Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

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The Reality of God and the Basic Acts of Prayer 3 – Fr. Romano Guardini

April 23, 2014
God's love for man must be worthy of God Himself: this it can be only if it is worthy of man as a person. Having invested man with the dignity of free will and responsibility, God treats him in a manner befitting this status; in other words, He honors man. This does not imply that man possesses anything in his own right which would compel God's respect, for whatever man possesses, including his status as a person, God has given to him. But having given it to him, God treats him accordingly. For the sake of His own honor, God maintains the dignity of man.

God’s love for man must be worthy of God Himself: this it can be only if it is worthy of man as a person. Having invested man with the dignity of free will and responsibility, God treats him in a manner befitting this status; in other words, He honors man. This does not imply that man possesses anything in his own right which would compel God’s respect, for whatever man possesses, including his status as a person, God has given to him. But having given it to him, God treats him accordingly. For the sake of His own honor, God maintains the dignity of man.

This week I’m featuring a multiple post from Guardini’s classic The Art of Praying. Nothing is more essential to our faith, our health and well being than prayer. Learning to pray is one of the great challenges of our being Catholic. From a good review: “This is no promotion of a vague kind of spirituality designed simply to make a person feel good. Prayer as Guardini speaks of it is to be always centered on Christ and his work of salvation for us.

This is a compassionate book. Guardini warns that prayer is almost always difficult, that we have an innate tendency to resist it, and that we should simply persevere. However, he also speaks with sympathy regarding times of darkness and depression, and he urges honesty before God. At all times, the focus of the book is about how prayer draws us closer to Christ and better fits us to dwell with Him eternally; it is not a “how-to” book on demanding wealth, fame and riches from a God whom we conceive to be a great Santa Claus. One of the most helpful and practical books on the Christian life I’ve ever read.”

Spend some time here this week with one of the great masters of Catholic Life.

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God is Worthy Of Praise
The greatness of God is expressed in the very names by which we call Him. He is the Uncreated, who has made everything; the One without beginning who is self-sustained; the Infinite; the Immortal; the Eternal. Because He is master of Himself, Lord of His own divinity, He is the Master and Lord of all that is. Thus the universe is His by dominion and by right.

Man inclines himself in adoration before Him completely and unconditionally, in freedom and dignity. In the Scriptures, God’s greatness and His majesty are experienced also as splendor and glory, terms which convey the all-penetrating radiance — the effulgence of the Divine Reality — before which adoration assumes the character of praise and jubilation. Thus the Scriptures contain passage after passage proclaiming the splendor of God, singing His praise, extolling His holiness, majesty, might, eternity, infinite freedom, justice, goodness, mercy, and patience.

One might object that there is something embarrassing about such fulsomeness; that it savors of the submissiveness of the weak, of the sycophancy of the defenseless, which is contrary to the dignity of man and even more so to the dignity of God.

No doubt, when the motives are not absolutely pure, praise — especially the praise of God — deserves this criticism. But when the motives are pure, bestowing praise is perfectly consistent with dignity and honor. One may, for example, have occasion to commend a person for his reliability. Ought one to refrain from it for fear of being thought a flatterer? Indeed, it may sometimes be a real act of friendship to let a person know how highly we think of him and how much we rely upon him. To convey to a person spontaneously and gladly what we find attractive or praiseworthy about him is not flattery but a form of praise which makes for the beauty of human relations.

God certainly does not need our assurance that we value His lofty qualities, yet it is “meet and just” and a form of the purest and truest prayer when man rejoices in God and glorifies Him. The Scriptures, as has been noted, abound in songs of praise. Among the Psalms there are many which, springing from man’s profound experience of the glory of God, pour forth holy emotion in praising His qualities and His works one by one. In the Prophets also, praise of the Lord breaks through again and again, to give as an example only the great song of praise of the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision: “And they cried one to another, and said: `Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God of Hosts, all the earth is full of His glory.’ [Isaiah 6:3]

In the New Testament we find the Magnificat [Luke 1:46-55] and the song of Zachariah. [Luke 1:68-79] The Liturgy, too, is permeated by songs of praise such as the Te Deum and many hymns and sequences.

Sometimes it is as though the praise of God filled the world; as if it went out to and enfolded all creation, as for instance the Psalms of creation [Psalms 32, 46, 95, and 99 should be given special mention (RSV: Psalms 33, 47, 96, and 100)] or in the response which those songs have found in the hearts of God-enraptured people such as St. Francis of Assisi. In the last of the Psalms mentioned above, creation and creatures are exhorted to praise God:

Praise ye the Lord from the heavens:
praise ye Him in the high places.
Praise ye Him, all His angels:
praise ye Him, all His hosts.
Praise ye Him, O sun and moon:
praise Him, all ye stars and light.
Praise Him, ye heavens of heavens:
and let all the waters that are above the heavens
Praise the name of the Lord.

For He spoke,
and they were made:
He commanded,
and they were created.
He hath established them for ever,
and for ages of ages:
He hath made a decree,
and it shall not pass away.
Praise the Lord from the earth,
ye dragons, and all ye deeps:
Fire, hail, snow, ice, stormy winds,
which fulfill His word:
Mountains and all hills,
fruitful trees and all cedars: Beasts and all cattle:
serpents and feathered fowls.
[Psalms 148:1-10 (RSV: Psalms 148: 1-10).]

This is not a fairy-tale approach to nature in which the sun and the moon, the trees, and so forth are personalized and given voices with which to sing the praise of God; it is an inspired poetic rendering of the idea that the sun and the moon and all created things are a mirror of God’s glory because, as His creation, they reflect something of His nature. In so doing, they praise Him by their very existence. They themselves know nothing of it, but man does; he can think himself into their silent song of praise; he can voice it on their behalf, offer it up to God and thus act as the spokesman of creation.

When discussing adoration we said that man humbles himself before God, not because God is all-powerful, but because He is truth and goodness and worthy of adoration. In other words, God proves — if one may express it thus — His divinity by His character. With Him, being and doing are one; essence and existence are one; promise and fulfillment are one. From this derives the ultimate justification of praise.

“Lord, Thou art almighty” is synonymous with “Lord, Thou art worthy of being almighty; Thou livest Thy almightiness — with Thy character and acts. Thy almightiness is the supreme consummation of justice and truth.” It is therefore fitting to praise God.

Man’s spirit rejoices that God is that He is. This joy pours forth in praise. The attributes of God which man is able to name are merely like so many rays of that effulgent light, like so many emanations of that arch-unity of being and necessity that is His inmost essence which cannot be named, in short, like so many emanations of the Who Am (“God said to Moses: `I Am Who Am’ ,) [Exodus 3:14.]

It is Who Am which enkindles in man the flame of gladness which turns to gratitude and finds expression in praise. We praise God and give thanks to Him for the glorious reality of His being. In the words of the Gloria: “We give thanks for Thy great glory, O Lord God, heavenly king, God the Father.” And in the words of the Preface: “It is truly meet and just that we should always, and in all places give thanks to Thee, all-holy Lord, Father Almighty, Eternal God.”

Praise Elevates the Person Praising
The praise is the purer, the more profound the experience of God’s glory and the truer the joy to which it gives rise. In praise, man himself becomes pure and great, for his greatness derives not only from what he is in himself, but from his ability to value and honor that which is greater than himself.

Therefore, it is “meet and just” to do homage to Him who is the supreme greatness and glory; at the same time this act of homage is an act of self-realization for him who performs it. Man’s real world is, as it were, above him. Praising God means ascending into that homeland of our spirit where, it may be said, we truly live.

Thus we should practice giving praise to God. This discipline widens and edifies the spirit. The whole day assumes a different character if, on waking in the morning, rested and refreshed from the night, we recite the words of the Te Deum or of the 148th Psalm. There are no morning prayers more beautiful than these.

Certainly it is right for us to ask in prayer and to put before God the problems of our burdensome existence. Yet it might profit us more if we directed our gaze away from ourselves toward Him. Our cares and needs would not be forgotten for, in Christ’s words, “Your Father knoweth what is needful for you, before you ask Him. [Matthew 6:8]

The Loving God is Generous and Bountiful
God’s being is inexhaustible. Ever new aspects of His being reveal themselves to us in contemplation and religious experience, and to every one of them our souls can respond in prayer. Thus theology itself almost becomes a school for prayer.

