Questions and Answers

Answers to questions about Christian Meditation that may be useful for members of the community.

Q&A Categories

The Christian Tradition of Prayer

1. What you are giving is from the oldest of Christian meditation tradition. We should call it old Christian meditation. The Catholic Church is an offspring of all meditation – Buddhist, Hindu and others. Is that correct?

Yes. As I said at the beginning, we find meditation in all the great religious traditions. This is God’s gift to humanity.

But if we are meditating in Christian faith, then we should learn from the specific Christian tradition, which is a historical tradition. It goes back to the words of Jesus, and we have the whole of the Christian mystical tradition to guide us. We should meditate supported by the sacraments and the other forms of Christian prayer. We should meditate with other Christians in our churches, in our communities.

So that’s what makes meditation Christian, but above all, what makes our meditation Christian is our faith in Christ. And if we are deeply rooted in that Christian identity of meditation, we will then be in a position to dialogue on equal terms with all the other traditions. I’ve been in dialogue with other religions for many years and, believe me, we have something very precious to share with them, and the more deeply contemplative we are, the more we have to share.

(Laurence Freeman OSB, Meditatio Talk Series 2013-C, Meditating as a Christian)

2. Do you describe the beatific vision in your meditation talks? That would save some questions about meditation.

We have to know what we mean by the vision of God. Thomas Aquinas says that the vision of God is not us all sitting in a theatre looking up at God sitting on the throne. He says that the vision of God is when we look at each other and we see God in each other.

When we see God in each other. If I see God in you, that makes me happy. When you see that I am happy, then you become happier. When I see that you are happier, I become even more happy. According to Aquinas, that is the beatific vision.

It is really the experience of love. Love is the vision of God. Pope Francis, I think, is emphasizing that experience of seeing God in our neighbour, especially in those who are needy and those who are poor. So that is the beatific vision really, and our meditation certainly prepares us more and more to experience that.

(Laurence Freeman OSB, Meditatio Talk Series 2013-C, Meditating as a Christian)

3. Is meditation also called Centering Prayer? How do they differ?

Centering Prayer is another school of Christian contemplative prayer which grew up in the 1970s, about the same time that John Main started to teach. There are many similarities and they certainly come out of this same root. The specific difference would be in the teaching on the word, how to say the word.

We would emphasize the tradition of the Desert Fathers, which is to say the word continuously. So that is an important specific difference, but again, it is simply an expression of the richness of Christian spirituality.

(Laurence Freeman OSB, Meditatio Talk Series 2013-C, Meditating as a Christian)

4. How can we integrate the Ignatian way of meditation into this universal way?

Well, the Ignatian form of prayer and spirituality is one of the many branches of the great tree of Christian spirituality. There are many schools of Christian spirituality – Dominican, Ignatian, Benedictine, Carmelite – many different branches, and all these branches do not compete with each other.

They are an expression of the richness of the Christian spirituality and the deep roots of the tree of Christian prayer in the prayer of Jesus. That is expressed in the diversity of Christian schools of prayer. So you can be an Ignatian – I have many Jesuit friends, I know many Jesuits who meditate in this way. So there is no inconsistency.

This way of meditation, as I’ve shared with you, is not really Benedictine or Jesuit or Carmelite or anything else. This is as basic as you can get. That is why we find the roots of it so early in the Christian Church, in the early monastic movement of the Desert Fathers and Mothers from the third to the fifth centuries. It is from there that this method is practised, is found, and it is consistent with all the other forms of spirituality.

(Laurence Freeman OSB, Meditatio Talk Series 2013-C, Meditating as a Christian)