In The Monastic Journey, Thomas Merton reflects on the teachings about prayer from the fourth century Christian monk and theologian, John Cassian (c. 360-435 CE).
OF COURSE there are degrees in monastic prayer . . . Cassian makes clear the nature of the highest kinds of contemplative prayer. . . . are intuitions of God alone. Here there are no more words to utter, as the spirit is carried away beyond words and indeed beyond understanding into the oratio ignita, “burning prayer” or “prayer of fire,” in which flame-like movements of love burst out from within the depths of the monk’s being under the direct action of the Holy Spirit. This powerful surge of inner spiritual life and love is the pure gift of God, expressed in prayer of “most pure energy uttered with us by the Holy Spirit interceding without our knowledge.”
The highest form of prayer is, then, a prayer “without forms,” a pure prayer in which there are no longer any images or ideas, and in which the spirit does not take any initiative of its own, for all activity of the human mind and senses is here completely surpassed.
Thomas Merton, The Monastic Journey, 91-92.
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