the contact.

It is a meeting where we are awaited. God love created us through love and calls us to the communion of love with him. Thérèse, so young, understood the greatness of a vocation of the human being called to union with God.

Saint Terese of Avila invites us to this intimacy with God. She describes his presence in The Interior Castel of the Soul. She affirms that the door of this Castle is prayer... the intimate exchange of friendship where we meet single-handedly with this God where we know we are loved.  

The little manual of Spiritual Direction at the time of Thérèse declares that this hour is the holiest and most useful for it is during prayer that the soul nourishes itself and regains new energy. It is there that the spiritual fire is lit every morning which must burn continuously in the sanctuary of the heart.

In this little manual in use with Thérèse, there are several manners of beginning prayer that are described, notably “to put oneself in the presence of God and represent him as present in all and everywhere, filling all in Heaven and earth and we are in him like a sponge in the sea” (p.14).

When we consult the Manuel de la Maîtresse des Novices in use during Thérèse’s time, we note the importance of contemplative prayer in Carmel; an entire chapter explains how the novice mistress must take the greatest care when leading the novices in the paths of prayer “according to their interest” (chapter 12).

 Thérèse of Avila

« Let us employ ourselves in looking upon Christ, who is looking upon us. Lets us accompany Him. »

in Life, chap. 13

Teresa of Avila

« All I ask of you is to look at him.»

in Way of perfection

John of the Cross

« You are yourself that very place where he dwells, his retreat where he is hidden.»

in Spiritual Canticle

Contemplative prayer is an act of faith that continues, or better yet, a series of acts of faith that restart a broken connection. In this way Thérèse who happened to be distracted during prayer, compared herself to a little bird who never ceased to gaze upon the Divine Sun, the Sun of Love” (Ms. B folio 4 v°). She continues in this text to go through her distractions but she always comes back to the divine Sun: Manuscript B, folio 5 recto.

These two hours of daily prayer, this time for God in silence, have an effect on the person; she is transformed. This exercise of the love of God overflows and leads to the love of neighbor. Thérèse bears witness to this, telling how she was led little by little to understand what charity is in her Manuscript C, folio 11 verso and following.



John of the Cross

« In the happy night
In secret, when none saw me
Nor I beheld aught,
Without light or guide 
Save that which burned
 in my heart  
This light guided me more surely
Than the light of noonday. » 

in The dark night

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