"What is man that thou art mindful of him, or the son of man, that thou carest for him? Thou didst make him for a little while lower than the angels, thou hast crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet."
– Hebrews 2:6-8
As Pope Benedict XVI prepares to travel to Spain for World Youth Day, he asks us for our prayers.
Today, he offered a beautiful reflection on "mental prayer". This is part of a series of general audiences that he has devoted to the topic of Christian prayer.
I think that St. Teresa of Ávila must have been on his mind, since she wrote considerably on the topic of mental prayer. The great saint seems to be hovering over the gathering of Catholic youth in Spain.
Our Holy Father begins with a reflection on the Virgin Mary as a model of mental prayer.
The mystery of the incarnation of God's Son, and of the maternity of Mary, is so great that it requires a process of interiorization. It is not only something physical that God accomplishes in her; rather, it is something that demands an interiorization from Mary, who seeks to understand it more deeply, seeks to interpret its meaning, to understand its implications. Thus, day after day, in the silence of ordinary life, Mary continued to keep in her heart the subsequent wondrous events she witnessed, even to the extreme trial of the Cross and the glory of the Resurrection. Mary fully lived her existence, her daily duties, her mission as mother, but she knew how to preserve within herself an interior space for reflection on the word and the will of God, on all that was happening in her, on the mysteries of the life of her Son.What lovely words. What a warm and compassionate Pope we are blessed with. Later he adds these thoughts.
Mary teaches us how necessary it is to find in our days -- with all its activities -- moments to recollect ourselves in silence and to ponder all that the Lord wants to teach us, how He is present and acts in the world and in our life: to be able to stop for a moment and meditate.Lately I have found myself meditating very much like Pope Benedict describes. I didn't know whether to call it prayer or not. But as I lie in bed at night, I try to reach out to God in love. I realize now that all my life I never knew what love is. I only knew of love between a man and a woman and I had experienced it in the fullness of its ecstasy, but I had always confused the human nature of love with the essential divine nature of love.
I am beginning to understand that true love is not merely pleasure, but also sacrifice. Love is a mystery as Benedict says of Mary's divine love for God. It is the supreme gift from God, who is pure love.
This morning during my time of meditation I found myself thinking of angels. I imagine them in eternal devotion to God. Singing his praises.
When Mary was assumed into Heaven, the world changed. The Queen of Heaven had taken her seat upon her throne. The Heavens would never be the same. The angels must have been overjoyed at her arrival.
Sometimes it seems that I can hear the songs of the angels that surround us. It is quite a beautiful chant. And then I look out the window and its raining, and I think isn't God wonderful. Imagine a God that makes water fall from the sky.
Our Holy Father continues.
To meditate therefore means to create within ourselves an atmosphere of recollection, of interior silence, so as to reflect upon and assimilate the mysteries of our faith, and all that God is doing in us -- and not only the things that come and go. We can "ruminate" in many ways; for instance, by taking a short passage of sacred Scripture, especially the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, the Apostle's Letters, or a page from a spiritual author we are drawn to and which makes the reality of God in our today more present, perhaps taking advice from a confessor or spiritual director; by reading and reflecting on what we've just read, pausing to consider it, seeking to understand it, to understand what it says to me, what it says today -- to open our soul to all that the Lord wants to say to us and teach us.And then he turns his attention to the Rosary. Sometimes when I am praying the Rosary I feel myself get caught up in meditation. How wonderful to hear that our beloved Pope shares these experiences.
The Holy Rosary is also a prayer of meditation: In repeating the Hail Mary we are invited to think back and to reflect upon the mystery we have announced. But we can also dwell upon some intense spiritual experience, on the words that have remained with us from our participation in the Sunday Eucharist. You see, therefore, there are many ways of meditating and of thereby making contact with God -- of drawing near to God, and in this way, of being on the road to heaven.As always, Our Holy Father expresses his desire that we find happiness and fulfillment in our lives.
In the end, this is the goal of our meditation: to entrust ourselves ever more to the hands of God, with trust and love, certain that, in the end, it is only in doing His will that we are truly happy.Some final thoughts. As I was lost in mental prayer this morning and pondering the nature of angels, I wondered why there wasn't a new apparition of Mary. I seemed to receive a reply that this is the time of the angels. And I wondered if when a child is aborted, how that would effect the child's guardian angel. And it seemed as if the answer I received was that this was part of the spiritual battle over the world. We should not try to control the population. God has shared with man the gift of creating life through the marital act. It should be used the way that God designed it. It seems to me that we are each surrounded by angels and that we should try to listen to what they are telling us. The angels are God's messengers.