Choose a topic from Part 2B:

180. The Contemplative Life

1. The contemplative life is not one of cold study andconsideration of eternal truth. It is not sheerly intellectual. Itinvolves will and appetites; it includes love and attachment towhat is studied. For the very intention to contemplate truth is anact of the will, and the contemplative person is led by allpertinent appetitive forces to love the work of contemplation andto repose happily in it.

2. The contemplative life, however, does consistessentially in the consideration of truth, and such considerationbelongs to the intellect. The moral virtues (that is thewill-virtues) dispose the soul for contemplation by curbingdistracting passions and by allaying the disturbance caused byoutward occupation, but these virtues do not enter the essence ofcontemplation itself. We say, therefore, that the moral virtuesbelong dispositively but not essentially to thecontemplative life.

3. The contemplative life is not a kind of schedule ofrelated acts; contemplation is one act. Still, the process ofarriving at the truth to be contemplated involves, for man thewayfarer (that is, for man in his earthly life), a variety of acts.Thus, a man must grasp principles, and he must reason upon them toknow what is implied in them. The last and perfect act, after thefull discovery of truth, is contemplation, the steady gazing upontruth. This is one act, not several.

4. Contemplation considers God; it dwells upon the supremeintelligible Truth. The perfect contemplation which beholds thedivine essence in the beatific vision is not to be had this side ofheaven. Here on earth, however, we can achieve imperfectcontemplation: "We see now through a glass in a darkmanner" (I Cor. 13:12). Here we consider creatures in so faras they lead us to contemplate the Creator. Four things pertain, ina fixed order, to the contemplative life: (a) the disposing moralvirtues; (b) preparatory acts of attention, study, reasoning; (c)contemplation of divine effects, that is, of creatures whichmanifest God; (d) the contemplation of divine truth itself.

5. Since, in this life, we cannot gaze directly upon thedivine essence, the highest degree of contemplation possible isthat which we find exemplified in the rapture of St. Paul (II Cor.12).

6. The operation of the intellect is called amovement. In contemplation, the intellect's movementof fixing and focusing on a topic is called curvedmovement; the movement of reasoning or thinking a thing out inconnected steps is called straight movement;theunion of the two movements in a movement which combinesuniformity of gaze with progress through the various reasonedpoints, is called oblique movement.

7. There are in contemplation the delight of engaging in asuitable and congenial operation and the delight of knowing andgazing upon a beloved object. This spiritual delight surpasses allother human joys.

8. True contemplation is not interrupted for othersustained employments of the mind. It is continuous: perfectly soin its unchanging object, and truly so in the unabandoned purposeand effort of the contemplative person.

"Obedience is a short cut to perfection."
St Philip Neri

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"The one thing necessary which Jesus spoke of to Martha and Mary consists in hearing the word of God and living by it."
R. Garrigou-Lagrange, OP

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"The Lord has always revealed to mortals the treasures of his wisdom and his spirit, but now that the face of evil bares itself more and more, so does the Lord bare his treasures more."
St John of the Cross, OCD - Doctor of the Church

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