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CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER - CHRISTIAN TRADITION
 

Let each one remain in her cell
meditating day and night
on the Word of the Lord
watching in prayer
unless otherwise justly employed

from the Carmelite Rule
of St Albert

The contemplative life is found in all the major religions. Contemplatives set out on a long journey, the journey inwards, exploring what lies within the human spirit and what lies beyond it, at the journey's end.

The Christian contemplative tradition has always maintained that GOD is to be found at the journey's end. And not only at the end, for God came to us in Christ to be Himself the Way there. Christ's gift to Christians of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who prays within us, was made precisely so that we might understand where we come from and where we are going - towards total union with God in love.

Jesus says: If anyone loves me he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home with him.

The Gospels tell us of Jesus urging his disciples to pray, and of his own constant and prolonged prayer to his Father. Over the centuries his Spirit has drawn countless people into deep, personal, intimate relationship with God; and he continues to do this in our own time when people experience a great need to step aside for a while from the rush of daily living. Come aside to a lonely place, Jesus says.

 
THE CALL OF THE DESERT
 

Some people who begin to pray seriously, to cherish moments of stillness with God more deeply, and to understand something of what prayer can bring about, feel the call to devote themselves totally to being with Jesus in his prayer to the Father. A new apostolate opens out to them and prayer becomes an attractive and powerful means of serving the Church and all humankind.

Ever since the earliest days of Christianity such men and women left all they had and went to live in the desert to spend all their lives in prayer and praise. The contemplative houses of today, though no longer usually situated in an actual desert carry on the tradition of being places set apart. They provide both the desert atmosphere where there is nothing to draw away the searching heart from its pursuit of God, and at the same time an oasis wherein to quench its unceasing thirst.

 
PRAYER IN CARMEL
   

The Teresian Carmel belongs to this contemplative tradition. Everything in its life is ordained to prayer, seen as an exchange of love. St Teresa's classic definition of prayer captures it all:

Prayer, in my opinion, is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him whom we know loves us. St Teresa

The prayer of Carmel is centred on the celebration of the Eucharist, the great prayer of Thanksgiving of Christ to his Father and the most important activity of the day.

Flowing from this is the Prayer of the Church, the Divine Office, which consists of psalms, scripture readings and intercessions. Seven times a day the sisters gather for this prayer on behalf of all. They unite with Christ praying in and for today's world. These liturgies are held publicly in the Carmel's chapel and often people join the sisters to share with them in this prayer of praise and intercession.

 

Two hours are spent each day in silent personal prayer and an hour in the reading of the Bible and other spiritual books. These set periods of prayer and reading support each sister in her desire to make every moment of her life a communion with God and to continue in her heart the prayer of silent adoration even though she is occupied in other tasks.

The contemplative spirit of Carmel draws its inspiration from Mary, the first Christian disciple and the Mother of Jesus. She pondered all these things in her heart and heard the Word of God and lived by it.

She accompanies us on our spiritual journey in her silent listening, her complete surrender to God and in her concern that all the peoples of the world should know the fulness of life in her Son, Jesus Christ.