There are three ways of prayer according to Catechism of the Catholic Church.
- Vocal prayer 口祷
- Meditation 默想（运用思维、想像、情感、渴望）
- Contemplation 心祷
What is the difference between meditation and contemplation? The following part is a summary from here.
Contemplative prayer is more passive or sublime experience of God. Meditative prayer is more from our work of seeking God (though with the aid from God). Contemplative prayer can be distinguished as the pure work from God.
However, meditation can be again differentiate with discursive meditation and affective meditation. Discursive meditation is more to logical analysis to discover the insight or deeper understanding about the God. And this discovery will lead to the conversation with God such as thanksgiving, praise, contrition, and petition.
Affective meditation is more to conversation (not necessarily emotional) from the soul.
After a period of spiritual maturity, a person without much discursive effort, can enter into “prayer of simplicity” (or prayer of quiet). This is the contemplative prayer.
A deeper contemplative prayer is “infused contemplation” which God submerges us in himself and we feel a union with him. This is actually another level of prayer.
Therefore the, most active mental prayer is discursive meditation, which leads to affective meditation, then followed by the contemplation.
However, sometimes we feel that our prayer life is not growing, or worse. So, to understand this, I summarized another post.
The faculties of the soul are intellect and will. Where the intellect allows us to know something abstract (not exactly knowing what or how); will allows us to freely choose good things. Contrary to our sense faculties, they are sight, sound, touch, taste, smell. Emotional and imagination “consolation” is more to the sense faculties. “Consolation” can also be experienced by intellect and will. Without these consolation, we are in the dryness of prayer. The dryness may come from ourselves, or from God, so that we are not looking for the “consolation”, but God himself, to grow our faith.
Consolation is a sense of presence of God in our souls and hearts, new insight about God, about the world, about ourselves, during meditation or prayer (refers from here).
The dryness from God, can also be assumed as “passive purification“, that is to burn our impurities that are beyond our reach. While “active purification” is our own acts such as mortification.
The long period of dryness on the level of emotions and imagination is also known as “dark night of the senses” (stated by St John of the Cross). If it is on the level of intellect and will, it is “dark night of the soul“. That is how the holy souls suffer in the purgatory (refers from here).