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Introduction

To approach the subject of Teresian prayer (that is, prayer after the pattern of St. Teresa of Avila) we need a broad perspective. This is necessary, although perhaps surprising, because there is no distinctively Teresian way to pray. There is not even a uniquely Carmelite way to pray. Carmel s spirituality is rooted in the greater tradition of lectio divina (literally, divine reading), a particular way of reading and praying over the Scriptures. This is why we read at the very heart of the Carmelite Rule of St. Albert: Each one of you is to stay in his own cell or nearby, pondering the Law of the Lord [i.e., sacred Scripture] day and night and keeping watch at his prayers unless attending to some other duty (Rule, no. 8).

Pondering sacred Scripture was the way the early monks, the desert fathers and mothers, and in fact the people of the bible, prayed. And the monks developed a traditional method for doing that, the ingredients of which we find rehearsed in John of the Cross when he writes: Seek in reading and you will find in meditation; knock in prayer and it will be opened to you in contemplation (Sayings, #158). [1]

We will see how those four elements of lectio perfectly serve Teresian prayer, or better said, how the Teresian approach to prayer serves lectio. But let us first examine some underlying Teresian notions and principles, looking at Teresa's methods and her preferred prayer orientation, as well as her understanding of the goals of prayer. All of these might be called Teresian attitudes, wonderfully helpful attitudes that enrich the monastic tradition of prayer and can broaden contemporary approaches to prayer.



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