What is the meaning and advantage of "Recollection?"


#1

Francisco de Osuna wrote a lengthly treatise on recollection called Third Spiritual Alphabet. This wonderful work was given to St. Teresa of Avila by her wise uncle who believed, as proved true, that it would be the means to great spiritual devotion through the habit of recollection.

What does the word itself mean to Osuna? He offers several pages of explanation, briefly outlined below. (Treatise VI.3)

  1. This kind of prayer is called wisdom because it is delectable knowing. Such wisdom is found only among the perfect, for the imperfect are not given to eat of such sublime teaching. It is called wisdom because it allows us to know how God tastes.

  2. This kind of prayer is called the art of love because only through love is it realized, and in it love is multiplied more than in any other art or instruction, and also because Christ, the God of Love, teaches it to those with a loving heart.

  3. It is also called union because the person who attains to God in this prayer is made one spirit with him by an interchange of wills whereby he wants only what God wants.

  4. It is also called abstinence, for whoever desires to practice this devotion must abstain not only from sin and impurity but also from human love and consolations legitimately derived from creatures. He must also abstain from thought, and forsake all thought that could inebriate the heart and rob his prudence and interior attentiveness.

  5. It is called enkindling, for the torches of our hearts are lit in love of the Lord.

  6. It is called a welcome for we go forth on swift desire to open and empty our hearts to present them to God.

  7. It is called consent, for those opposed to God go other ways, but on this one, the traveler consents to all God’s wishes and vanquishes contradiction and rebellion felt within.

  8. It is called the marrow and fat that, with lasting justification, we offer God to burn the sacrifices.

  9. It is called attraction, for we can attract God with it. As something empty attracts that which can fill it, so the heart emptied of worldly things attracts God to occupy it and supply its needs. For that reason it is also named dilation of the heart and breast.

10.It is called adoption according to the image of Esther, the impoverished soul, who was adopted by Mardochai, who represents Christ. The soul in all ways obeys and is subject to him and, like the adopted child who soon begins to enjoy the good things of the father, those who practice this devotion soon taste the joys of God.

  1. It is called the arrival of the Lord to the soul, for through it the Lord visits those who call out to him with sighs.

  2. It is called spiritual ascension with Christ and captivity whereby we submit the understanding to Him.

May we share our reflections as I begin to share some of his most key thoughts that struck me.


#2

Originally by Joysong
Recollection:
Wisdom
Art of love
Union
Abstinence
Enkindling
Welcome
Consent
Marrow and fat
Attraction
Adoption
Arrival of the Lord
Spiritual ascension

What a good summary about recollection. And these thoughts are indeed striking.

My personal experience of recollection is basically what Brother Lawrence said – the practice of the presence of God, the frequent turning inward to adore Him and the clinging to Him and His love. I have never thought about recollection of God in so many essences. I guess perfect recollection does include all the above. Mine is certainly far from perfect, the enkindling and attraction are probably the ones I can identify with the most, the union is the all time intention and longing.


#3

My personal experience of recollection is basically what Brother Lawrence said – the practice of the presence of God, the frequent turning inward to adore Him and the clinging to Him and His love.

:thumbsup: I think that if you and I were writing Osuna’s chapter, we would have added the above definition to his list … it also clearly defines this wonderful spiritual devotion. Please share some of Brother’s words as we go along, InLight, and I look for Dave’s comments as well, since he is a most faithful disciple of Brother Lawrence.

Carole


#4

Brother Lawrence told us to take delight in and become accustomed to God’s divine company, “conversing lovingly with him all the time, at every moment, without rule or measure.” He said, “A brief lifting up of the heart is enough”, also “to repeat these little inner adorations frequently throughout the day” , and “to think of God often, night and day, in all your activities, and even when you relax”, and “adore him continually, live and die with him.” Brother Lawrence could adore the Lord “even though on the run with sword in hand”.

To me, that is the true spirit of recollection.


#5

Very well said, InLight. Brother Lawrence had such a simple soul wholly on fire with love for God, and to think it began with his little devotion we call ‘recollection!’

. . . sharing some more thoughts from Osuna that were significant to me. [pg. 162]

As one learned person says and as reason teaches, clearly people who always want to read or pray vocally or search assiduously for works of devotion from the mouths of those who utter them are deceived if they think that that alone will bring them to this holy devotion [recollection], which is nothing more than a desire and interior movement in the heart. Those things help a little, but in themselves are not sufficient. Such people may be moved to devotion by reading and vocal prayer and holy words, but take away the book and devout sayings and see how soon they are forgotten. Then they will swear devotion will not return unless they have back the books and words that prompted it.