This book is merely an introduction; we shall therefore confine ourselves here to considering a final group of divine attributes to which we make direct appeal in our prayers: God is bountiful and generous. He cares for man; He values and loves him. Two forms of prayer in particular — petition and thanksgiving — go out to these aspects of God.

God Loves Us
Some conceptions of the Deity preclude all possibility of either petition or thanksgiving (for example, that God is merely the First Cause — the unmoved mover of the universe — or the idea of the good). To such a god the heart of man could not turn when in distress. In his sight, petition would be as futile as gratitude; awe and admiration would be the only possible reaction to a god conceived in this way.

However, the Scriptures tell us that God is vis viva; that He is the power of willing and of action; that He is Person, able to listen and respond. God is spirit, not in the impersonal sense of an intellectual principle in which the word is often understood, but in the sense given to it by the Scriptures when they refer to Him as the “living God.”

God is the creative, the inexhaustible, the ever close and benevolent One. He is also the “rich” God, as the spiritual masters put it, who is willing to share the abundance of His being with us. He is the ever giving, who can never suffer diminution by His gifts; who never tires in His generosity; who can never be disappointed, for He does not depend on the response of those to whom He gives. He gives creatively. To such a god the heart of man can turn.

Our God does not dwell in Olympian heights, in blissful self-sufficiency, indifferent to the plight of human existence. If this were so, prayer would be of no avail; indeed, it would be undignified and hopeless from the start. The Scriptures tell us that God is concerned with man and that He loves him. God’s love for man is the main theme of the Gospel and the whole of Christ’s life proclaims it. This is true Revelation — that is, something which the mind of man could not have grasped on its own.

This love, so revealed, means not only that God wishes His creatures well but that He truly loves them with an earnestness to which the Incarnation bears witness. It means that God has given Himself in this love, making it — if we may thus express it — His destiny.

This love prepares the ground for its ultimate self-revelation by the creation of the world; its design becomes more distinct in the course of the sacred history which leads up to Christ. In His life and His teaching it comes out into the open, to spread in the pattern of Divine Providence through space and time to its final consummation in the new creation and in the coming of the kingdom of God.

A profound mystery surrounds the origin of divine love, so that to the question as to why God loves man, man himself cannot give an answer. God’s love must be regarded as pure gift, as the creative cause of itself.

There is another aspect to this love, which must be understood in order to get a balanced picture. God’s love for man must be worthy of God Himself: this it can be only if it is worthy of man as a person. Having invested man with the dignity of free will and responsibility, God treats him in a manner befitting this status; in other words, He honors man.

This does not imply that man possesses anything in his own right which would compel God’s respect, for whatever man possesses, including his status as a person, God has given to him. But having given it to him, God treats him accordingly. For the sake of His own honor, God maintains the dignity of man.

This must be strongly emphasized, for there is a manner of interpreting the sovereign, absolute status of God which consists in contrasting it with the contingent, doubtful status of man. This interpretation does not serve the glory either of God or of His creature, for one does not honor God by degrading man.

It is true that man is but a creature, and a fallen, erring one at that. But he is not mere nothingness or sheer demerit; he has significance in the sight of God when God loves him.

Prayers of Petition
To this God we lift up our hearts in prayer. We turn to Him, the omnipotent being, of whose love we feel certain, as the child in distress turns to his mother or as we turn to a friend when we need comfort or help. Christ taught us that we should turn to the Father and ask Him to “give us this day our daily bread” — meaning the necessities of our daily life. He admonished us to do it simply and trustingly, because “your Father knoweth what is needful for you, before you ask Him. [Matthew 6:8]

Christ Teaches us to Ask for Assistance
How simple and natural is this asking we know from the incident related in the eleventh chapter in the Gospel according to St. Luke. There the disciples come to the Master asking Him to teach them to pray. He teaches them the Lord’s Prayer, which is one long petition. It encompasses the whole of our existence, acknowledges its dependence on God, and receives it from His hand.

We are taught to pray for everything: for the necessities of life, for strength in our labors, for comfort in spiritual distress, for support in our moral struggles, for the understanding of truth, for greater charity and righteousness. Man is ever conscious of his want and helplessness; it is only right, therefore, that he should turn to the bountiful and almighty God, who is not only ready to give and to help, but greatly rejoices in it.

Prayers of Petition Acknowledge God’s Bountifulness
Asking for help means more than turning to God only when we have reached the end of our resources. His help does more than merely fill the gaps in our own ability. Therefore, what we ask for in prayer is, strictly speaking, not help in the sense of something additional or supplementary to what we have — our whole life is founded in God. Everything we do comes to us from Him and goes out to Him. There is no such thing as a complete, self-sufficient human being, a human being at his own risk and responsibility. To be man is to have one’s being from and in God. This fact is constantly stressed in the Scriptures.

Prayer, therefore, is not really a call for help but the acknowledgment of the fact that man receives substance and existence, life and meaning, freedom and strength, through God’s creative dispensation — that he exists by the grace of God. All this may be called grace in a wider sense, because he receives as a free favor what he can neither claim nor enforce.

Grace in the strict meaning of the term is everything that comes to us by God’s redeeming love in the form of light, strength, guidance, spiritual comfort, and liberation. Thus all petition in prayer is ultimately petition for grace in the wider as well as the more precise meaning of the term. This prayer for grace must be constantly renewed, since at every instant we have our being by the grace of God. Prayer for grace is as essential to life as breath.

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The Reality of God and the Basic Acts of Prayer 2 – Fr. Romano Guardini

April 22, 2014

It is important that we practice adoration because normally we tend in our prayers to put too much emphasis on asking. Of course we should ask, but let us not forget what Christ said in the Sermon on the Mount: "For your Father knoweth what is needful for you, before you ask Him. [Matthew 6:8] More important than petition is adoration, for in it truth will come to us -- the truth of life. Everyday cares will find their proper place and our standards will become rightly adjusted. This truth will comfort us; it will put in order what the entanglements and illusions of life have thrown into confusion. It will heal us spiritually so that we may begin anew.

It is important that we practice adoration because normally we tend in our prayers to put too much emphasis on asking. Of course we should ask, but let us not forget what Christ said in the Sermon on the Mount: “For your Father knoweth what is needful for you, before you ask Him. [Matthew 6:8] More important than petition is adoration, for in it truth will come to us — the truth of life. Everyday cares will find their proper place and our standards will become rightly adjusted. This truth will comfort us; it will put in order what the entanglements and illusions of life have thrown into confusion. It will heal us spiritually so that we may begin anew.

This week I’m featuring a multiple post from Guardini’s classic The Art of Praying. Nothing is more essential to our faith, our health and well being than prayer. Learning to pray is one of the great challenges of our being Catholic. For many of us we get this from our parents or grandparents, a loving sibling. But for most of us we limp along really not doing what we are supposed to be doing. This is where Fr. Guardini comes in. Spend some time here this week with one of the great masters of Catholic Life.

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Prayer’s Second Motive: The Yearning For Union
The second motive for prayer begins with the recognition that, despite our resistance to God, we cannot be without Him. The first motive expresses what Peter said to Christ when he felt His mysterious powers by the lake of Genesareth: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord. [Luke 5:8] The second finds its expression once again in the words of Peter at Capharnaum, when our Lord promised the Eucharist: “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we have believed and have known, that thou art the Christ, the Son of God. [John 6:69-70]

If the knowledge of our sinfulness leads us either to arrogance or dejection, the link between God and man breaks and we turn away from Him. But if it leads us to humility and truth, then we may say, “It is true that by my sins I have forfeited the right of being in the presence of God, but where else shall I be if I cannot be with Him?”

God’s Holiness Calls us to Him
The same holiness which turns man away also recalls him, for holiness is love. It rejects man so that he may find true humility and the new way. When he has done this — however insufficiently — it calls him anew.

We know that God is the supreme good, the supreme being, salvation — life. That is why we yearn for God. If we do not have this yearning — life may have disheartened or disillusioned us or made us dull and indifferent — we must endeavor to awaken it through faith. We must guard against that attitude of spiritual pride which makes us say, “What I do not feel I do not need.”

