The desire to have some experience of God is widespread. Many persons of all ages have a genuine yearning for communion with the spiritual world. The trouble is that we are never quite certain how we should invest our energies to ensure that we are moving closer to the truth and not deeper into delusion. It seems prudent, therefore, to look for guidance from those who have actually made the journey and are skilled in initiating others.
This is why we approach the great contemplative traditions: to find out something about prayer and the sort of life that facilitates its growth. We cannot always generate our own solutions because our horizons are limited. The first thing we need to learn is to look at life from a different perspective. Here the ancient spiritual masters can serve us well...
The key idea that is common to these teachers is that contemplation is possible only for those who have puritas cordis: an undivided heart. The act of communion with God is one which engages the whole person and calls upon all the interior energies. It can occur only when these energies are working together, when inner disharmony has been overcome and unity reigns within. Such a state is not achieved quickly but only by the grace of God and the labor of decades. It involves a radical conversion of life and a persevering will to live in accordance with the Gospel. Spiritual growth is thus seen as a matter of progressively purifying the personal center of will and knowledge, eliminating inner division and becoming more intent on seeking the one thing necessary.
Michael Casey is a monk of Tarrawarra Abbey in Australia. He is well-known as a retreat master and lecturer on monastic spirituality and holds a doctorate from Melbourne College of Divinity in the area of the life and writings of St. Bernard of Clairvaux.