Now if we had to lack one or the other of these theologies [speculative vs. hidden], it would be incomparably better to enjoy the second, for it is far more desirable to have pious devout love for the Lord than merely cold, penetrating understanding revealed through study. Since heretics and demons can enjoy the first, hidden theology is much more desirable than speculative. You should know that when the soul’s intelligence, which is the highest power among those we know, advances to desire or love what it ponders, it is said to have risen almost above itself, which act is known as a transport of the soul and its spirit.

Compare this to what happens when water or some liquid is heated up in a container set over fire. When the liquid, which had been calm, begins to bubble and boil, it seems as if it cannot be held in the container, but by virtue of the heart, surely will spill over itself and be carried beyond itself. Thus the soul not yet enkindled by the loving heat of mystical theology seems listless and self-contained, but when the spirit of love is conceived in the fervor of the heart, in some way the soul goes jumping outside of itself. In this way it can be said that what was science and speculative knowledge in the intelligence has now become wisdom because the love of goodness has been added. This kind of prayer is also called “wisdom” because as you can see, it is delectable knowing. It is also named dilation of the heart and breast.

We who have studied St. Teresa’s writings may remember her explanation of various waters of prayer, particularly the later water that proceeds from within, as a spring. Several of the images she used in her own writings were previously absorbed through her reading Osuna, Yet simple reading did not become fruit until she put into practice what she read, and then gained that hidden treasure we call wisdom, the pearl of great price.


#6

I really appreciate this post - for me, personally and in humility, #3 and #1 might be stretching things a bit but I’d love to be able to know that that one is part of my spending time in lectio then reaching to Him in love! Maybe I need to concentrate more on #4 and #7?:blush: :shrug:


#7

[quote=Brigid12]I really appreciate this post - for me, personally and in humility, #3 and #1 might be stretching things a bit but I’d love to be able to know that that one is part of my spending time in lectio then reaching to Him in love! Maybe I need to concentrate more on #4 and #7?
[/quote]

This is a wonderful practice, Brigid, and I hope you stay with it and continue to nurture your love for Christ. The point of departure comes when God calls us to deeper contemplative prayer and weans us from the former way of ‘knowing’ such as in lectio. For me, I remember that I had almost a spiritual gluttony, going from book to book to book, expecting to find the same loving consolation as always. God begins to dry up that source, and we learn of Him through the book of silent loving, wordless prayer, which would be impossible to sustain if we had not formerly practiced these very important exercises.

It is good to reflect that outside our practice of lectio, we may still acquire the practice of recollection in order to sustain that loving attentiveness to Him throughout our day. As InLight mentioned, it is simply a glance of love as often as possible, and in some wonderful way, God may lift us from the glance to the ‘delectable knowing!’

As the Lord helps me to share, I hope to touch on #4 and #7 for those of us who find a stalemate even in our wonderful experiences of recollection. I have learned that God calls us to more and more perfection, and the indulgences which did not offend Him as we were being gradually pruned, if you will, are now to be set aside if we wish to go further.


#8

Originally by Joysong
I have learned that God calls us to more and more perfection,

That is so true. God call each one of us to perfection. That really is an universal call. It’s up to the individual to respond to the call or not.

As for how to work toward perfection, I believe the closeness to the Lord results from frequent recollection, can help us be sensitive to any inner thought, intention, motivation or emotion that may possibly displease Him. I am not talking about sin but imperfection here.

When one is sincerely responding to the call of perfection, one will avoid any venial sin and pay close attention to his own imperfections. The person is brutally honest to his inner self and he is willingly transparent in front of the Lord. When he realizes his imperfection, he opens his heart wide open for the Lord to enter. He asks Him to cleanse and purify the imperfection with no reservation. He hopes that with God’s grace, his soul will be refined little by little. This is my own perception, not quoting any one’s teaching.


#9

So glad I found this thread! Maybe you can help me Joysong.
There is a Opus Dei recollection coming up next week close to my area. I was invited by a woman who is very nice to me, even though I am a unbaptised person now. I met her at daily mass.
She told me there is the exposed host (like adoration?) and a talk about scripture (but not a homily?) and prayers, ect. Opportunity for those who can have confession (not me:( ) and silent meditation, I am sure there is more but she gave me a brief outline only, so I don’t know what else is included.
Is there any problem in going to these recollections as far as the church is concerned if one like myself simply refrains from the things I am barred from?


#10

Not a problem at all, Notsmart. Your name is deceiving, for you are very enlightened!

Go with God’s grace, and ask Him to touch your heart with those things that He wants you to understand and experience. Be a wise money changer, taking the good that lifts your soul, and leaving aside anything that doesn’t feel ‘anointed’ with God’s inspiration to you personally.


