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"Let nothing disturb you; Let nothing frighten you. All things are passing. God alone suffices."
-St. Teresa of Avila
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Discursive Meditation
According to Jordan Aumann, O.P., ÒDiscursive meditation can be defined as a reasoned application of the mind to some supernatural truth in order to penetrate its meaning, love it, and carry it into practice with the assistance of grace.Ó [1] He goes on to say, "Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion and desire. This mobilization of faculties is necessary in order to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart, and strengthen our will to follow Christ."[2]

It involves utilizing a scriptural passage, sacred image or scene from the life of Christ as a means of focus and reflection. One may try to imagine the scene with the people present and place themselves in that scene. This is commonly used by Teresa in her description of recollection.  An excellent example of this is the movie of The Passion of the Christ.  Prior to making the movie, Mel Gibson struggled with alcoholism to the point of despair.  He said that meditation was essential to his survival.  The movie manifests the types of things he constructed within his own imagination.  If you think of how he, as a director, created all the details in the scenes you will get a very accurate impression of how Teresa tried to construct scriptural scenes in her imagination.  It involves much diligence and labor.  As a matter of fact, this is the method that Teresa used to help herself fall asleep at times when her busy mind kept her awake.   It is an excellent remedy for insomnia.

For Teresa, discursive meditation and active recollection are the forms of prayer that one may choose to utilize throughout the mystical life. If a higher form of prayer is given it must be given by the grace of God, Himself; it is not a matter of personal choice and acquisition.

Jordan Aumann presents a description of the Carmelite method of meditation which will facilitate an understanding of the meditative process followed by Teresa:[3]

Introduction Preparation
Reading
Meditation Imaginative representation of material
Reflection or meditation properly so called
Affective colloquy or conversation with God
Conclusion Thanksgiving
Oblation
Petition

The Carmelite method of prayer begins by preparing oneself by withdrawing to a place of solitude within oneself then turning to the aid of some inspirational book or Scripture. The meditation follows as the imagination forms some conceptualization of the material or words. One then reflects upon these things leading to a conversation with God. The prayer concludes with the expression of gratitude to God, an offering of oneself in person or deed and a petition of the Lord for some intention.

Discursive meditation falls within the realm of ascetical theology and contemplation within mystical theology. Jordan Aumann discusses the distinctions between ascetical and mystical theology and though there are many opinions on the matter. Primarily, they have to do with the practices or exercises necessary to acquire a skill. He states that "Ascetical theology studies the spiritual life from its beginning to the threshold of infused contemplation; mystical theology treats the stages of infused contemplation, passive purgation, and the transforming union."[4] It may be said that art falls within ascetical theology since it provides the artist with the freedom to pursue theological knowledge by means of his skill but rather than seeking to enter "infused contemplation," he would only reflect upon it.

[1] Jordon Aumann, Spiritual Theology, Fourth Ed. (London: Sheed and Ward, 1986.) p. 319.
[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church (Washington: United States Catholic Conference, Inc., 1994), 2708, p. 650.
[3] Aumann, p. 321.
[4] Ibid., pp. 14-15.