Number 86.– My Prayer
Prayer is strength of the soul, the Teaching says. So, we men have our own prayer –characteristic and individual– belonging to us. Personally, to discover, develop and enrich this prayer is my spiritual growth and the purpose of my passing through life. To obtain it is happiness.
There are many types of prayer, described by the Teachings, and also millions of characteristic prayers, one for each individual, whether revealed and active, or in a potential state, quiet, asleep in the secret of every individual, those who still did not start walking through the spiritual path.
Master Santiago is generous with his definitions about prayer, not only by wide types of prayers explained, but alto because he adds new prayers usually unnoticed. Ten courses with 160 Teachings are as a whole dedicated to mystical asceticism and describe most varied techniques, from East and West, both old and modern, which through the Canon Edition, a forthcoming in Internet, are contained in the second volume, of about 300 pages.
Specialized Courses on Prayer are as follows: Ascetic Prayer, Mystical Asceticism, Affective Meditation, Discursive Meditation, Contemplative Meditation, Cafh’s Gymnastics, Exercises and Examples of Meditation, Commentaries on Meditation, and Methods of Meditation.
These general titles of Courses and particulars of every Teaching refer to techniques and exercises of prayer, not to prayer itself, since there are spontaneous prayers not requiring techniques. A prayer in itself –genuine and real– flows naturally, as every one is and feels at that moment. We all have prayed at some moment, even those who are most reluctant unbelievers: by a child’s disease, an irreparable loss, or at death time, because before pain, barriers of personal pride fall and the heart prays freely. Somewhere Master Santiago writes that meditation exercises are for beginners starting the Way, and that after some few months of practice are to be surpassed, recommending their continuation but not expecting mere mechanical achievements, in order to exercise perseverance.
A very beautiful book recommended by Master Santiago, and that he re-read once a year –“Memories of a Russian Pilgrim”, by an anonymous author of eighteenth century– describes with readable style the Russian living in fields of that time, the perpetual prayer of the heart, developed by Mount Athos’ Monks, in Greece, and depicted in “Philocalia”, which is a set of ancient books on Christian mysticism. The pilgrim sets out to tell that, someday at the Church, he heard the Christ’s recommendation: “It is necessary to pray always” (“Opportet semper orare”, Luke 17:1). He wondered how one can pray ceaselessly, continuously, if we need to work, rest, and attend our family and social duties. So, he made the decision of devoting his living to discover and practice this mysticism, and found it in perpetual prayer of the heart with the assistance of his astral guide, the Staretz of a monastery.
In Teaching 7, Course “Mystical Asceticism”, Master Santiago explains further this Christian sentence practiced in three ways: Operative Prayer, Vocal Prayer, and Mental Prayer. A practice of these ways leads to a spontaneous, real prayer by each individual. Mental Prayer has four parts: Meditation, Concentration, Contemplation, and Union.
In Course “Discursive Meditation”, Master Santiago offers twelve subjects of daily life through an intense dialogue between soul and Master, which everybody can clearly understand, and even repeat as a spiritual reading and suitable meditation when one’s spirit is depressed. Discursive meditation was Master Santiago’s favorite, and on one occasion I have heard him during Adoration for the dead at Embalse Chapel, from eleven to twelve in the night, spoken out before men and women, the Community, assembled there. It was a vibratory wonder and conveyance of a higher spiritual state. More than forty years have elapsed and seemingly still I hear his voice, of a light Italian tone.
These Teachings offer three extraordinary Courses dedicated to meditation, diverse types, characteristics and objectives of every one, methodology of practices, examples, and commentaries; “Exercises and Examples of Meditation”, “Commentaries on Meditation”, and “Methods of Meditation”. And although the variety is vast, all these Teachings are linked by a leading thread, like rosary beads: search of spiritual perfection and love for the Divine Mother. Here are eclectic, necessary steps to reach the divine objective.
