On this side of heaven, we often experience a longing for union with God that can never be fully satisfied. But in holy contemplation, we get a glimpse of it. Just as Mass is a foretaste of the heavenly glory to come (CCC 1402-1405), as one grows closer to Christ, deeper and deeper forms of union in prayer exist.

Contemplation is a gift in prayer that plunges us deeper into the mystery of Christ's love for us. St. Teresa, again, teaches that "Contemplative prayer . . . is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us" (CCC 2709).

Note well all the references to the heart in the following excerpts from the Catechism (2709-2715):

Contemplative prayer seeks him "whom my soul loves" [Songs 1:7, cf. 3:14]. It is Jesus, and in him, the Father. We seek him, because to desire him is always the beginning of love . . . (CCC 2709).

The choice of the time and duration of the prayer arises from a determined will, revealing the secrets of the heart. One does not undertake contemplative prayer only when one has the time: one makes time for the Lord, with the firm determination not to give up, no matter what trials and dryness one may encounter... (CCC 2710).

Entering into contemplative prayer is like entering into the Eucharistic liturgy: we "gather up" the heart, recollect our whole being... abide in the dwelling place of the Lord... We let our masks fall and turn our hearts back to the Lord who loves us, so as to hand ourselves over to him as an offering to be purified and transformed (CCC 2711).

Contemplative prayer is a communion in which the Holy Trinity conforms man, the image of God, "to his likeness" (CCC 2713).

To read more, check out CCC 2697-2724.

In this Year of Faith, may God give us a new heart for prayer today.

This article was adapted and modified from an article originally appearing on Catholic Exchange in 2009. It is used with permission from the author.