We must allow for the possibility that our feelings may be unreliable and therefore we must honestly strive to correct them. Yearning for God is inborn in human nature. If it is lacking, it does not follow that we have no need of God, but rather that we may be sick and in need of healing. It may be humiliating to have to admit to oneself that one is lacking something which is an intrinsic part of human nature. It may easily lead one to adopt an attitude of defiance, which, although giving an impression of superiority, is in fact rather pathetic.

We said previously that even if we do not directly apprehend God’s reality we must accept it as a fundamental tenet of our faith. In the same way, we must have recourse to faith if our own feelings do not prompt us to seek God. This is the truth — all else is error.

The Yearning For God is a Form of Prayer
This yearning for God — a yearning for union, for participation — is also prayer.
The story is told of St. Thomas Aquinas that when he had finished an important section of his great work on divine truth, Christ appeared to him and said, “Thou hast written well about me, Thomas. What shall I give thee?” St. Thomas, the legend goes, answered, “Thyself, Lord.” St. Teresa expressed this yearning even more forcefully when she wrote: “Only God is sufficient.” [St. Teresa of Avila, Poem 9, Nada to turbe.]

The deepest core, the highest aspirations, the whole essence and purpose of man’s striving can be summed up in the proposition: man’s soul longs for union with God. This is not merely the expression of a pious sentiment; it is the precise truth.

We want to possess that which we consider to be precious and real. But is there anything in the world which we are really able to possess? Something catches our fancy, we buy it, we take it and carry it home, but do we really possess it? It is true we can make use of it; we can prevent anyone else having it, but is it ever truly ours? Not only may we lose it, not only can it be ruined, not only shall we have to give it up one day — we never really have it; we only hold it externally. We are never able to form that innermost union between ourselves and things which alone can be called having; there always remains a gulf.

The same applies to human relations. We want to establish a close relationship — a true union — with another person. We want to be certain of the other person, but can we ever achieve this? We may gain a person’s confidence or love; we may be linked to that person by the strongest bonds of loyalty and devotion, but ultimately that person still remains distant and inaccessible. God alone, the all-true, the all-being, the Holy, the Remote, is able to give Himself fully to man. Neither things nor persons, nor even we ourselves can fully become our own: only God can create that nearness that fulfills our yearning.

Again and again the cry “My God” appears in the Scriptures. “I said to the Lord: `Thou art my God.’ [Psalms 139:7 (RSV: Psalms 140:6).], This is the heart’s own cry, called forth by God Himself, who spoke thus: “I will walk among you, and will be your God.” [Leviticus. 26:12]

St. Augustine describes the nature of the human soul by saying that it is “capable of comprehending God.” Capable — and this is even more important — of comprehending nothing but God and therefore, we may add, capable of comprehending the world and people only through God.

This finds expression in the prayer in which we strive for God, strive to partake of His plenitude, strive to be at one with Him. In this striving, prayer becomes love, for love means seeking to be completely at one with another autonomous being. We may acquire a jewel, a flower, or a work of art, and, to the extent to which we are able to establish an inner relationship with one of these objects, we may claim them as our own. But we cannot claim a human being as our own unless the right has been granted to us by that human being, unless he has permitted it of his own accord.

How, then, can God become our own? That He, who is Lord of Himself and of all creation, wishes to give Himself to us, and that it is compatible with His divinity to do so, only He Himself can reveal to us. Moreover, He must give us faith so that we may believe it and consummate the union.

This is the mystery of divine love, that in it all love has its origin and finds its complete fulfillment. We must therefore beseech God for the grace of His love and for grace to respond to it.

These two elements — the turning away from God, conscious that we are unworthy of Him, and the striving after Him in the longing for union — are to some degree present in every prayer which deserves the name. By these two contradictory trends we testify to God’s holiness, for it is God’s holiness which makes us shrink back in the knowledge that we ourselves are unholy, but which at the same time makes us strive after Him in the knowledge that in Him lies our salvation.

God is Almighty
Another aspect of the nature of God, which we apprehend in some forms of religious experience, is His almighty power.
The Scriptures abound in testimonies to the majesty and power of God. Frequently these testimonies are in the form of statements about the greatness of the world, which is then said to be nothing in comparison with God.

The Old Testament opens with the great hymn of the creation of the world. Its realms unfold before our eyes, each one issuing forth from the Word of God. The world is through Him; He is of Himself. Heaven and earth, darkness and light, the waters and the land, are what He commands them to be; He, however, is one and everything. There is no primary matter, no plan; everything comes into being through Him alone.

He is not only greater than the world, but absolute greatness –greatness in itself. The world, however, is only through Him and before His sight.

This greatness is free; it is the first source of all order. God utters the words “Let there be,” and everything becomes. However, when God’s greatness encounters man’s defiance, His greatness becomes inexorable and changes into the wrath of God, of which the destructive powers of nature, such as storms, earthquakes, the scorching sun, and the tumultuous seas are warning manifestations. [Psalms. 75,96 (RSV: Psalms. 76, 97).]

Providence Reveals God’s Loving Power
Yet God’s awfulness is all kindness, wisdom, and tenderness, for does not God teach His prophet that the Lord is not in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire, but in the whistling of a gentle air? [3 Kings 19:11-12 (RSV: 1 Kings 19:11-12).]

It is in the doctrine of divine Providence that the almighty power of God fully reveals itself to us. In this doctrine, the awfulness of omniscience, the ineffableness of omnipotence, and the unfathomableness of a wisdom which controls the immeasurable threads of existence declare themselves as pure love: in Providence God the Almighty becomes the Father.

God Is Infinite
Human existence is finite in every respect: we are limited in our physical size, in our possessions, in the space we inhabit. Everyone has his own particular disposition and temperament, which is the measure both of his possibilities and of his limitations. Again and again — in being and in having, in our relations to things and people — we learn this lesson: so far and no farther. It is different with God. He knows no restriction or limitation, for He is and has everything: He is the all-embracing, the infinite.

God’s being is inexhaustible in substance. From unfathomable depths it rises and then extends over measureless space. The greatest heights which we are able to conceive can be but a pale intimation of His sublimity.

Our power is as limited as our being. In all our endeavors, struggles, and activities we inevitably reach the point beyond which, we realize, we cannot go: the point which marks the frontier of our knowledge and of our faculties.

God knows no such limitations. He creates, and in the most perfect way: by the Word alone. All that has been given to us the world in all its abundance of forms, its diversity of laws, the immeasurableness of all things great and small — all this issued forth from the Word of God.

God Is The Ultimate Good
Yet all that has been said so far does not do justice to the greatness of God. The attribute great does not merely denote a high degree of being and of power; it also denotes a high degree of value — it denotes excellence of quality. Thus we would call great a man possessing great purity of heart and nobility of mind; we would also call great a work of man if it expressed purity and noble intent. By this token, a painting twelve inches square, if it expressed these qualities, would be greater than one which covered the wall but did not express them.

God is not only the all-real, but also the all-good. When we pronounce the word truth we thereby express that all-embracing plenitude of pure integrity of essence which is God. Again, when we speak of justice, purity, harmony — these are really ways of referring to Him. Beauty is not really an attribute but a proper name of God. It is value — goodness, truth, beauty — from which all that is derives its ultimate right to be.

God not only demands value, and imposes value but is the form (or idea) of value. More than that: God is the supreme Universal – the universal of universals — of which all particulars, including all values, are mere reflections.

Thus His reality is absolutely justified and necessary. He alone has substance and the sovereign right to be.

Mere existence is dark and brooding; value gives it light. “This is the declaration which we have heard from Him and declare unto you: that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness. [1 John 1:5]

God’s mighty power, as we have pointed out, is all tenderness and love, capable of giving everything and of giving itself.

Finally, life is more than breathing, growing, working, creating, and experiencing. Life is — or should be — self-experiencing and, ultimately, self-realization. How much there is in us which we do not realize, which, indeed, seems unrealizable!

God is omniscient. His omniscience embraces the world and mankind; but, above all, it is directed toward Himself. God is self-realized in the fullness of His infinite being. Aware of His own majesty, He carries the inconceivable momentousness of His own being in the supreme freedom of His will.

These reflections can do no more than give an intimation of God’s greatness: a greatness which is beyond all measure, yet is not inordinate or unwieldy, but light, luminous, and controlled — in short, perfect.

