Many Christians experience their conversion or surrender to Christ as a kind of ‘coming home’ experience. The joy of being united with Christ is sublime. However because we are living every day in the present physical world, we all know how easily we can be overtaken by the cares of this life. Quickly that former joy can seem like a distant memory. Developing an interior life restores and maintains that joy of union with God.
Down the ages, apostles and prophets have exhorted us to balance our exterior activities and actions (good works if you will) with a strong development of the interior life. Certain aspects of the Catholic church, the various contemplative Orders, have been faithful to this and it is little wonder therefore that there is a rich heritage of writings about the inner life. I’ve already mentioned some key writers who have influenced my journey (see the entry My beginnings). But I think with regards to the interior life it is Dom Chautard, The Soul of the Apostolate and Richard Foster with Celebration of Discipline, that stand out for me from the last Century. It says it all that we return to these and similar texts time and time again.
Although I consider the development of interior silence through contemplative prayer an extremely important discipline, I do not wish to diminish the disciplines of discursive meditation in all its forms; kataphatic prayer (see link); vocal prayer, such as confession, intercession, supplication, thanksgiving, etc; fasting; or Bible study (have I missed anything out?). They are all a balanced part of the same family, serving a common end – to enrich the interior life.
Jesus is always our teacher and certainly regarding the interior life. He weaves its importance throughout the Sermon on the Mount. I’ll look at the beatitudes another time, but for now I encourage a slow read of Matthew chapter six where he speaks of not doing our acts of righteousness in public (v1), praying unseen (v5), fasting unseen (v16), storing up treasure in heaven (which is hidden) (v20), seeking first his kingdom (v33) which is both among us and is to come. Jesus is our model of developing an interior life (Mt 14:23, 26:36, Mk 1:35, Mk 6:46, Lk 6:12).
In later blogs I will expand on why I think developing this interior life is so important, but for now I want to simply state – we neglect the interior life at our peril. To quote Chautard again ‘good works should be nothing but an overflow from the inner life’, ‘active works must begin and end in the interior life, and in it, find their means’, and ‘the active and interior lives are completely interdependent’.
I’d really appreciate you adding here what has encouraged you to develop the interior life.