Fr. Thomas Dubay’s 9 Common Traits of Infused Contemplation

From: Dubay, T. (1989). Fire Within: St. Teresa of Avila, 
St. John of the Cross, and the Gospel—On Prayer (pp. 70–71). 
San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Fr. Thomas Dubay lists the following 9 traits that are common to all infused contemplation:

 1. There is an EXPERIENCE of God’s PRESENCE either after the manner of a peaceful, general, loving attention or of a dry reaching out for Him.

2. One experiences a great deal of FLUCTUATION in the intensity of this communion and in the diverse manners in which God makes Himself felt and known.

3. In advancing contemplation God gradually and slowly “CAPTURES” the inner faculties. He first occupies the will and then the imagination and the intellect. This is why in the beginnings of infused prayer distractions are common: only the will is taken over. Later on, during deep absorptions and ecstatic prayer, these distractions cease. This capturing is termed the ligature by some writers.

4. Infused prayer is PRODUCED modo divino, in the divine manner, whereas discursive meditation was modo humano, in the human manner.

5. The contemplation itself is DARK, that is, without images or concepts. God, Who is endlessly beyond all finite ideas and formulations, is now known in a superior way surpassing all our reasonings and thoughts. This prayer is neither vision nor locution nor feeling.

6. The prayer CANNOT be “figured out” or understood. Trying to dissect or analyze it by clear, concise ideas or concepts not only issues in frustration but also indicates a lack of understanding of what contemplation is.

7. There is in Christic contemplation a GRADUAL LENGTHENING of the time span during which the infusion lasts. In the beginnings the awareness is very brief and is punctured by frequent distractions, but as the years go by, and if one’s living of the Gospel keeps pace, what God gives increases not only in INTENSITY but also in DURATION. Even so, the principle of fluctuation mentioned in number 2 above is still operative.

8. While the beginnings of infused prayer appear utterly normal and cause no apprehension, later strong prayer gifts can trigger FEAR as a first reaction. It is not the beauty of the gift that begets the fear, but unfamiliarity with it. One wonders what it is and whence it comes. Once assured that its origin is divine, the recipient loses his initial fear.

9. Deepening communion with the indwelling Trinity brings with it a steadily progressive growth in HOLINESS: humility, love, patience, purity, fortitude and all the virtues. So necessary is this trait that a gradual increase in day-to-day Gospel living is an indispensable sign of the genuineness of any prayer: “From their fruits you will know them.”

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