Adoration is the Proper Response to God’s Goodness
Before this greatness man inclines himself, not only in the literal sense but in the devotion of his heart. He inclines himself without reservation, in complete surrender as the creature before the Creator: in short, he adores. The act of adoration expresses the realization that God is greatness, pure and simple, and that man is smallness, pure and simple; that God exists by reason of Himself and in Himself, but man only through God and by God’s grace.

Adoration affirms: “Thou art God; I am man. Thou art the One that truly is, self-created, substantial from all eternity. I am only through Thee and in Thy sight. Thou hast all plenitude of being, all fullness of value, all sublimity of meaning; Thou art Lord and unto Thyself. The meaning of my existence, however, is derived from Thine. I live in Thy light and the measure of my existence is in Thee.”

God is Worthy of Our Adoration
It is important to stress that in this act of worship man does not submit to God simply because God is so infinitely greater than man. If this were the only reason for man’s submission it would mean that God’s almighty power had left him no choice but to yield.

Man submits because he knows that this is right and just in itself. If adoration merely expressed “I submit to Thee because Thou art stronger than I,” this would be a feeble and ultimately unworthy sentiment. But adoration says: “I submit because Thou art worthy of this act of homage. I have apprehended that Thou art not only reality but truth; not only power but also goodness; not only dominion but infinite merit and the meaning of meaning.”

In the life of man, might and right, strength and merit, actuality and truth, status and worthiness rarely coincide; it is this which makes our existence so drifting and questionable. It demands from us constant striving, and at the same time fills us with a sense of futility. With God it is different. Whenever man encounters God he finds in His might also right, in His greatness also worthiness.

There is no dichotomy in God’s nature; with Him being and action are one. To all this we give expression in adoration.

A God merely all-real and omnipotent, man could not adore. He could not resist such a God; he would have to surrender unconditionally to Him. For the sake, however, of his dignity as a person, he would have to deny Him adoration. In the act of adoration it is not only the body which is bowed down, but the person as a whole, and this can be done only voluntarily and with dignity. The unity of being and meaning in God renders this possible.

This is magnificently illustrated in the book of Revelation in the passage of the four-and-twenty elders (the last representatives of the human race) worshipping Him and casting their crowns before Him, saying: “Thou art worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory, and honor, and power: because Thou hast created all things; and for Thy will they were, and have been created. [Revelations 4:11]

Adoration is More Important Than Petition
Apart from the special importance which attaches to the act of adoration as an integral part of religious worship, it is important also as an element in man’s spiritual life as a whole. It is as necessary to man’s spiritual existence as the laws of logic are to his intellectual life or the spatial order is to his physical existence. Or, using a different analogy, we may say that adoration is to man’s spiritual vision what light is to his physical eye.

Human existence is founded in truth, and the foundation of all truth is that God is God — unique, alone, and unto Himself; and that man is God’s creature. By recognizing this fundamental truth and by acting in accordance with it man maintains his integrity and his wholeness. Adoration is the act in which this truth continually rises resplendent, and in which it is acknowledged and consummated.

It is important that we practice adoration because normally we tend in our prayers to put too much emphasis on asking. Of course we should ask, but let us not forget what Christ said in the Sermon on the Mount: “For your Father knoweth what is needful for you, before you ask Him. [Matthew 6:8]

More important than petition is adoration, for in it truth will come to us — the truth of life. Everyday cares will find their proper place and our standards will become rightly adjusted. This truth will comfort us; it will put in order what the entanglements and illusions of life have thrown into confusion. It will heal us spiritually so that we may begin anew.

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The Reality of God and the Basic Acts of Prayer 1 – Fr. Romano Guardini

April 21, 2014

The first motive for prayer springs from man's awareness of his own unworthiness before the holiness of God. Man recognizes that he is selfish, unjust, deficient, and impure. He acknowledges his own wrongdoings and tries to assess them: not merely those of today or of yesterday, but of the whole of his life. Beyond this he tries to visualize the whole of the human condition with its shortcomings. He realizes sin as it is understood by the Scriptures, sin as it is active in himself. He recognizes that sin is transgression of the moral law and of the natural law. But even more, he recognizes that sin is contumacy before God's holiness, that it is, therefore, not only wicked but unholy. He admits it and sides with God against himself; he says, in the words of the Psalm: "For I know my iniquity, and my sin is always before me. Against Thee only have I sinned, and have done evil before Thee: that Thou mayst be justified in Thy words, and mayst overcome when Thou art judged. [Psalms 50:5-6 (RSV: Psalms 51:3-4)]

The first motive for prayer springs from man’s awareness of his own unworthiness before the holiness of God. Man recognizes that he is selfish, unjust, deficient, and impure. He acknowledges his own wrongdoings and tries to assess them: not merely those of today or of yesterday, but of the whole of his life. Beyond this he tries to visualize the whole of the human condition with its shortcomings. He realizes sin as it is understood by the Scriptures, sin as it is active in himself. He recognizes that sin is transgression of the moral law and of the natural law. But even more, he recognizes that sin is contumacy before God’s holiness, that it is, therefore, not only wicked but unholy. He admits it and sides with God against himself; he says, in the words of the Psalm: “For I know my iniquity, and my sin is always before me. Against Thee only have I sinned, and have done evil before Thee: that Thou mayst be justified in Thy words, and mayst overcome when Thou art judged. [Psalms 50:5-6 (RSV: Psalms 51:3-4)]

Recollectedness and The Divine Presence
On the holy ground to which we gain access in the state of recollectedness, the divine presence becomes manifest. To approach this divine reality is thus the prime task and toil of prayer; the second task is to hold firm in the holy presence and to comply with its exacting demands.

Toilsome Prayer Is Yet Worthy Prayer
We have used the word toil deliberately because prayer can really be toil. At times, as we have said, prayer comes easily and as the heart’s own language. But generally speaking and with the majority of people, this is not so. Mostly it must be willed and practiced, and the toil of this practice derives partly from the fact that we do not experience the real presence of God. Instead of experiencing His presence, the worshipper is conscious of a void; in consequence everything else appears to him more urgent, more real. He must therefore persevere.

Anyone who says that prayer has nothing to offer him, that he feels no urge to pray, or that his prayer “does not ring true” and that therefore he had better leave it, misses the essential point of prayer. To be able to persevere through the hours of emptiness has a special value which cannot be replaced by the most inspired prayer at some other time. Only he who takes his faith seriously can continue to speak through the darkness without receiving any response — he knows that he is heard by Him to whom he speaks.

God May Reveal Himself in the Void
There are different kinds of voids.
There is the void which is caused by the lack of something — the void of nonexistence. But there is another void, a void which is vibrant with being.

These two kinds are not always easily distinguishable. There are times when it seems that the void we experience when praying is the one of nonexistence. No wonder that we feel discouraged and find ourselves tempted to give up not only prayer, but belief in God altogether.

This is a testing of our faith, for as the song of praise in the Sanctus tells us: “Full are the heavens and the earth of the majesty of His glory.” But we cannot see Him: although He is present, not merely as the stones and the trees are present, but present in a very special, intimate way, close to us, abiding with us — we cannot see Him. This very earth, which is full of the majesty of His glory, also acts as a veil to truth which our senses cannot penetrate.

Into this void of not-seeing, not-hearing, and not-experiencing, there may at times enter something, something inexpressible and yet significant — a hint of meaning amidst apparent nothingness, a meaning which prevails over the nothingness. It happens more frequently than one would expect and one should pay attention to it.

This breath, this vibration, is the manifestation of God, faint and intangible though it is, it can support our faith, so that we may persevere.

If faith perseveres the void may suddenly be filled, for God is not a mere fantasy, idea, or feeling, but the all-pervading reality. He does not dwell above us indifferent in the blissful remoteness of celestial spheres, but with us. To Him who is the all-free, the all-mighty, there are no barriers, not even the coldness of our hearts; and He will reveal Himself to those who persevere in faith.

If God were only an idea, even the supreme idea, we should be justified if we turned in preference to the diversity of particulars: to living people and to the earth in all its beauty and sorrow. But He is the living God who spoke thus: “Behold, I stand at the gate, and knock. If any man shall hear my voice, and open to me the door, I will come in to him.” [Revelations 3:20]

The reality of God can make itself felt as a mere breath or the mighty flood which completely fills man. It is experienced in our innermost soul, by the loftiest heights of our spirit, and by all that is most pure in our being. It is unique and simple and yet possesses the most diverse properties. That is why the masters of religious life speak of “spiritual organs of perception,” that is, the inner eye and ear, the inner feeling and taste. They are referring to the different ways in which God can be experienced.

