Ecstacy/rapture are “states” of contemplative prayer. Mystical theologians refer to them as “extraordinary” gifts – meaning that not all contemplatives experience prayer of this type. In some ways ecstacy is similiar to a very profound state of contemplation in the “ordinary” way described by St. Teresa as the Prayer of Union. You might have heard heard the Prayer of Quiet discussed on these forums . . . union is simply a deepening of that.
What we’re refering to with these contemplative prayer states is the level of absorbtion of the faculties of the soul (intellect, will and memory) in infused prayer. Ecstasy/rapture differs from the Prayer of Union in that it lasts longer and is “felt” in a more exterior way.
Ecstacy occurs suddenly and unexpectedly . . . almost as if the soul is seized by God. Ordinary contemplation comes upon the soul more gradually as the faculties are progressively suspended by God as one proceeds through recollection to quiet and finally union itself. Ordinary infused prayer is very brief: 15 to 30 minutes tops. However, St. Teresa described ecstacy as lasting as long as several hours.
Father Dubay, in his wonderful book “Fire Within,” described ecstacy this way:
[quote=Fire Within]In ecstatic prayer one’s inner life of knowing and loving is so intensely increased that the sense perception of the outer world is proportionately lessened, even to the point of disapperance. What Teresa calls the bodily energies, that is, seeing, hearing and touching, lessen and fade away. One can scarcely move the hands; the eyes close, or if one can keep them open, almost nothing is seen; one cannot speak or form words because there is no strength for it.
Here are a few brief words from St. Teresa:
[quote=St Teresa]Now when the body is in rapture (ecstacy) it is as though dead, frequently being unable to do anything of itself. It remains in the position it was when seized by the rapture, whether standing or sitting, or whether with the hands opened or closed. Although once in a while the senses fail (sometimes it happened to me that they failed completely), this occurs rarely . . .
. . . At the height of rapture the faculties are lost to other things because of their intense union with God, for then, in my opinion, it neither sees, nor hears, nor feels.
Hope this helps