Liturgy and Contemplation by Jacques and Raissa Maritain, translated by Joseph W Evans, 96 pages
This short book forms a defense of the practice of contemplation, not only as something belonging to a few chosen ascetics pursuing perfection, but as a necessity for every Christian. Specifically, the Maritains are determined to counter the notion that solitary contemplation has a peculiarly subjective nature which places it in opposition to the public work of the liturgy. To the contrary, the authors assert, the nature of true contemplation involves self-denial rather than self-assertion, and without interior participation the liturgy lapses into exterior formality. The liturgy is rather itself an aid to contemplation, when celebrated fervently and not as a matter of routine. Contemplation, in the sense that the term is used here, and in which it is used by the great mystic saints, a contemplation of the heart, is the path of all virtue, the goal of the spiritual life.
A brief but compelling treatment of the subject, this is less difficult than Jacques Maritain's typical neo-Scholastic works, but it is also the product of ecclesiastical controversies of the mid-twentieth century and therefore somewhat antiquated. At least until those issues resurface, as they have a habit of doing.