Contemplative prayer is one school of prayer in which the Holy Spirit is continually teaching me because I am such a poor student. I am always in awe of the masters of contemplative prayer. Others call them Christian mystics. I do regard Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, Therese of Lisieux, Elizabeth of the Trinity, Titus Brandma, and Edith Stein as masters of contemplative prayer.
Man, can they pray! Then I discovered that they all belong to the Carmelite Order which led me to explore Carmelite spirituality and Carmelite contemplative prayers. Thus it is with pleasure that I acquired and read Carmelite Prayer: A Tradition for the 21st Century, Keith J. Egan (Ed). (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2003).
This book is a collection of essays exploring Carmelite contemplative prayer. Especially interesting is the chapter by Ernest E. Larkin which compares the differences and similarities between Carmelite contemplative prayer, centering prayer (Thomas Keating), and Christian meditation (John Main).
The origins of the Carmelite Order were laid when lay hermits gather together near the fountains of Elijah on Mount Carmel. According to the Formula of Life, these hermits were to “meditate day and night on the law of the Lord unless engaged in some just undertaking.”
Carmelite contemplative prayer is
-centered on the Word of God especially the psalms
-look to Christ as their teacher of prayer and their allegiance to Him
-aware that the Holy Spirit is the principle guide in the spiritual life
-prayer of the whole Christ, the body of Christ, the church
-celebrated in liturgy and just living
-orientated to a contemplative stance before God, waiting for God to do God’s work so that one may be transformed into union with God in love
“Carmelite prayer is all about letting God create within one a magnanimous loving heart” (p.21)