The first mentioned Course offers four examples of Discursive Meditation on Biblical texts. Later, “next some easy –and simply expressed– examples of Affective Meditation for beginners”, with Maitreya as an interlocutor and exemplar to follow; they are seven meditations. It continues with seven Passive Affective Meditations: “For those souls whose minds feel tired by successive images and ideas”, and takes the Divine Mother as the guide. Finally, it offers a touching group of seven Stimulating Affective Meditations, taking the Crucified Christ as a model. This quite important Course concludes with three imaginative Monologues as preparation for meditation.
The following associated Courses tend to widen and enrich ideas introduced by diverse Meditations, and completed along with other Courses included in the volume on Mystical Asceticism, Second Part, Canon collection. They constitute an indispensable guide for a student aiming at carrying out the Jesus’ recommendation; “It is necessary to pray always”. The Perpetual Jesus’ Prayer practiced by the Russian Pilgrim was a specialization, an orthodox yoga for the few. It consisted in repeating this sentence, “Lord Jesus Christ, take pity on me” certain number of times, thousands of times, synchronized by breath and heart beats, and eventually this sentence would join on these beats, subconsciously repeated, even being asleep, until death.
Every form of prayer is good in case of being suitable to needs of each person; what is helpful to a soul of particular characteristics may not be suitable to another person. Some people practice a type of Meditation and feel good there; others do not practice Affective Meditation, but do it quite well with Discursive Meditation. Few Christians practice Mental Meditation, but make wide use of vocalized prayers, in group, and alone. Some persons practice choral rituals and chorus, like the Orthodox, Maronites and Protestants. Others attend to temples and keep quiet; they are touched by the magic of a sacred place; this is their prayer. Many of them are devoted to Operative Meditation and being detached work at hospitals, schools, and physically-mentally handicapped people asylums, even in Red Cross and Volunteer Firemen; their prayer is work for the sake of work. “A disciple does not aim at the fruit of his work but only to please God and carry out His Divine Will.” Each being is a particular expression, unique and unrepeatable, no matter how insignificant may seem; they are like tiny seeds of big trees needing germination and development. An individual prayer is ferment for this growth.
I started reflecting on my prayer and comprised every prayer offered by the Teachings to understand, because the Renunciation Doctrine, according to the Master, is eclectic and refers to all spiritual currents, schools, and diverse philosophies, for the student to study and choose those that are more convenient to him. The objective is soul development, and not dogmas.
A prayer can be personal, unique and permanent if and when covers all activities of man, from the most intimate and secret to external, physical and bodily activities. Master Santiago planned and checked this perpetual prayer in Community life, not a specialization like the Russian Pilgrim practice, but a whole practice: the Observance of the Order Regulation. Certainly, in cloister communities of every religion a perpetual prayer is fulfilled, since the objective is God, the spiritual perfection, and a cloister locks any breach in regard to the world. For years I have practiced perpetual prayer of Cafh Community, whose rhythm extend to sleep time uninterruptedly. The reader should read the Teachings on Communities, specially “Intimacy of the Perfect”, and will see how the Jesus’ sentence “It is necessary to pray always” is not utopia but a reality lived at many places of the world. In these centers, most diverse types of prayer are practiced, from manual labor to group prayers for disincarnated souls, from rejoiced recreation to penitence on the floor of the Chapel asking forgiveness for faults committed. These whole souls sustain the salvation hope for Humanity, and are living exemplars of harmonized Humanity.
But I am not in the Community; I am living alone among mountains in the Children’s Village, and now even children do not come as before, every week. All this around me –mountains, sky, starry nights, trees in the garden, birds and flowers, my house, my time, and my dreams are now my community, my cloister. Even I do not work on my spiritual perfection, many years weight me down to have further desires no matter how holy may be; I am devoted to expand the Renunciation Message by following Master Santiago’s request.
So, in the last analysis, what is your prayer, José?
José González Muñoz