#11

Thank you so much Joysong, I will add you to my prayers tonight.
I was so hesitant to start a thread about this, after seeing so many threads that made me nervous to ask some things. Finally, after a lot of soul searching, here is your thread!
You made me feel comfortable to try something that I wanted to, but needed a nudge. Your advice sounds very logical, and I intend to go ahead and take the good, leave if any bad behind, and hope to let whatever God will’s for me to leave with, I take into myself.


#12

This is so true. :slight_smile:

I think the true joy of recollection doesn’t really flow forth until it becomes habitual, in the manner of Brother Lawrence as already discussed. So we would do well to “extend” our prayerful practices - like lectio - to make it a means for ongoing recollection throughout the day. And then we will see an interesting thing happens . . . our recollection takes on several different “flavors.”

Sometimes our heart just gushes forth in a spontaneous outpouring of brief, interior words. There’s no stopping it. For me, those moments of the Prayer of the Heart are few and far between.

And sometimes we are more dry and the well seems empty. At those times, recalling the “word” we learned from our daily lectio and making that the means of our recollection throughout the day is a wonderful thing to do. For example, we might repeatedly recall a brief verse like “Thy will be done,” “Be still and know I am God,” or “My peace I give you.” We don’t think or analyze these words . . . but gently recall and savor them. Many times this is all that is needed to rekindle are heart that has momentarily run dry.

And sometimes, of course, no words are needed at all. Recollection is close at hand . . . a matter of inner Simplicity. For example, a brief glimpse of the trees gently swaying in the wind might be all that is needed. Nothing needs to be said or mentally recalled . . . an inner glance or “smile” suffices to recall our minds back to God’s presence.

Very nice thread!
Dave:)


#13

[quote=InLight]When one is sincerely responding to the call of perfection, one will avoid any venial sin and pay close attention to his own imperfections. The person is brutally honest to his inner self and he is willingly transparent in front of the Lord. When he realizes his imperfection, he opens his heart wide open for the Lord to enter. He asks Him to cleanse and purify the imperfection with no reservation. He hopes that with God’s grace, his soul will be refined little by little. This is my own perception, not quoting any one’s teaching.
[/quote]

Hi InLight,

I meant to respond yesterday, but I wanted to find something Osuna had said about this. Well, I just couldn’t remember where to look for it, so hopefully, if it’s meant to share, I’ll find it. :o

Anyway, I did stumble on St. Teresa’s words when I was looking for the paragraph where she talked about reading Osuna’s “Alphabet.” I was struck by the several times in that brief chapter of her autobiography where she believed her problems stemmed from not avoiding the occasions of sin. I sensed her deep remorse for years of laxity was traced back to venturing into those occasions that caused her to fall, and in not being resolute enough to give them up.

In one of Osuna’s chapters, he strictly challenges the reader to “Guard your heart with great vigilance, for out of it come the issues of life.” His tone was very stern about regulating one’s thoughts, for “thoughts are the root of the deed,” and must be nipped before they move us into an ‘occasion of sin.’ I’m surprised St. Teresa did not elaborate on that point in her writings, since she observed how much Osuna stressed that point.

As you mentioned above, hopefully we will be brutally honest before God in recognizing our weakness in certain areas, and love Him enough to lay aside pursuits of our own will in order to follow His.


#14

[quote=DBT]I think the true joy of recollection doesn’t really flow forth until it becomes habitual, in the manner of Brother Lawrence as already discussed.
[/quote]

Very nice post, Dave! From your memory of growing in habitual recollection, did you practice any of Brother’s advice to acquire that habit, such as a mental exercise of remembrance, or did it just come naturally? In other words, did your love just grow into simple continual attentiveness to God as a result of lectio, spiritual reading, adoration, or all of these? Do you believe anyone can acquire recollection without them?


#15

First I should say I practice it very imperfectly so I would do well to practice what I so often preach :slight_smile:

A couple of thoughts from my own perspective to add to what Inlight has already contributed . . .

  1. What strikes me about Brother Lawrence is the whole notion of a “methodless method.” We practice recollection however our spirit calls us in the particular moment . . . hence the meaning behind the flavors I mentioned. Of course there are many other flavors that I didn’t have time to describe.

  2. I agree with Brother Lawrence’s comments that the practice of the presence of God can be very distasteful at first. It goes against our ingrained nature to compartmentalize God . . . to have Him when we want, but to push Him away when He’s not needed. It’s at the beginning times like this that a “mental exercise of rememberance” as you say is very important to help establish the practice. My comments about extending the word from lectio throughout the day is one means to do that . . . something that is still part of my particular way of applying Brother Lawrence’s teaching to my life.

