Discussion: Prayer is the Encounter of God’s Thirst with Ours.

“Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him.[1]

In our monthly discussion group, today we began our discussion on Christian Prayer. I wanted to highlight something in particular that Fr. Dominic expressed early in our discussion where the Catechism focuses on the woman encountering Jesus at the well in the Gospel of John Ch. 4. Christ asks her for a drink, and in fact, in prayer, it is here where it is revealed that God thirsts so we may thirst for Him. The woman at the well is such a beautiful image of the give and take of prayer life. The woman encounters the Incarnation is the prime revelation of God and the prime revealer. The more I thought about it today with its connection to Jesus on the cross, “I thirst” and St. Mother Teresa the more and more it became clear. So, I thank Fr. Dominic highlighting it. It is when we take up our cross and join it with Jesus that our thirst begins to be quenched by living water.
In fact, St. Teresa of Avila uses the imagery of well in her famous autobiography to illuminate the development of prayer. She explains that it is the constant struggle of pulling up buckets sometimes filled with mud that is part of the development of prayer. The more one sends down the bucket the more one begins to pull up water to grow a beautiful garden.

What is this beauty? It is the fruit of joy from our relationship with God! It must all begin with prayer or there can be no relationship with God. “Prayer is the response of faith to the free promise of salvation and also a response of love to the thirst of the only Son of God[2]” So, if prayer is the response of faith then ask yourself “how is your prayer life?” What does this tell you about your faith?

This discussion group is available for all patrons of the Pilgrims of Christ tier.

God Bless!

[1] Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 614.

[2] Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 614.

The Finches–Haiku

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Two finches are here

Golden and Red, now Sparrow.

Eat and Share a meal

Recently, I’ve read two books that have spoken to me on a very spiritual level. The first being In Praise of the Useless Life by Br. Paul Quenon. In that particular book, although I had some issues with theological concerns, Br. Paul spoke about how our society no longer has the capacity for memorization. Our souls no longer have music within them. Of course, naturally, this is because as the second book I’ve read by Cardinal Robert Sarah, The Power of Silence, we’ve let noise drown them out. How can we hope to pray and hear the voice of God in this fast-paced, noisy atmosphere?

Br. Paul speaks about reading, learning, and writing poetry to stir the music of the soul. He says:

“Prayer, mute as the ground, is a seedbed for poetry. Prayer, while at rest out on the ground, catches plenty of seeds. The kind nursery of nature is congenial to prayer and nurtures poetry. They form a symbiosis, like bees and trees, which thrive on one another despite all their differences. It is quite cogent how psalms in choir, how prophecy and gospel, how all great poetry, nurtures prayer; equally cogent are prayer and poetry. They can do without one another, and often do, but not as well. Like kissing cousins, you have to keep them apart sometimes or they will get to scrapping, get in each other’s way, get to too much kissing. (Quenon, Paul. In Praise of the Useless Life (p. 79).

Br. Paul gives Haiku as an easy example to start writing poetry: a form not concerned with a meter or rhyming, but merely syllables. Of course, as I remember from taking a college class on poetry, depending on what part of the country you are from determines how many syllables are in a word! So, I’ve written a few here and there since reading the book and it has certainly helped me to contemplate the mystery of God.

In this particular Haiku, I write about finches eating together in community. In this community, there can be found golden finches, house finches, and somehow a sparrow—who is no finch at all! As I contemplated this particular scene, I found the voice of God in the silence. The story of the covenant of Israel and that of the New Covenant of Christ. Christians, especially, the Gentiles, are the sparrow who God have given the great grace to dine at the great feast in community of His covenant.

Take a moment to reflect on the image of finches with the sparrow described in this haiku. And reflect with it what St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians 1:3-6:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens] 4 as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love 5 he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, 6 for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved.

 

 

On Meditation and Contemplative Prayer

sd via dwightlockenecker.com

Meditation and Contemplative prayer allows us to silence a great many distractions in our lives. In meditation, such as Lectio Divina, we can read the text and ask the Lord, “What am I to learn?” In this form, our minds are allowed to explore and be illuminated rather than be reactive as modernity has trained our minds. Finally, Contemplative prayer as CCC 2715 explains, “is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. “I look at him and he looks at me.” The gift given allows us to order our will with the renunciation of our individualistic desires.

One technique that is described in Fr. Michael Casey’s book Toward God is Lectio Divina, which he describes as holy reading. (p. 67) The reading of scripture is not the same as reading the books of the Bible in a narrative form but rather with reverence and meditation. Fr. Casey explains that “one needs to be convinced that the text of the Bible being used is substantially accurate. If one is reading for a more theological standpoint, a Bible that is translated into a more literal translation may be preferred over a dynamic translation which is better suited for narrative uses of scripture.

Fr. Casey illustrates further that when practicing the technique of holy reading, one must process through the text at a much slower pace and with a vocalized prayer to focus more intently on each word. (p.71) The process may take as long as a year to read a single book of scripture. However, as the Catechism reflects in paragraph 2708: “Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. This mobilization of faculties is necessary to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart, and strengthen our will to follow Christ. Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ, as in Lectio Divina or the rosary. This form of prayerful reflection is of great value, but Christian prayer should go further: to the knowledge of the love of the Lord Jesus, to union with him.”The process becomes naturally efficacious because it allows the text to continually speak to us within the parameters of our own lives and develop a greater appreciation for the nurturing word of God.

