Since the sixteenth century, especially in those cultures secretly influenced by Cartesian dualism, there has been a tendency to consider the spiritual life entirely as a matter of interior feelings, states, and actions. The disembodied spirituality that resulted often concentrated excessively on the conscious experience of individuals and neglected not only the deeper stirrings of the human spirit but also the everyday role played by sacramental practice, good works, and community life. The spiritual life was considered almost as a private affair between oneself and God, and meditation became a means of exercising control over one’s life rather than a channel by which one could open oneself to be surprised by God… Traditional monastic life, on the contrary, emphasized the importance of arriving at a harmony of body and soul, both working together toward the same goal. A monk prayed and a monk worked; it was expected that the bodily work he did for the support of the community would be permeated by prayer.
Contemplation can never be seen as the outcome of a process. It remains a gift from God that is not automatically associated with particular human acts. It is given in God’s time not as a “reward” for work well done, but as an energizing component with the total context of life.