  3. Another way of extending is to bring our mental prayer into this . . . “the loving conversation between friends.” In fact, that’s one way I’ve heard the way of Brother Lawrence described . . . on going, unending mental prayer. But, of course, we must always remember whom we are speaking with. One of the most personally damning comments I’ve read in a long time goes something like this: “The perfect man talks to God always, the imperfect man just thinks he does.” What this imperfect man is really doing is indulging his thoughts - talking to himself about spiritual things. He’s practicing a monologue when it should be a dialogue :slight_smile: So what we do, according to this author, is simply go with the thoughts that come to us . . . but continually direct them to God rather than ourselves.

  4. Then, at some point, our efforts are rewarded and the practice becomes second nature . . . almost like breathing . . . we don’t even think about it much. Distaste gives way to joy and ease. And interior simplicity becomes the way. Words become less and less necessary because we realize a simple interior glance can convey more meaning than an abundance of words. As you say, it’s more like attentiveness and presence than actual conversation. The active begins to blend with the passive and presence begins to take on a whole new meaning. But that’s a topic for another thread I suppose. Very hard to describe, as you know. :slight_smile:

  5. And, like Brother Lawrence says, anyone can do this (active recollection) . . . it’s not beyond anyone’s means. However, IMO, the desire to do so and the ability to perservere is largely grace.

Dave :slight_smile:


#16

Originally by Joysong
In one of Osuna’s chapters, he strictly challenges the reader to “Guard your heart with great vigilance, for out of it come the issues of life.” His tone was very stern about regulating one’s thoughts, for “thoughts are the root of the deed,”

Very true.
We need to ask God to govern our thoughts as soon as we realize certain thoughts should not be entertained.

In order to do that, one has to stay close to God. That is where the frequent recollection comes in, the importance and the very topic we are currently discussing.

If one forms a good habit of frequent recollection, one is staying close to God – that is, like Dave said, a conversation is on going, not a monologue.

When one stays in conversation with God, he will be very alert to what thoughts are pleasing to God and what thoughts are not. It becomes a natural thing to turn to the one he is with, the one he trusts and loves, asking Him to help govern his heart.

Originally by DBT
And, like Brother Lawrence says, anyone can do this (active recollection) . . . it’s not beyond anyone’s means. However, IMO, the desire to do so and the ability to persevere is largely grace.

I cannot agree with you more. The desire to stay in frequent recollection and the ability to persevere is definitely by God’s grace.

Anyone can achieve active recollection by practicing. Once the habit is formed, it becomes a second nature. Then the active recollection, though still active, could assume the passive nature. It is like once the love relationship is established, it is natural to converse with the beloved all the time. At this point, the person won’t think “Oh, I should talk to the Lord”, the person just talk to the Lord. Therefore, though the person still initiates the conversation, his recollection is getting into the infused nature. Does this make sense?


#17

[quote=InLight]At this point, the person won’t think “Oh, I should talk to the Lord”, the person just talks to the Lord. Therefore, though the person still initiates the conversation, his recollection is getting into the infused nature. Does this make sense?
[/quote]

Perfect sense, InLight. I would like to mention, too, those busy times, or just times when we are not thinking about ‘initiating the conversation’ due to other preoccupations, when He sends that little spark of reminder. I can’t think of a word here, but He makes us interiorly aware of His presence, and we immediately turn from our preoccupation to give Him a moment of our love. Those are precious ‘infusions’ of His gentle nudge, awakening, or whatever we call it. You and Dave certainly know what I’m saying. :heaven:


#18

THAT is so true. :slight_smile:

Distractions are the bane of one’s existence in practicing recollection. Sometimes I think the magnet pulling me away from God in my thoughts is stronger than the one that pulls me toward Him. But that’s just a part of our wounded nature so we must live with it and try and bring ourselves back to Him whenever we notice we’ve strayed.

HOWEVER, it is utterly amazing to me how often He comes . . . just as you say . . . to pull us back from the depths of our momentary preoccupation.

Along those lines, a long time ago here on these forums I heard a poster say she never had to look at her watch to remember when to pray the Angelus. At the appointed time, she just “felt” a gentle nudge and off she went. I’ve never forgot that.

Beyond words . . .

Dave :slight_smile:


#19

It occurred to me that distasteful plogging along trying to form the habit ought not to be a chore if the heart is advancing in love and is very desirous to do so, as you mentioned in #5. No matter in what manner Our Lord chooses to draw us, we can see the excellence of Osuna’s and Brother’s sentiments – that this very simple devotion is essential for spiritual growth and love of God.


#20

I just cannot help smile when the discussions are well understood. :slight_smile:


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