Skip to main content

Better than Meditation



Better than Meditation

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson


If you walk into St. Mary’s Church on any given Thursday between 5 and 6 p.m. you might be confused. In the dim light of early evening, you will find four to twenty people sitting in silence, at a polite distance from one another, heads bowed in prayer or gazing at the altar.

You might think they were waiting for something to happen. The start of a church service, perhaps?

No, not at this time. Instead, each person will sit for the entire hour in silence. And yes, you will see a core group of the same people every week.

I’ve become one of them. Apart from Mass, this is the hour I most look forward to each week.

In our weekly church bulletin, it’s listed simply as “Adoration.” It’s also known as Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, an hour of contemplative prayer as we sit in the presence of God with the exposition of the consecrated sacrament displayed in a starburst monstrance on the altar.

I began attending sporadically at first. Then as I realized how much I received during this hour, I have tried to make it an integral part of my week.

Here’s the thing. I have devotional time with God every morning at home. I read the Bible, then a devotional, and I pray. But there is something palpably different during Adoration.

I hesitate to describe it because I’ll sound ‘woo-woo’. But there is no other way than to say that when I sit in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and still my mind, I experience a feeling of the presence of God that is altogether different than when I simply pray at home. Pope John Paul called it the ‘wellspring of grace’.

When I started, I thought Adoration and contemplative prayer served a similar purpose to meditation, a quieting of one’s mind. However, after reading a slim volume by Henri J.M. Nouwen, with the unfortunate title Clowning in Rome, I came to a different understanding.

In meditation, the goal is to attain an emptying of the self. During the hour of Adoration we quiet the mind, empty our self, but the goal becomes opening our heart and mind to God. We empty ourselves so we can become filled with the Holy Spirit.

What a difference! Rather than sitting in isolation, we are joined by God and understand that He is as interested in our concerns as we are.

Weekly Adoration has changed the way I approach God in prayer. It has taught me the value of spending an extended time in prayerful conversation with God.

As with meditation, contemplative prayer requires an initial period of bringing oneself into a state of mind where we can be receptive to the presence of God.

For instance, I find that the first twenty minutes, my mind will chatter away, reflecting my need to make sure that I am heard.

Eventually, around the thirty-minute mark, my mind clears, and I can finally turn my attention toward God. At this point, I sometimes repeat the name of God, or Jesus, or Holy Spirit, as a means to focus my attention and intention on God’s presence.

When I finally let go, I am able to simply enjoy worshipping God. This I believe is the point of real communion in prayer.

From this foundation, I believe this hour of contemplative prayer can grow into what Henri Nouwen describes as ‘unceasing prayer’. We can turn the unceasing thoughts that fill our mind during the day into an ongoing dialogue with God by opening our heart and mind to His continual presence always with us, by offering our thoughts to Him.

As our thoughts move from a “self-centered monologue to a God-centered dialogue” we go from “fearful isolation into a fearless conversation with God.”

This connection has helped me enormously. I encourage you try it: set aside one hour a week for contemplative prayer and dialogue with God.

If you cannot make it to a Catholic church to participate in weekly Adoration, I believe there are two keys to bringing this practice into your own home.

Setting aside at least one hour where you can sit in silence, undisturbed, is optimal. I say this because as I mentioned above, it takes about 30 minutes to quiet your mind and become receptive to God.

Second, to bring your mind into God’s presence, I believe it would be helpful to read a passage or two from the Bible before you begin. I find the Psalms are particularly helpful.

As Henri Nouwen writes, “…solitude is the place where God reveals himself as God with us, as the God who is our creator, redeemer, and sanctifier, as the God who is the source, the center and the purpose of our existence, as the God who wants to give himself to us with an unconditional unlimited and unrestrained love…

In solitude, we meet God. In solitude, we leave behind our many activities, concerns, plans, and projects, and enter into the presence of our loving God…And there we see that he alone is God, that he alone is love.”

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson is the author of A Map of Heaven and other books. You can reach her at: Suzanne@suzanneelizabeths.com or www.facebook.com/suzanneelizabeths


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Collard Greens with White Beans - A Vegetarian Take on a Classic

Could a vegetarian version of collard greens ever compete with the traditional goodness of collard greens cooked with a smoked ham hock?

I was skeptical until I made this recipe. It is every bit as delicious. Taking the place of the ham hock is the rind of parmesan or other hard cheese. I keep a small plastic bag of cheese rinds in the freezer, they are the perfect flavor enhancer of stocks and soups, and now collard greens.

Similar recipes call for dried beans, but sine I live 10,400 feet above sea level, dried beans are always a challenge unless I'm using a pressure cooker. For this recipe, I opted for canned beans and am just as happy as can be.

This recipe is quick, easy, delicious, and so rich and satisfying a bowlful with a slice of garlicky olive oil toasted bread makes the perfect week night dinner. It is also a satisfying side dish.

Let's get cooking!

Ingredients:
1 bunch of collard greens, touch center stems removes, leaves torn into large pieces
1 14 oz can of Nort…

Open to the Spirit - Book Review

Open to the Sprit is like reading a letter from a friend. McKnight writes a very accessible introduction to the Holy Spirit and its role in our spiritual life. McKnight uses several stories from his life and others to share how the Holy Spirit consoles and deepens our daily spiritual walk. A terrific book for those seeking an introduction to a relationship with the Holy Spirit.

Dinner with Julia

What do Ina Garten and Martha Stewart have in common? Both women describe cooking through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking when they were young as foundation to learning to cook.
Julia Child is an inspiration to most home cooks of a certain age. I found her so inspiring that at one time, I had all of her cookbooks, including a first edition of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and had read almost every biography written about her, My Life in France, being my favorite. And yet! I confess that until this week, my cooking adventures in Mastering were limited to her omelet recipe, her iconic recipes for onion soup and Beef Bourguignon.
When the Food52 Cookbook Club on Facebook chose Mastering as its cookbook for the month, I jumped at the chance to finally use Julia’s first cookbook for its intended purpose.
I decided to start with something easy, a poached egg. I purchased the best organic eggs I could afford, read the recipe several times, and began. After I’d tur…