Yet prayer must persevere, independent of such experience. Should God reveal Himself, should it be vouchsafed to the worshipper to stand in the radiance of His light, he should be thankful and treasure the experience; but should all remain dark and void, he must hold on to faith alone and persevere. He may seek comfort in the prophecies at the end of the seven messages in the secret Revelation which speak of the victory in the darkness and misery of earthly life. [Revelations 2:3]

God is the Holy One
Of all the attributes of God of which the Scriptures speak, the one that is paramount and which determines all others is holiness. What this holiness is, no one can know, not because it would be too hard for us to conceive or because it would, in its trail, bring a host of complex questions, but because it is a primary given fact more precisely, the primary given fact. It is His basic nature, the first cause that determines His being. “To whom have ye likened me, or made me equal? saith the Holy One. [Isaiah 40:25]

In these words holiness proclaims itself as God’s inmost essential being, thereby differentiating Him from all creation. Thus one cannot express what it is. One can but indicate: see, hark, and feel. It is impossible to express in conceptual language what light is. But one can say what it does, what laws determine it, how it affects things, and what would happen if there were no light. But one cannot say what it is in itself. One can only say, “open your eyes and see.”

God’s holiness is that primary essential self wherein He has His being, and by which He is known. Every human being has diverse traits of character which can be described and named; but he has something more than those traits — not necessarily the sum of them, but something which flashes into the minds of those who love him, something ultimate and substantial which they regard as being him, as constituting his true being. In the same manner we must regard God’s holiness as His inmost essential being.

People, things, and events are earthly and of this world. God is unearthly; He is transcendent and mysterious. But such words can do no more than indicate and hint at something which is beyond description. Reality cannot be described; it can only be directly apprehended — that is, realized.

The outward forms of religion can but give an intimation. A church, for example, which is not only finely constructed and beautiful, but which also has an atmosphere of piety, may give such an intimation. In such a church we may experience that otherness which compels us to leave the things of the world outside, to become still, and to kneel down.

This is forcefully expressed in the passage of the burning bush: “And He said: `Come not nigh hither, put off the shoes from thy feet: for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.’ [Exodus 3:5]

There are people who have something of that otherness. They shatter the complacency of one’s habitual existence; they shift the emphasis of things and call up invocations of that which, in the last resort, alone is important. These are intimations of God’s holiness, of that nature which is wholly His own — that unique and supremely precious essence of God whereon depends our all –our eternal welfare, our salvation.

Holiness means that God is pure, that He is of a mighty all-consuming purity which permits no blemish. It means that He is good, not in the sense merely that He has all those qualities which are encompassed by the concept good, but also in the sense that “none is good but one, that is God. [Mark 10:18] In short, God is the supreme good.

That which we call good on earth can be likened to a splinter from the infinite bounty of His being. God is the standard by which all is measured, the ultimate test to which everything has to submit, the ultimate judgment over all and everything.

God’s Holiness Which Makes Prayer Possible
As soon as man comes into the proximity of God, he is confronted by this holiness, becomes aware of it, and responds to it in various ways.

He becomes aware that he himself is not holy, that he is profane and earthly — indeed, that he is sinful and guilty. He realizes that he is not fit to be in the presence of God and wishes either to go away from Him, or to say with Peter, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord. [Luke 5:8]

Yet, at the same time, he knows that he stands in perpetual need of this holy God, that it is literally a matter of life or death to him, for he knows that he can live only through Him and that in the final analysis he can be nowhere else but with Him. Thus despite his own unworthiness, he is impelled toward God, impelled to speak in the words of the Psalm: “O God, my God, for Thee do I watch at break of day. For Thee my soul hath thirsted; for Thee my flesh, O how many ways! In a desert land, and where there is no way, and no water. [Psalms 62: 2-3 RSV: 63:1]

From these two responses spring the forms of prayer. For ultimately prayer is man’s answer to God’s holiness. A God merely omniscient, all-just, omnipotent, and all-real, would be an enormity otherwise — the Absolute Being. We might admire Him, stand in awe of Him, feel overwhelmed by Him, but we could not pray to Him.

It is God’s holiness that makes prayer possible. It is only holiness which imbues God’s omniscience, justice, and reality with those characteristics, and gives to it those powers of intimate contact which make prayer possible. One might almost say that the act of prayer expresses in man something of that nature, the God’s holiness makes prayer possible supreme — the divine — expression of which is God’s holiness.

God’s Holiness Makes Us Uncomfortable
There is a third human reaction to God’s holiness. It is an evil reaction; it rises from man’s contradictory nature and consists of a feeling of discomfort, irritation, and rebelliousness. A strange manifestation! One is inclined to ask how this can come about if God is the moving Spirit and essence of the universe, and man is His creature — “For in Him we live, and move, and are. [Acts 17:28]

It is indeed difficult to understand; it springs from the mystery of evil. Sin, ultimately, is resistance to the holiness of God. It would be a mistake to think of this resistance merely as an open rebellion against, or as a denial of, God.

Potentially it is present in all of us — sometimes stronger, sometimes weaker; sometimes quite openly, sometimes in the guise of self-sufficient (rational) culture, or healthy common sense. When resistance, open or otherwise, gains the upper hand, prayer becomes impossible.

We must watch out for signs of it in ourselves; we must face it, try to resolve or still it, or overcome it with firm determination, whichever may be for us the most effective way of dealing with it. Let us leave this and return to the two fundamental motives of prayer already referred to.

Prayer’s First Motive: A Sense Of Our Own Sinfulness
The first motive for prayer springs from man’s awareness of hisown unworthiness before the holiness of God.
Man recognizes that he is selfish, unjust, deficient, and impure. He acknowledges his own wrongdoings and tries to assess them: not merely those of today or of yesterday, but of the whole of his life. Beyond this he tries to visualize the whole of the human condition with its shortcomings. He realizes sin as it is understood by the Scriptures, sin as it is active in himself. He recognizes that sin is transgression of the moral law and of the natural law.

But even more, he recognizes that sin is contumacy before God’s holiness, that it is, therefore, not only wicked but unholy. He admits it and sides with God against himself; he says, in the words of the Psalm: “For I know my iniquity, and my sin is always before me. Against Thee only have I sinned, and have done evil before Thee: that Thou mayst be justified in Thy words, and mayst overcome when Thou art judged. [Psalms 50:5-6 (RSV: Psalms 51:3-4)]

We Sometimes Deny Our Own Guilt
There are many ways in which man may try to evade this acknowledgment. The crudest form of evasion consists in a deliberate denial of his guilt.
He considers himself pure, persuades himself that he has always been righteous and has committed no sin. He does not realize what presumption there is behind his pretense of righteousness, how much there is amiss behind his allegedly blameless conduct.

What is required here is the will and the courage to face the truth. God has told us that we are sinners, it is unbelief not to take it seriously. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all iniquity. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” [1 John 1:8-10] These words show how self-deceptive is the feeling of our purity and our righteousness. They clearly state our condition before God and point the path to true understanding.

It does not follow that we should torment ourselves over our sinful ways. This also would be acting against truth and, moreover, could become a form of self-indulgence, which might have evil consequences. Obsession with the thought of sinfulness has invariably led either the persons so obsessed — or a later generation — to some form of rebellion. Christian teaching about sin gives us a new understanding which encourages and enables us to strive for purer righteousness. The acknowledgment of our sins must not make us despondent and discouraged; on the contrary, it ought to call forth in us the desire for spiritual purification and renewal.

We Sometimes Wrongly Consider Sinfulness Acceptable
There is another way of attempting to evade the issue: that is, by giving way to that false pride which prevents man from admitting to himself that he is a sinner, although he does not hide the fact that he has done wrong and is doing wrong. But since he cannot alter the fact he simply says, “My place is not with God,” and turns away.

What is lacking here is humility. Man should be able not only to acknowledge that he is a sinner, but also to face the idea – not in a spirit of defiance and self-assertiveness, but with sincerity and good-will; not in a spirit of self-abasement and mortification, but honorably and responsibly. In short, man must reconcile himself to the idea that he is a sinner and must learn to bear the stigma. This will open the way to self-renewal.

