A series on Christian Meditation by Sandee Bengochea, Coordinator, WCCM Trinidad
Meditation is often viewed with some scepticism in our Christian community. Something that is ‘New Age’, ‘Eastern’, ‘Buddhist’, or belonging to the Yoga community.
Many think that in order to meditate we must adopt a bohemian behaviour of sitting cross-legged and chanting with our eyes closed, almost trance like. All the above is true for the relevant faith beliefs.
However, through this series of articles on Christian Meditation, I will share the story of how meditation was rediscovered within the Christian tradition as a form of contemplative prayer and how it is practised by many Christians around the world.
My own story of my journey to meditation started many years ago. I was a young mother with four children yearning for a quiet space in my existence. I experimented with meditation in other faiths, but always felt the dis-ease of not being in the comfort and security of my own faith belief.
Plus, there were the conversations that spoke of being “exposed to demonic influences” and that meditation “encourages escape from reality”.
My spiritual director then was Fr Michel de Verteuil CSSp, and after sharing my concerns with him he gave me a book by Bede Griffith, a Catholic priest and Benedictine monk who lived in ashrams in South India.
It was a fascinating read and deepened my interest. From then, I would search the internet hoping to find something on meditation and the Catholic faith. I came upon Fr Laurence Freeman OSB and was captivated by his community’s work on Christian Meditation.
I later had the ‘miraculous’ experience of meeting him and being a part of a seminar he held here in Trinidad through the kindness of Sr Ruth Montrichard SJC, who is the Caribbean Coordinator for the World Community of Christian Meditators (WCCM).
Sr Ruth is also a member of the governing board of WCCM, and our own Archbishop Jason Gordon is the patron of WCCM Caribbean.
Simple to learn
So, what’s the difference between the way we meditate as Christians and the way others meditate?
When we, as Christians approach meditation, we approach it in a totally Christocentric way. It is important that we are grounded in the understanding of the risen Jesus in our hearts. This is essentially at the core of what we mean by Christian Meditation.
We start with the prayer: Heavenly Father, open our hearts to the silent presence of the Spirit of your Son. Lead us into that mysterious silence where your love is revealed to all who call. Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus.
Maranatha means ‘Come Lord’ in Aramaic, which is the language Jesus spoke.
In the Christian tradition, meditation is often referred to as “pure prayer” or “prayer of the heart” because it is a prayer without thoughts, words or images and so takes us beyond the imagination. ‘Be Still and Know that I am God.’
When we meditate, we are not thinking about God or speaking to God. We are simply being with God in the silence and stillness of the present moment.
We move from the mind to the heart. It is a prayer of silence, stillness, and attention.
It is not easy because it challenges the ego to quiet and be still, so we say meditation is simple to learn, but it is not easy.
In our Catholic tradition, there is a wonderful richness and variety of forms of prayer. For example: the Eucharist, the other sacraments, petitions, intercessions, charismatic prayer, scripture, devotional prayer.
Whatever draws us into the presence of God can be called a form of prayer. Meditation as a form of contemplative prayer is practised by many Christians around the world.
In the next article, I will share on the roots of the Christian Meditation beginning with the Desert Fathers and early Christianity of the fourth century.
To contact WCCM Trinidad, email email@example.com or WhatsApp 750-1172.
Our Meditation Center at St Joseph’s Convent, Port of Spain is now open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10.30 a.m. – 1.30 p.m.