1 Kings 11:29-32; 12:19
Evagrius Ponticus, a fourth-century Christian monk, instructed his disciples: "Strive to render your mind deaf and dumb at the time of prayer and then you will be able to pray." Evagrius was offering advice on a form of contemplative prayer called meditation. As a mystic, he trusted that God is present in the depth of the human heart and that inner Divinity could be accessed through the discipline of meditation.
The goal of meditation is to encounter the presence of God within the Silence of one’s Heart. This is accomplished through a gradual withdrawal of the physical senses from stimulation with the external world. Step by step, the meditator cuts off contact with the outside world by closing the sense doors one by one. First, the eyes go shut (that is the easy part). Then the meditator begins to encounter the constant chatter of the ego-mind which is agitated with desires, volitions and opinions. By advising the Christian meditator "to render the mind deaf and dumb," Evagrius is pointing the way to God which is beyond words, images and mental concepts. He is encouraging the meditator to continue the inner battle with the ego which fiercely resists being quiet. In time, the presence of God will be revealed within the depths of one’s self. This penetrating dynamic is described by the Psalmist as "deep calling unto deep" (Psalm 42:7).
Whenever the Gospels speak of Jesus healing physical afflictions, anyone walking the spiritual path realizes that the story also points to an inner healing. The transformative grace of meditation comes when we are finally able to go "deaf and dumb" in prayer – when we move our consciousness beyond words and concepts. For then the spiritual ears are open to the inner voice of God and any impediments to communication with the Spirit are removed. The blessing received by the impaired man in the Gospel is once again manifested: "the deaf hear and the mute speak."
Fr. Joe Mitchell, CP is the director of the Passionist Earth & Spirit Center in Louisville, KY.
See his website: www.earthandspiritcenter.org