We Sometimes Despair
A third form of evasion is caused by lack of courage. When man sees that he is constantly transgressing and that evil is deeply rooted in him, when he begins to feel that all is confusion and that there is no way out, he runs the risk of despairing of himself, especially when he is a person wanting in willpower and, perhaps, in logic. To hold out in these circumstances is most difficult because the mind seems to answer to all good intentions, “You’re not going to carry this through; you will do again what you have always done before.” There is only one remedy: to put aside all inner searchings and recriminations, to have done with all hesitations, and to put one’s absolute trust in God who “quickeneth the dead; and calleth those things that are not, as those that are. [Romans 4:17] From this act of surrender to the Absolute, above and within us, will spring new resolve and new strength. We shall be able to say, “I will and shall, for God the omnipotent wills it.”

God’s Forgiveness Makes Repentance Possible
There is another mysterious aspect of God’s power which makes it possible for man to acknowledge his wrong and to admit and confess his sins. Man knows this intuitively, and the Scriptures have revealed it to us. God is not only the prime cause of the good and the fount of all justice; He is the all-renewer. He can give a new beginning to what appears final and He can undo all deeds. The words of St. Paul quoted above point to this mystery. God who is the supreme holiness, which by definition excludes all evil, is willing and able to forgive and to renew.

True forgiveness, the forgiveness which we are seeking and which alone is of benefit to us, is a great mystery. It implies not only that God decides to overlook what has happened and turns lovingly toward the sinner; this would not be sufficient. God’s forgiveness is creative: it makes him who has become guilty free of all guilt. God gathers the guilty man into His holiness, makes him partake of it, and gives him a new beginning. It is to this mystery that man appeals when he acknowledges his sins, repents of them, and seeks forgiveness. This is the first of those two motives of prayer which come into being before God’s holiness.

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The Prayer Of The Liturgy 3 – Fr. Romano Guardini

March 28, 2014
Rembrandt's Apostle Peter Kneeling 1631. Prayer must be simple, wholesome, and powerful. It must be closely related to actuality and not afraid to call things by their names. In prayer we must find our entire life over again. On the other hand, it must be rich in ideas and powerful images, and speak a developed but restrained language; its construction must be clear and obvious to the simple than, stimulating and refreshing to the man of culture. It must be intimately blended with an erudition which is in nowise obtrusive, but which is rooted in breadth of spiritual outlook and in inward restraint of thought, volition, and emotion.

Rembrandt’s Apostle Peter Kneeling 1631. Prayer must be simple, wholesome, and powerful. It must be closely related to actuality and not afraid to call things by their names. In prayer we must find our entire life over again. On the other hand, it must be rich in ideas and powerful images, and speak a developed but restrained language; its construction must be clear and obvious to the simple than, stimulating and refreshing to the man of culture. It must be intimately blended with an erudition which is in nowise obtrusive, but which is rooted in breadth of spiritual outlook and in inward restraint of thought, volition, and emotion.

Romano Guardini (17 February 1885, Verona – 1 October 1968, Munich) was a Catholic priest, author, and academic. He was one of the most important figures in Catholic intellectual life in the 20th century.

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Liturgical action and liturgical prayer are the logical consequences of certain moral premises — the desire for justification, contrition, readiness for sacrifice, and so on — and often issue afresh into moral actions. But there again it is possible to observe a fine distinction. The liturgy does not lightly exact moral actions of a very far-reaching nature, especially those which denote an interior decision. It requires them where the matter is of real importance, e.g., the abjuration at baptism, or the vows at the final reception into an order.

When, however, it is a question of making regular daily prayer fruitful in everyday intentions and decisions, the liturgy is very cautious. For instance, it does not rashly utter such things as vows, or full and permanent repudiations of sin, entire and lasting surrender, all-embracing consecration of one’s entire being, utter contempt for and renouncement of the world, promises of exclusive love, and the like.

Such ideas are present at times, fairly frequently even, but generally under the form of a humble entreaty that the suppliant may be vouchsafed similar sentiments, or that he is encouraged to ponder upon their goodness and nobility, or is exhorted on the same subject. But the liturgy avoids the frequent use of those prayers in which these moral actions are specifically expressed.

How right this is! In moments of exaltation and in the hour of decision such a manner of speech may be justified, and even necessary. But when it is a question of the daily spiritual life of a corporate body, such formulas, when frequently repeated, offer those who are using them an unfortunate selection from which to make their choice. Perhaps they take the formulas literally and endeavor to kindle the moral sentiments expressed in them, discovering later that it is often difficult, and sometimes impossible, to do so truthfully and effectually.

They are consequently in danger of developing artificial sentiments, of forcing intentions that still remain beyond their compass, and of daily performing moral actions, which of their very nature cannot be frequently accomplished. Or else they take the words merely as a passing recommendation of a line of conduct which it would be well to adopt, and in this way depreciate the intrinsic moral value of the formula, although it may be used frequently, and in all good faith. In this connection are applicable the words of Christ, “Let your speech be yea, yea, — nay, nay.” [Matthew 8:37]

The liturgy has solved the problem of providing a constant incentive to the highest moral aims, and at the same time of remaining true and lofty, while satisfying everyday needs.

Another question which arises is that concerning the form to be taken by prayer in common. We may put it like this: What method of prayer is capable of transforming the souls of a great multitude of people, and of making this transformation permanent?

The model of all devotional practice in common is to be found in the Divine Office, which day after day gathers together great bodies of people at stated times for a particular purpose. If anywhere, then it is in the Office that those conditions will be found which are favorable to the framing of rules for the forms of prayer in common. [We do not overlook the fact that the Office in its turn presupposes its special relations and conditions, from which useful hints may be gained for private devotion, such as the necessity for a great deal of leisure, which enables the soul to meditate more deeply; and a special erudition, which opens the mind to the world of ideas and to artistry of form, and so on.]

It is of paramount importance that the whole gathering should take an active share in the proceedings. If those composing the gathering merely listen, while one of the number acts as spokesman, the interior movement soon stagnates. All present, therefore, are obliged to take part. It is not even sufficient for the gathering to do so by repeating the words of their leader.

This type of prayer does, of course, find a place in the liturgy, e.g., in the litany. It is perfectly legitimate, and people desirous of abandoning it totally fail to recognize the requirements of the human soul. In the litany the congregation answers the varying invocations of the leader with an identical act, e.g., with a request. In this way the act each time acquires a fresh content and fresh fervor, and an intensification of ardor is the result. It is a method better suited than any other to express a strong, urgent desire, or a surrender to God’s Will, presenting as it does the petition of all sides effectively and simultaneously.

But the liturgy does not employ this method of prayer frequently; we may even say, when we consider divine worship as a whole, that it employs it but seldom. And rightly so, for it is a method which runs the risk of numbing and paralyzing spiritual movement.

[The foregoing remarks on the liturgy have already made it abundantly clear that the justification of methods of prayer such as, e.g., the Rosary, must not be gainsaid. They have a necessary and peculiar effect in the spiritual life. They clearly express the difference which exists between liturgical and popular prayer. The liturgy has for its fundamental principle, Ne bis idein [there must be no repetition It aims at a continuous progress of ideas, mood and intention. Popular devotion, on the contrary, has a strongly contemplative character, and loves to linger around a few simple images, ideas and moods without any swift changes of thought. For the people the forms of devotion are often merely a means of being with God. On this account they love repetition. The ever-renewed requests of the Our Father, Hail Mary, etc. are for them at the same time receptacles into which they can pour their hearts.]

The liturgy adapts the dramatic forte by choice to the fundamental requirements of prayer in common. It divides those present into two choirs, and causes prayer to progress by means of dialogue. In this way all present join the proceedings, and are obliged to follow with a certain amount of attention at least, knowing as they do that the continuation of their combined action depends upon each one personally.

Here the liturgy lays down one of the fundamental principles of prayer, which cannot be neglected with impunity. [In earlier ages the Church practiced by preference the so called "responsive" form of chanting the Psalms. The Precentor chanted one verse after the other, and the people answered with the identical verse, or the partially repeated verse. But at the same time another method was in use, according to which the people divided into two choirs, and each alternately chanted a verse of the Psalm. It says much for the sureness of liturgical instinct that the second method entirely supplanted the first. (Cf. Thalhofer-Eisenhofer, "I-landbuch der katholischen Liturgik," Freiburg, 1902, I, 261 et seq.)]

