… what happens if at some point one feels called to a more imageless form of prayer such as Contemplative prayer? What then does one do with their devotion to Our Lady and the path one was following accoding to it?
Nothing changes re one’s devotion to Mary, because formal prayers such as the rosary, litany, Memorare, etc, should still be prayed. You might see a difference in the quality of these devotions, since the heart is praying them more contemplatively, rather than mentally completing the quota of words.
If Our Lord Himself calls us to Contemplative Prayer, should we not abandon all other methods and paths?
No. Those who obligate themselves to pray the Church’s Liturgy of the Hours, will continue to pray it, as well as their other private devotions of choice. And it is very important not to neglect study of scripture and other spiritual reading.
The big difference in contemplation is that the person has been called by God away from using spiritual discursive meditation, where one reads a passage, lets the imagination flow regarding it, and talks to God about it prayerfully. There may often be a sweetness in this prayer exercise that spurs us on to continuing the practice daily. Sometimes, the very sweetness in our talks with God underlies our unconscious motive to return to it.
St. Teresa used a good analogy of peeling an orange. Each act of going to meditation removes a part of the rind so that we may savor the fruit within. What happens when the rind is all removed, and we attempt to take the rind off, but it is no longer there? Frustration. This is when many are called to a different form of prayer called contemplation, where the work of removing the rind is already done, and the understanding and imagination no longer desires to ‘work’. When they come to prayer, they savor the orange immediately, and have no desire to use the former preliminary steps.
Prayer has become simple, almost wordless, using an occasional short expression of love to stay focused. The key is that the person is able to rest quietly and fully attentive to God, and finds it distasteful to its spirit when it tries to meditate as formerly. This is what we call ‘active contemplation’ because the person is doing the work of resting in God. While in that state of prayerfulness, God may grant ‘infused’ contemplation which is His pure gift, and is rather rarely given at this stage; some may never be granted this at all, as God wills.
We need to keep in mind, that whenever we are able to contemplate God in restful attentiveness, do so. But there are going to be times when we need to rekindle the spark of love through resuming meditation, not with the motive of finding sweetness, but rather out of devoted love, *giving *to Him, rather than receiving. We never go from point A to point B as an automatic cessation of meditation to begin contemplation. There are usually intervals of both.
God will help the soul and guide it, as He has guided many saints in history who did not have books or internet. If anyone does not experience this abiding attentiveness to God, the continual inability to meditate, and a general distaste for the things the world holds dear, then it is not time to abandon meditation.