CHRISTIAN MEDITATION
and
SPIRITUAL EXERCISE

 

 

The Sentences of Sextus (c. 190) are adapted for memorization and meditation by anonymous Christian authors

Clement of Alexandria (c.150-216) describes a method of apophatic meditation that culminates in the admonition, “then cast yourself into the immensity of Christ”.

Cyprian of Carthage (c.200-258) recommends the practice of what will later be called lectio divina.

Plotinus (c. 260) recommends an inner journey intended to realize the divine

For many Desert Fathers and Mothers such as Evagrius Ponticus  (c. 350-500) biblical exegesis and nepsis (guardianship over thoughts) intertwine, creating a regularly-practiced exegesis of the heart, shared with an abba or amma.

Monastic Rules (c. 350-600) prescribe a daily program of psalmody, silence, lectio divina, manual labor, and manifestation of thoughts to a spiritual Elder.  This increasingly incorporates the images and texts relevant the changing seasons of the liturgical year.

Maximos Confessor (c. 580-662) and Germanus of Constantinople (c.634-c.733) recommend allegorical, internal reflection on increasingly lengthy liturgical exercises

Guigo the Carthusian (1140-1193) describes the steps of lectio divina, already described by Hugh of St. Victor (c.1090 - 1142)in Didaskalion V,9.

Aelred of Rievaulx: (1109-1166) Rule for a Hermitess: threefold meditation on (1) past; (2) present; (3) future = (1) life of Christ; (2) One's own past and present life; (3) the eschaton / heavenly life

Bonaventure: (c. 1217-74) Lignum Vitae / Tree of Life invites meditation on the events of his Christ's life, passion, and glorification (Tree of Life as an organizing symbol, and three major sections, each consisting of sixteen meditations, on Christ's birth and public life, his passion and death, and his resurrection and glorification).

Gertrude the Great (1256-1302) composes and recommends Spiritual Exercises related to the liturgical day, intended to revive zeal associated with significant moments in consecrated life.

Pseudo-Bonaventure: (1300 - 1399) Meditations on the Life of Christ with divisions of meditations into days of the week [Meditationes vitae Christi, probably by the Franciscan Johannes de Caulibus  (1300 - 1399)]
On Monday, start at the beginning (of the Lord’s life), and go as far as the Lord’s flight into Egypt; then stop at this point. On Tuesday, resume there, and meditate as far as his opening of the Book in the synagogue. On Wednesday, proceed from there to the ministry of Mary and Martha. On Thursday, go from there to the passion and death. On Friday and Saturday, go as far as the resurrection. Finally, on Sunday, meditate on the resurrection itself up to the end of his earthly life. (Ed. and trans. Stallings-Taney et al. Meditations, 332)

Meditationes verosic divide, ut die Lunae incipiens, procurras usque ad fugam Domini in Aegyptum. Et eo dimidimisso, die Martis, pro eo rediens, mediteris usque ad apertionem libri in synagoga; die Mercurii exinde, usque in ministerium Mariae et Marthae; die Jovis abinde, usque ad passionem; die Veneris et Sabbati, usque ad resurrectionem; die vero Dominica, ipsam resurrectionem, et usque in finem. (Meditationes, ed. Peltier, 329)

     (Ps.Bonav.in English c. 1400 tr. Nicholas Love: )

Ludolph of Saxony: (c. 1295-1378)Life of Christ

The Brethren of the Common life (c. 1370-) meditate on the humanity of Jesus: their principal text is The Imitation of Christ.

Garcia de Cisneros (1455-1510) describes THREE WEEKS of Spiritual Exercises based on the purgative, illuminative, and unitive approach of Ps.-Dionysius.

St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) describes five methods of IGNATIAN MEDITATION, FOUR WEEKS of Spiritual Exercises; and recommends a regular EXAMEN, or examination of conscience.

In the Franciscan tradition, St. Peter of Alcantara (1499-1562) describes six steps: Preparation, Reading, Meditation, Thanksgiving, Oblation of Ourselves, Petition.  Note that the last three can be seen as subdivisions of oratio in lectio divina.

This same order is also found in Carmelite sources, such as John of Jesus-Marie (1564-1615) in the second chapter of Part Three of his Instruction of Novices

St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622) adapted St. Ignatius' approach in what becomes known as the SALESIAN METHOD

Members of the Congregation of the Oratory (f.1575) further adapt the methods of St.s Ignatius and Francis de Sales in what come to be known as the SULPICIAN METHOD.


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From the Wikipedia Article on Ludolph of Saxony's Vita Christi
The Vita Christi had significant influence on the development of techniques for Christian meditation. Although Aelred of Rievaulx (d. 1167) had introduced the concept of immersing and projecting oneself into a Biblical scene in his De institutione inclusarum,
and St. Bonaventure (d. 1274) had borrowed heavily from that work in his Lignum Vitae,[5]
Ludolph's massive work (which quoted Aelred extensively but credited his work to Anselm) helped to spread this devotional practice into the Devotio Moderna community and to Ignatius of Loyola (as discussed below).[6] The Vita Christi was translated into Spanish in 1502 by Ambrosio Montesino and was printed in Alcala.[7] The methods of meditation in the Vita Christi thus entered Spain and were known in the early part of the 16th century.[8] St Teresa and St Francis de Sales frequently quote from it.
5 Marsha L.. Dutton, "The Cistercian Source: Aelred, Bonaventure, and Ignatius," in Goad and Nail: Studies in Medieval Cistercian History, X, ed. E. Rozanne Elder, Cistercian Studies series 84 (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1985), 157–78.
6 Christian spirituality: an introduction by Alister E. McGrath 1999 ISBN 978-0-631-21281-2 pages 84–87
7 The third spiritual alphabet by Francisco de Osuna 1981 ISBN 978-0-8091-2145-8 pages 3–4
8 Teresa of Avila's autobiography by Elena Carrera 2004 ISBN 1-900755-96-3 page 28