When we talk about meditation, many people envision only mystical meditation techniques from the East. Few recognize that meditation exists in Western religious practices because it is called other names, such as prayer, study, and contemplation. One school of meditation which deserves more attention and discussion is Christian meditation.
Followers of Christian religions benefit greatly from meditation in their lives. To understand this concept, it is useful to examine the similarities and differences between Eastern meditation techniques and the religiously-based Christian meditation techniques and practices.
- Unlike some Oriental meditative techniques that emphasize awakening through nothingness, Christian meditation centers on being in communion with God.
- Unlike Zen meditation where the goal is awakening, Christian meditation’s cornerstone is finding the right path towards a communication with God.
- Christian meditation centers on the principle of abiding by the Word of God by reading the Bible.
- Christians learn through meditation how the daily scriptures can help them to lead good lives and attain salvation after death. Zen meditation which is practiced by Buddhists emphasizes that meditation is a tool to awaken the soul and to shorten the cycle of birth and rebirth.
Especially interesting is the rebirth of Lectio Divina, a form of Christian meditation devised by Saint Benedict (480-547 A.D.). The renewed interest in the practice started after Pope Benedict XVI recommended it to the Catholic community in 2005.
Originally, the ritual was performed as one of the three daily elements in the life of a monk: liturgical prayer, manual labor, and reading the Sacred Scriptures (the “Lectio Divina”). This contemplative practice, literally, “divine reading,” contains four phases or moments:
Lectio is the reading of the Bible.
Benedictine monks can be seen as the Christian counterparts of the Buddhist monks in this regard. While reading the Sacred Scriptures, the practitioner contemplates how the teachings of God and the sufferings of Jesus Christ can be applied to modern-day living. How the followers of the Christian faith can rejoice in the promise of eternal salvation.
Meditatio is the phase of meditation.
According to the Catholic Church, with a deep understanding of the Scriptures, an individual will be inspired to contemplate the true meaning and essence of what is written in the Bible. The equivalent in Christian meditation is the mantra in the Oratio. It is a prayer that can be recited over and over to focus the mind, just as mantras are repeated to clear the mind of wandering thoughts.
Contemplatio is the simple and calm sensation…
…. that comes when experiencing the pure love for, and of, God and the quiet blessedness of His presence. Similarly, followers of Eastern practices enjoy a sense of calm and well-being from their meditative methods.
Properly followed, the Leticio Divina is practiced consistently every day, just as Eastern meditative practices are. The recommended commitment is one hour each day, but it is up to the practitioner to decide whether to do it all at one sitting or to divide it into two one-half hour sessions. Using the same quiet place each day is recommended, especially for the beginner, because it diminishes distractions. This, too, is similar to the habits among Eastern meditative practitioners.
Christian meditation techniques –
-have the power to transform those who practice them since they have a foundation based on scripture. Many Christians are learning to expand their prayers and meditate on the meaning of the words of love and compassion they read in the bible, for them it is where they find peace.