On Prayer and Form

67525f0e3bfd3d4cebea5e87ee318d32--no-se-catholicvia pinterest Debbie Cannon

So how does prayer nourish our souls? The ancients of spoke of the soul as the heart and the ancient Church was no different in this respect. Fr. Casey in his book Toward God speaks of prayer being a compunction of our heart derived from the original meaning from its Latin origin meaning, “the word compunction points to an experience being pricked or punctured…Compunction in this sense is an arousal, an awakening.” (p.43)

In regards to being the products of the philosophy of Individualism in our modern world, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains in paragraph 2704, the vocal form of prayer, “is the form of prayer most readily accessible to groups.” Our cooperation with God’s grace bestows on us an opening into our hardened hearts that allows us to turn away from our selfish individualistic natures toward the communio of our Christian life.

After the fall of man, our hearts have been turned away from God by original sin. Furthermore, n our modern society, we’ve been constantly bombarded with hedonism and a culture that turns out wills inward which have caused our hearts to harden like the Pharaoh of Exodus when Moses said to him that God had decreed to let his people go.

Personal prayer is one that is called for in the Gospels, as in the Gospel of Matthew 6:6 RSV,But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” It is a method of prayer best suited for private devotion to foster a relationship with God through vocal, meditative, and contemplative prayer. It is one that is generally more silent and reserve to conduce an opportunity for God to speak to us through our meditation of scriptures or the life of Christ. It’s an interaction where as in John Chapter 4, we can drink from the true living water and be refreshed.

The difference in Communal Prayer is one that it highlights one of attributes from God that we are made to be social and for each other. As the persons in the Holy Trinity show us the perfect love between each person of the one true God, we’re to learn how to properly love each other. We can do this by coming together, singing, and as we attend the sacrifice of the mass to participate in the communal meal aspect of the mass, where rich, poor, healthy, sick etc. all eat from the same table. In this manner, the communal prayer gives us the grace to see the dignity of all our brothers and sisters.

One great types of communal prayer is Liturgical Prayer which is the great work of the Church. It is the participation in Christ’s own prayer addressed to the Father in Holy Spirit. (CCC 1073) As the Catechism in paragraph 1074 says, “The Liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it also the font from which all her power flows.” Of course, the passage is a quotation from the Vatican II document on the sacred liturgy–Sacrosanctum concilium. As the Catechism explains, the work of the Church is utilized by initiating the faith into the mystery of Christ by proceeding from the visible to the invisible.

In fact, there is no greater work or prayer than the Liturgy of the Mass, as the Catechism says, “The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.” (CCC, 1324.) In the liturgy of the mass, we are witnesses of the great paschal mystery of Christ, the paschal victim, who takes away the sins of the world.

On Prayer

Grace_Cathedral_-_Votive_Rack photo via Wikipedia

Our prayer life must be one undertaken through the instruction of the Holy Spirit and also by ordering our will toward God. The Catechism reads, “Through living transmission (Sacred Tradition) within “the believing and praying Church,” the Holy Spirit teaches the children of God how to pray.”(CCC 2650) If we’re moved to learn how to pray through the traditions of the Church, the initiation is by the grace of God. However, the Catechism does not contradict the Spirit, that one must also have the will to pray and so we must initially cooperate with God’s grace.

Nonetheless, the idea of a radical will, which would still be a creation of God, somehow acts radically on its own from our creator goes against the Thomistic understanding of God’s nature being existence. Our wills would cease to exist if there was no necessary being who sustains them by being pure actuality. So, in regards to prayer, as we can form poor habits or good habits, we must cooperate with grace and practice short bursts of prayer, practice the sacraments, and build the habits of virtue which is in the tradition of faith.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reiterates these points by asserting in paragraph CCC 2726, “Those who seek God by prayer are quickly discouraged because they do not know that prayer comes also from the Holy Spirit and not from themselves alone.” The desire to pray is stirred by God’s grace, and it is up to our cooperation with His grace whether we can order our wills to learn from the traditions of our Church.

So how can we pray? Of course, the two major types of prayer are could be categorized into personal and communal. One of the obvious, in most cases, differences between personal prayer and communal prayer is silence. Naturally, as creatures who primarily communicate our intellect through the spoken word when we’re together in a community, we often pray out loud so others can hear, but when we’re alone with God that when we can hear the call of God like a gentle breeze.

So how can we learn to persevere in our personal prayer? Fr. Michael Casey makes two points on this distinction in his book Toward God, “Prayer is not extrinsic. It is a conscious attempt to identify with our natural tendency toward God. It tries to release our innate buoyant impulse. If a person learning to swim doubts that the body will float naturally, much energy will be used to avoid disaster. Others, convinced of their natural buoyancy, will simply relax, feel supported by the water and enjoy the primal sense of beings borne up.” (p. 29)

The analogy of learning how to swim in connection to learning how to prayer really resonates with me. Sure, swimming can be a communal experience once someone knows how to swim properly; however, although friends can give tips on how to swim, it is often an experience that must be learned between the water and the swimmer. If anyone has ever jumped into a swimming pool and sunk to the bottom, it is one of the few places in the Western world where one can experience physical silence. And in that silence, if one relaxes and gives full trust to the water, their bodies will float naturally to the top just as Fr. Casey explains.

It is in the silence of individual prayer where we can hear the voice of God because as Fr. Casey explains, “We do not produce prayer. During prayer time we do not attempt to initiate a relationship with God; that relationship already exists.” (p.33)

Everything is a result of God’s grace.