However justified the purely responsive forms of prayer may be, the primary form of prayer in common is the actively progressive — that much we learn from the lex orandi. [Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi. As we Worship, So we Believe, So we Live] And the question, intensely important today, as to the right method to employ in again winning people to the life of the Church is most closely connected with the question under discussion.

For it is modern people precisely who insist upon vital and progressive movement, and an active share in things. The fluid mass of this overwhelming spiritual material, however, needs cutting down and fashioning. It requires a leader to regulate the beginning, omissions, and end, and, in addition, to organize the external procedure. The leader also has to model it interiorly; thus, for instance, he has to introduce the recurrent thought-theme, himself undertaking the harder portions, in order that they may be adequately and conscientiously dealt with; he must express the emotion of all present by means of climaxes, and introduce certain restful pauses by the inclusion of didactic or meditative portions. Such is the task of the choir-leader, which has undergone a carefully graduated course of development in the liturgy.

Attention has already been called to the deep and fruitful emotion which is contained in the liturgy. It also embraces the two fundamental forces of human existence: Nature and civilization.

In the liturgy the voice of Nature makes itself heard clearly and decisively. We only need to read the Psalms to see man as he really is. There the soul is shown as courageous and despondent, happy and sorrowful, full of noble intentions, but of sin and struggles as well, zealous for everything that is good and then again apathetic and dejected.

Or let us take the readings from the Old Testament. How frankly human nature is revealed in them! There is no attempt at extenuation or excuse. The same thing applies to the Church’s words of ordination, and to the prayers used in administering the sacraments. A truly refreshing spontaneity characterizes them; they call things by their names.

Man is full of weakness and error, and the liturgy acknowledges this. Human nature is inexplicable, a tangled web of splendor and misery, of greatness and baseness, and as such it appears in the prayer of the Church. Here we find no carefully adapted portrait from which the harsh and unpleasing traits have been excluded, but man as he is.

Not less rich is the liturgy’s cultural heritage. We become conscious of the fact that many centuries have cooperated in its formation and have bequeathed to it of their best. They have fashioned its language; expanded its ideas and conceptions in every direction; developed its beauty of construction down to the smallest detail — the short verses and the finely-forged links of the prayers, the artistic form of the Divine Office and of the Mass, and the wonderful whole that is the ecclesiastical year.

Action, narrative, and choral forms combine to produce the cumulative effect. The style of the individual forms continually varies — simple and clear in the Hours, rich in mystery on the festivals of Mary, resplendent on the more modem feasts, delightful and full of charm in the offices of the early virgin-martyrs. To this we should add the entire group of ritual gestures and action, the liturgical vessels and vestments, and the works of sculptors and artists and musicians.

In all this is to be learned a really important lesson on liturgical practice. Religion needs civilization. By civilization we mean the essence of the most valuable products of man’s creative, constructive, and organizing powers — works of art, science, social orders, and the like. In the liturgy it is civilization’s task to give durable form and expression to the treasure of truths, aims, and supernatural activity, which God has delivered to man by Revelation, to distill its quintessence, and to relate this to life in all its multiplicity.

Civilization is incapable of creating a religion, but it can supply the latter with a modus operandi, so that it can freely engage in its beneficent activity. That is the real meaning of the old proverb, Philosophia ancilla theologiae — philosophy is the handmaid of theology. It applies to all the products of civilization, and the Church has always acted in accordance with it.

Thus she knew very well what she was doing, for instance, when she absolutely obliged the Order of Saint Francis — brimming over with high aspirations, and spiritual energy and initiative — to adopt a certain standard of living, property, learning, and so on. Only a prejudiced mind, with no conception of the fundamental conditions essential to normal spiritual life, would see in this any deterioration of the first high aims.

By her action in the matter the Church, on the contrary, prepared the ground for the Order, so that in the end it could remain healthy and productive. Individuals, or short waves of enthusiasm, can to a wide degree dispense with learning and culture. This is proved by the beginnings of the desert Orders in Egypt, and of the mendicant friars, and by holy people in all ages.

But, generally speaking, a fairly high degree of genuine learning and culture is necessary in the long run, in order to keep spiritual life healthy. By means of these two things spiritual life retains its energy, clearness, and catholicity. Culture preserves spiritual life from the unhealthy, eccentric, and one-sided elements with which it tends to get involved only too easily. Culture enables religion to express itself, and helps it to distinguish what is essential from what is nonessential, the means from the end, and the path from the goal.

The Church has always condemned every attempt at attacking science, art, property, and so on. The same Church which so resolutely stresses the “one thing necessary,” and which upholds with the greatest impressiveness the teaching of the Evangelical Counsels — that we must be ready to sacrifice everything for the sake of eternal salvation — nevertheless desires, as a rule, that spiritual life should be impregnated with the wholesome salt of genuine and lofty culture.

But spiritual life is in precisely as great a need of the subsoil of healthy nature — “grace takes nature for granted.” The Church has clearly shown her views on the subject by the gigantic struggles waged against Gnosticism and Manichaeism, against the Catharists and the Albigenses, against Jansenism and every kind of fanaticism. This was done by the same Church which, in the face of Pelagius and Celestius, of Jovinian and Helvidius, and of the immoderate exaltation of nature, powerfully affirmed the existence of grace and of the supernatural order, and asserted that the Christian must overcome nature.

The lack of fruitful and lofty culture causes spiritual life to grow numbed and narrow; the lack of the subsoil of healthy nature makes it develop on mawkish, perverted, and unfruitful lines. If the cultural element of prayer declines, the ideas become impoverished, the language coarse, the imagery clumsy and monotonous; in the same way, when the lifeblood of nature no longer flows vigorously in its veins, the ideas become empty and tedious, the emotion paltry and artificial, and the imagery lifeless and insipid.

Both — the lack of natural vigor and the lack of lofty culture — together constitute what we call barbarism, i.e., the exact contradiction of that scientia vocis which is revealed in liturgical prayer and is reverenced by the liturgy itself as the sublime prerogative of the holy Creative Principle. [The above remarks must not be misunderstood. Certainly the grace of God is self-sufficient, neither nature nor the work of man is necessary in order that a soul may be sanctified. God "can awaken of these stones children to Abraham." But as a vile He wishes that everything which belongs to man in the way of good, lofty, natural and cultural possessions shall be placed at the disposal of religion and so serve the Kingdom of God. He has interconnected the natural and the supernatural order, and has given natural things a place in the scheme of I-us supernatural designs. It is the duty of his representative on earth, ecclesiastical authority, to decide how and to what extent these natural means of attaining the supernatural goal are to be utilized.]

Prayer must be simple, wholesome, and powerful. It must be closely related to actuality and not afraid to call things by their names. In prayer we must find our entire life over again. On the other hand, it must be rich in ideas and powerful images, and speak a developed but restrained language; its construction must be clear and obvious to the simple than, stimulating and refreshing to the man of culture. It must be intimately blended with an erudition which is in nowise obtrusive, but which is rooted in breadth of spiritual outlook and in inward restraint of thought, volition, and emotion.

And that is precisely the way in which the prayer of the liturgy has been formed.

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The Prayer Of The Liturgy 2 – Fr. Romano Guardini

March 27, 2014

 

When we pray with the Church, we pray as part of the mystical body of Christ who is our priestly advocate to the Father. Liturgy (the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours) is the worship of the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit. It is the means by which we enter into a profound relationship with God and enter directly into the dynamic mystery of love of the three persons of the Trinity. In doing so we become divine, yes divine. This is the source of power and effectiveness, and joy. This union with God is why God created us, and God became man to allow this to happen: ‘The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature“: ”For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.” ”For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” ”The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 460, quoting 2 Peter 1:4; St. Irenaeus in the second century AD; and St Athanasius in the 4th century AD; and John 1:14)

When we pray with the Church, we pray as part of the mystical body of Christ who is our priestly advocate to the Father. Liturgy (the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours) is the worship of the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit. It is the means by which we enter into a profound relationship with God and enter directly into the dynamic mystery of love of the three persons of the Trinity. In doing so we become divine, yes divine. This is the source of power and effectiveness, and joy. This union with God is why God created us, and God became man to allow this to happen: ‘The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature“: ”For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.” ”For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” ”The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 460, quoting 2 Peter 1:4; St. Irenaeus in the second century AD; and St Athanasius in the 4th century AD; and John 1:14)

Romano Guardini (17 February 1885, Verona – 1 October 1968, Munich) was a Catholic priest, author, and academic. He was one of the most important figures in Catholic intellectual life in the 20th century.

