|St. Damien, before he set off for Hawaii (Wikipedia).|
Staring intently at the sun setting behind Molokai, from Maui, where I was on vacation with my family this summer, was, for me, a religious experience (the two Hawaiian islands are only 7.5 miles apart). The sunset has since time immemorial been a spiritual hour for Christians: the Vespers have been recited at this time since at least the 4th century; the glorious refraction of the sun’s light across the sky creates a natural stained glass window, and the fall of darkness recalls the hour of the death on the Cross. Going on vacation can take us out of our normal schedule, threatening to disrupt our prayer life.< But powerful moments such as the sunset—which happens every day, and being on vacation may leave us more at liberty to observe—can provide an opportunity to keep up our prayer life and indeed enrich it.
One way to seize upon such unplanned and unexpected moments is meditation—that “freestyle” form of conversation with God, which differs from regular prayer in that prayer attempts to articulate in words our needs and praise, while meditation “engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire.”[Catechism of the Catholic Church, §2708.] It is often said that meditation in the Christian sense involves an active process—engaging the mind through thought, imagery, reflection, etc.—whereas “eastern” forms of meditation often involve “emptying” oneself of these. Catholics may turn to these other techniques for “a path to interior peace and psychic balance,” but they are not effective substitutes for prayer. [Letter to the Bishops on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, J. Ratzinger, Prefect, 1989.] “Christian prayer should go further: to the knowledge of the love of the Lord Jesus, to union with Him.” [Catechism, supra.]
Continue reading at Carlos' blog Super Martyrio.