The fact is, that there is no gulf between the ordinary and the supernatural in prayer. The soul in its quest, passes through unconscious and undistinguishable steps, just as the old year melts tranquilly into the new, without any sound breaking the silence of midnight.
Theologians differ as to where the precise point begins, when the ordinary ceases and the supernatural prayer begins. Now if we speak of common, or acquired, or as it is commonly called, natural contemplation, with respect to the subjects who are capable of contemplation, St. Gregory says, that people of every sort, of both sexes and of all conditions, are capable of contemplation, if they are instructed. St. Bernard and St. Bonaventure say, that unlearned simple individuals are quite appropriate for contemplation.
(The order of the five rungs of Jacob's Ladder are as follows: " Reading leads to Understanding, Understanding leads to Knowledge, Knowledge leads to Meditation, Meditation leads to Contemplation, Contemplation Leads to union with God.) (1)
It is enough for my purpose at present and touch upon the easiness of common or acquired contemplation. It is obvious then, that the prayer of the desert monks, in its ordinary state, was not so far removed that it's useless to us. We may distort the words of the poet, and say; one touch of grace makes the whole world kin.
Therefore, it is with no antiquarian curiosity that we gaze down into the hearts of those old hermits. Their fragmentary sayings, their simple, piousness, their almost humorous utterances are indeed remarkable, if only as orphans and strays from that great ocean of the past, flung up on the shore out of the depths where so much is sunken forever.
Even as men we read with interest those verses of the dead, and love to think of those uncouth hermits, and of Mary of Egypt wandering about the solitude of the Moab covered with her long, black, crusty hair. She, too, was a veritable daughter of Eve,(2) with her heart full of the memory of life's sorrows and sins, and her eyes no longer lit up with the wild light of the delirium of vice and of Alexandrian orgies, but glowing softly with the blessed peace of conscious forgiveness.
(1) Taken from "Jacob's Ladder" a book in progress by Bro. Smith SGS
(2)A snippet from "The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe."