05 October 2001

Last night I finished reading Christian Meditation (Ignatius, 1989) by Hans Urs von Balthasar. I've read a number of books on different forms of prayer and meditation over the years, and I found Balthasar's treatment to be one of the more helpful. Its great strengths lie in the focus upon Scripture (in a lectio divina fashion), his setting out of the Christological and Trinitarian foundations of Christian prayer and meditation, his sage advice for the actual practice, and the way in which individual spirituality is embedded within the ecclesial and sacramental community. Moreover, it is infused with insights from the Ignatian exercises (for those who are familiar with them).

Speaking of lectio divina, if praying with Scripture is something you'd like to pursue, Martin L. Smith has a good book called The Word is Very Near You: A Guide to Praying with Scripture (Cowley, 1989). You'll have to forgive him some of his higher-critical assumptions about Scripture, but the bulk of what he has to say is quite practical and edifying, as are the thematic "clusters" of Scripture passages he provides at the back of the book. Smith is an Anglican (ECUSA) priest, a monastic in the Society of the St. John the Evangelist.

I'm also reminded of something Thomas Keating once said (not that I'm a fan of an oddity like Keating). As he goes to various countries to give talks on "centering prayer" he has found that it is only in the United States that people constantly ask questions about whether or not they're "doing it right." And his advice is sound, I think. The point isn't getting it "right" but offering the time to God, making an attempt to quiet one's mind and attend to the meditation, but if it's just not working (e.g., due to racing thoughts or distractions), well, the time was offered to God in good faith and in his grace we can be confident that he will redeem it.