Monday of the Seventh Week of Ordinary Time
Continuing our Carthusian theme from yesterday, let’s spend part of this week considering the work of another early Carthusian, Guigo II, as a means of helping us pray with scripture. Guigo was the ninth prior of the Carthusian charterhouse of Grande Chartreuse. If you saw the movie Into Great Silence, you were able to see how daily life operates in this most austere of environments. In the 12th Century Guigo wrote The Scale of the Cloister, one of the first systematic presentations on the stages of progress in prayer. Hopefully, a brief consideration of his work will of of assistance to all of us in our relationship with God in prayer.
Guigo says at the beginning of his work that while occupied in labor one day, he began to consider a man’s spiritual exercises. As an aside, we notice how the context seems to suggest that ‘spiritual exercises’ are not just a retreat, but also refer to our daily practice of the spiritual life. He outlines four stages in the progress of prayer: reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation. They function as a scale or ladder leading us upward toward heaven.
While we will consider each stage in its own right, today we will turn our attention to one of the explanations he gives for the relation of each stage to the “blessed life,” the life of union with God. Reading, he says, seeks the blessed life. Meditation finds it. Prayer asks for it. While contemplation enjoys it.