If the reader has had the patience to read to the end this unpretending work of ours, he has seen how God leads the soul from meditation to affective prayer, and from this, to the different degrees of mystical contemplation, in order, by means of this ladder of prayer, to raise her up to the sublime heights of perfection. It only remains for us, dear reader, to express our sincere desire that God, in His infinite bounty, may deign to lavish upon you graces of prayer, which may enable you to lay down steps of ascent in your heart, and make you rise from virtue to virtue. May it pkase Heaven, that every one of our brethren in religion may walk in the footsteps of our wiser forefathers, who were great in holiness because they were eminent in prayer ! May it please God, that they may apply themselves to purify their conscience, their mind, their heart and their will, that they may avoid pouring themselves forth entirely upon external things, that they may attend to these rather only through a sense of duty, and, their task once done, they may hasten to re-enter the solitude of their soul ! There, closing the doors of the sanctuary, and banishing from God’s house the tumult of cares and preoccupations, may they place their happiness in being alone with God alone, in pouring forth their heart in His presence, and altogether united to Him may they taste how sweet is the Lord. Earth has so little to say to him, who knows how to listen to God’s voice ; it is so easy to despise the vile things of this nether world, when one has once relished the Sovereign Good; and a heart, which is enamoured of the divine love, finds so great a charm and so much facility in conversing with Him whom it loves and serves !
Those who aim at perfection,” says the Ven. Louis Dupont, ” ought to commence and continue their career, by walking in the way of meditation (and the other kinds of ordinary prayer), until God, by a special vocation, raises them to a more elevated degree ; but as soon as this call is certain, it should be faithfully obeyed. To wish to raise oneself to contemplation, without being called thereto, or, to resist this attraction when God has deigned to give it, are the two extremes between which are to be found truth and virtue.” One must therefore beware of wishing to abandon too hastily meditation for affective prayer, or, prematurely, to leave this for mystical contemplation. The form of our prayer is an instrument of perfection, and every instrument should be proportioned to our size and our strength. No doubt we may desire and ask progress in prayer; but we should much more earnestly ask and desire progress in virtue; and, while waiting in humble patience for the divine invitation, the spouse should employ her time in healing her wounds and adorning herself with all virtues, to the end that, when the hour of the spiritual banquet comes, she may not be found unprovided with the nuptial garment.
We would also exhort our brethren not to lose courage, not to turn back, notwithstanding the difficulties, the aridities, the disgusts and other pains, which are wont to beset the man of prayer. Does it cost a warrior nothing to win glory, a labourer nothing to fertilise the soil, a merchant nothing to make a fortune? Should we then fear fatigue and sacrifice, when there is question of working the golden mine of prayer? “If there are many who begin well, there are but few who reach the term, and yet, perseverance alone shall be crowned, it alone shall receive the prize. There is no virtue to be had without trouble, great rewards are not to be obtained but by great labours.”
Above all, we wish in conclusion to remind our brethren, that prayer, whatever be its kind or degree, is not perfection ; it is only a most potent means, a wonderfully fertile soil; hence, we must labour to make it produce, both while it lasts and after it is ended, the rich harvest of virtue it promises. It is a tree, that should always bear an abundance of flowers and fruits. The various, and sometimes very intense, acts, which are made during it in great numbers, are fruits already garnered, merits really acquired ; but, moreover, we are instructed as to our duty, we have taken resolutions, our petitions have made grace abound, and all these are blossoms to be afterwards developed into fruits. The best prayer is not that which is most savoury, but that which is most fruitful; not that which consoles, but that which transforms us ; not that which elevates us in the common or the mystical ways, but that which makes us humble, detached, obedient, generous, faithful to all our duties. Assuredly, we highly esteem contemplation, provided, however, it unites our will to God’s, transforms our life, or, at least, advances us in virtue. As the Sovereign Judge has declared: ” the tree is known by its fruits.” We should, therefore, desire to advance in prayer, only in order to make progress in perfection. Instead of curiously examining what degree our communications with God have attained, we should rather consider whether we have derived from them all possible profit, in order to die to ourselves and develop in our soul the Divine life.