The stages of prayer form, so to speak, a résumé of the mystical life as a whole; and the mystical life, it can be said, in a certain sense takes in the entire spiritual life and even the whole Christian life in the strict sense of the term — since every faithful Christian, by the mere fact of being baptized into Christ, which is equivalent to stripping oneself mystically of self and putting on Christ, symbolizes his own death to all things, his spiritual burial and resurrection, and his new life hidden with Christ in God. The mysterious life thus hidden in God is the mystical life, a life that, if he is to be perfect and like another Christ— christianus alter Christus — must reproduce over again in every Christian, as we shall now see, all the wonderful mysteries of our Savior.
By Baptism, indeed, we are engrafted into Christ so as to form with Him one single body — His Mystical Body. We are given life by His very Spirit. His divine sentiments enter into us in ever-increasing measure, in proportion as we strip ourselves of our own. That is how we receive the adoption of the sons of God, by means of the pouring into our souls of the Holy Spirit, who, by His gift of piety, moves us to address Almighty God by the sweet name of “Father,” and to serve Him, love Him, and honor Him as such, praying in the manner we ought.
Thus He dwells in us, not only sealing us with the living image of Christ, whose features He imprints upon us, but also anointing us and illuminating us with the gentleness, sweetness, and splendor of His grace, which is in substance the whole of mystical life and eternal life itself, hidden and immanent within us. We receive Him as the fount of living water that, by divine impulse or instinct, makes us rush forward toward eternal life. He dwells in us not only as the life-giver who purifies, fortifies, and renews us, destroying in us all the elements of death, but also as Lord, with full right to dominate, direct, and govern us, imposing upon us His sweet laws of love that give us the glorious spiritual liberty of the sons of God and free us from the tyranny and slavery of the world and of the life of routine.
All our good consists, then, in cleaving to God until we have become one spirit with Him; in being truly docile and
teachable toward Him, never grieving His loving Spirit, not resisting, much less extinguishing the Spirit, or letting Him call to us in vain; striving, on the contrary, to be very attentive to Him, interiorly recollected that we may catch every sound of His voice, and desiring faithfully to accomplish that which the Lord our God deigns to speak within us, for He speaks words of peace to His saints and to all those who are converted to the heart. Then, dwelling in us, as St. John of the Cross says, “with pleasure,” He will not tarry in making Himself the sweet Master, Director, Consoler, and Lord of our souls, moving and governing us in all things as if we were perfect sons of God, causing us to proceed, not according to flesh and blood— non secundum hominem—but in a manner that is supernatural, superhuman, and truly divine—that is, mystically, or secundum Deum.
To this end all the intimate, loving, and familiar intercourse with God by means of prayer and contemplation is ordained, to the copying and imitation as perfectly as possible—allowing the divine Spirit to imprint them in us “supernaturally”—of the adorable perfections of the heavenly Father, striving to this purpose to become configured to His only-begotten Son, the splendor of His glory and our exemplar and model.
In order, then, to understand the stages that this divine life offers and the phenomena that it presents from the time it is received in Baptism until it is fully unfolded in glory, it is essential to keep well before the mind all the mysteries—joyful, sorrowful, and glorious—of the life of our Lord. To that end, it is good that we should meditate on them deeply at the side of Mary, Mother of Divine Grace, in the holy Rosary; for all of them—from the Incarnation itself, by the Holy Spirit, of the Virgin Mary, and from the birth of Christ to His Passion, death, Resurrection, and the sending of the same divine Spirit, in which sending the marvels of the Christian life are consummated—have to be reproduced, each in its own way, as in so many other Christs, in all perfect Christians. Those in whom they have not been reproduced in any way will always be very imperfect and puny followers of Christ, as St. Bernard warns us (Serm. 44).