Friday, July 31, 2009

The First Degree of Prayer

St. Teresa makes use of these four ways of drawing water to explain the four degrees of prayer.

The first degree is that of beginners and includes vocal and discursive meditation. The second degree borders on the supernatural and she calls this prayer the prayer of quiet. The next degree is mystical and she refers to this as a "sleep of the faculties". The final degree of prayer is totally mystical and is called the prayer of union.

The first way of watering the garden, the way of beginners, is to draw water from the well and this way of watering involves a lot of work. It is the discursive work of the intellect. These are things that we can do ourselves with God's help.

"They must tire themselves in trying to recollect their sense. Since they are accustomed to being distracted, the recollection requires much effort. They need to get accustomed to caring nothing at all about seeing or hearing, to practicing the hours of prayer, and thus to solitude and withdrawal - and to thinking on their past life."

" These things make up the beginning of fetching water from the well, and please God that it may be found. At least we are doing our part, for we are already drawing it out and doing what we can to water these flowers...God is so good that when for reasons His Majesty knows... the well is dry and we, like good gardeners, do what lies in our power, He sustains the garden without water and makes the virtues grow."

St. Teresa exhorts beginners to begin with determination and to persevere in prayer. Dryness and difficulty at prayer will come and to not let this cause us to give up prayer. She advises us to not become distressed or afflicted over dryness or noisy and distressing thoughts. ..For, clearly, if the well is dry, we cannot put water into it. True, we must not become neglectful; when there is water we should draw it out because then the Lord desires to multiply the virtues by this means.

(from The Book of her Life ~ St. Teresa of Jesus)

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