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Only thought is universally current and consistent, and, as long as it is really thought, remains suited, to a certain degree, to every intelligence. If prayer in common, therefore, is to prove beneficial to the majority, it must be primarily directed by thought, and not by feeling. It is only when prayer is sustained by and steeped in clear and fruitful religious thought, that it can be of service to a corporate body, composed of distinct elements, all actuated by varying emotions.

We have seen that thought alone can keep spiritual life sound and healthy. In the same way, prayer is beneficial only when it rests on the bedrock of truth. This is not meant in the purely negative sense that it must be free from error; in addition to this, it must spring from the fullness of truth. It is only truth — or dogma, to give it its other name — which can make prayer efficacious, and impregnate it with that austere, protective strength without which it degenerates into weakness.

If this is true of private prayer, it is doubly so of popular devotion, which in many directions verges on sentimentality. [A proof of this is to be found in the often sugary productions of sacred art -- holy pictures, statues, etc. -- which appeal to the people. The people are susceptible to powerful art when it is national; the Middle Ages are a witness to this, and certain aspects of modern art. But the danger of lapsing into mere insipidity is very great. The same thing applies to popular songs, and holds good in other directions as well.] Dogmatic thought brings release from the thralldom of individual caprice, and from the uncertainty and sluggishness which follow in the wake of emotion. It makes prayer intelligible, and causes it to rank as a potent factor in life.

If, however, religious thought is to do justice to its mission, it must introduce into prayer truth in all its fullness.

Various individual truths of Revelation hold a special attraction for the temperaments and conditions to which they correspond. It is easy to see that certain people have a pronounced predilection for certain mysteries of faith. This is shown in the case of converts, for instance, by the religious ideas which first arrested their attention at their entry into the Church, or which decided them on the step they were taking, and in other cases by the truths which at the approach of doubt form the mainstay and buttress of the whole house of faith.

In the same way doubt does not charge at random, but attacks for the most part those mysteries of faith which appeal least to the temperament of the people concerned.[This does not mean that these truths are merely a mental indication of the existing spiritual condition of the person concerned. It is rather a proof of the saying, "grace takes nature for granted." Revelation finds in a man's natural turn of mind the necessary spiritual premises by which the truths, which are of themselves mysteries, can be more easily grasped and adhered to.]

If a prayer therefore stresses any one mystery of faith in an exclusive or an excessive manner, in the end it will adequatelysatisfy none but those who are of a corresponding temperament and even the latter will eventually become conscious of their need of truth in its entirety. For instance, if a prayer deals exclusively with God’s mercy, it will not ultimately satisfy even a delicate and tender piety, because this truth calls for its complement — the fact of God’s justice and majesty. In any form of prayer, therefore, which is intended for the ultimate use of a corporate body, the whole fullness of religious truth must be included.

Here, too, the liturgy is our teacher. It condenses into prayer the entire body of religious truth. Indeed, it is nothing else but truth expressed in terms of prayer. For it is the great fundamental truths [It is a further proof of Pius X's perspicacity that he made universally accessible precisely those portions of the liturgy -- Sundays, the weekly office, and especially the daily Masses of Lent -- which stress the great fundamental mysteries of faith.] which above all fill the liturgy — God in His mighty reality, perfection, and greatness, One, and Three in One; His creation, providence, and omnipresence; sin, justification, and the desire of salvation; the Redeemer and His kingdom; the four last things. It is only such an overwhelming abundance of truth which can never pall, but continue to be, day after day, all things to all men, ever fresh and inexhaustible.

In the end, therefore, prayer in common will be fruitful only in so far as it does not concentrate markedly, or at any rate exclusively, on particular portions of revealed truth, but embraces, as far as possible, the whole of Divine teaching. This is especially important where the people are concerned, because they easily tend to develop a partiality for particular mysteries of faith which for some reason have become dear to them.

On the other hand, it is obvious that prayer must not be overladen and as a result form a mere hotchpotch of ill-assorted thoughts and ideas — a thing which sometimes does occur. Yet without the element of spaciousness, spiritual life droops and becomes narrow and petty. “The truth shall make you free” — free not only from the thralldom of error, but free as a preparation for the vastness of God’s kingdom.

While the necessity of thought is emphasized, it must not be allowed to degenerate into the mere frigid domination of reason. Devotional forms on the contrary should be permeated by warmth of feeling.

On this point as well the liturgy has many recommendations to make. The ideas which fill it are vital: that is to say, they spring from the impulses of the heart which has been molded by grace, and must again in their turn affect other eager and ardent hearts. The Church’s worship is full of deep feeling, of emotion that is intense, and sometimes even vehement.

Take the Psalms, for instance — how deeply moving they often are! Listen to the expression of longing in the Quemadmodum, of remorse in the Miserere, of exultation in the Psalms of praise, and of indignant righteousness in those denouncing the wicked. Or consider the remarkable spiritual tension which lies between the mourning of Good Friday and the joy of Easter morning.

Liturgical emotion is, however, exceedingly instructive. It has its moments of supreme climax, in which all bounds are broken, as, for instance, in the limitless rejoicing of the Exultet on Holy Saturday. But as a rule it is controlled and subdued. The heart speaks powerfully, but thought at once takes the lead; the forms of prayer are elaborately constructed, the constituent parts carefully counterbalanced; and as a rule they deliberately keep emotion under strict control. In this way, in spite of the deep feeling to be found in, say, the Psalms (to instance them once more), a sense of restraint pervades liturgical form.

The liturgy as a whole is not favorable to exuberance of feeling. Emotion glows in its depths, but it smolders merely, like the fiery heart of the volcano, whose summit stands out clear and serene against the quiet sky. The liturgy is emotion, but it is emotion under the strictest control. We are made particularly aware of this at Holy Mass, and it applies equally to the prayers of the Ordinary and of the Canon, and to those of the Proper of the Time. Among them are to be found masterpieces of spiritual restraint.

The restraint characteristic of the liturgy is at times very pronounced — so much so as to make this form of prayer appear at first as a frigid intellectual production, until we gradually grow familiar with it and realize what vitality pulsates in the clear, measured forms.

And how necessary this discipline is! At certain moments and on certain occasions it is permissible for emotion to have a vent. But a prayer which is intended for the everyday use of a large body of people must be restrained. If, therefore, it has uncontrolled and unbalanced emotion for a foundation, it is doubly dangerous. It will operate in one of two ways.

Either the people who use it will take it seriously, and probably will then feel obliged to force themselves into acquiescence with an emotion that they have never, generally speaking, experienced, or which, at any rate, they are not experiencing at that particular moment, thus perverting and degrading their religious feeling. Or else indifference, if they are of a phlegmatic temperament, will come to their aid; they then take the phrases at less than their face value, and consequently the word is depreciated.

Written prayer is certainly intended as a means of instruction and of promoting an increased sensibility. But its remoteness from the average emotional attitude must not be allowed to become too great. If prayer is ultimately to be fruitful and beneficial to a corporate body, it must be intense and profound, but at the same time normally tranquil in tone. The wonderful verses of the hymn — hardly translatable, so full are they of penetrating insight — may be quoted in this connection:

Laeti bibamus sobriarn
Ebrietatem Spiritus
…,

[From the Benedictine Breviary, Lauds (i.e., the prayer at daybreak) of Tuesday. (Literally, "Let us joyfully taste of the sober drunkenness of the Spirit.")]

Certainly we must not try to measure off the lawful share of emotion with a foot-rule; but where a plain and straightforward expression suffices we must not aggrandize nor embellish it; and a simple method of speech is always to be preferred to an overloaded one.

Again, the liturgy has many suggestions to make on the quality of the emotion required for the particular form of prayer under discussion, which is ultimately to prove universally beneficial. It must not be too choice in expression, nor spring from special sections of dogma, but clearly express the great fundamental feelings, both natural and spiritual, as do the Psalms, for instance, where we find the utterance of adoration, longing for God, gratitude, supplication, awe, remorse, love, readiness for sacrifice, courage in suffering, faith, confidence, and so on. The emotion must not be too acutely penetrating, too tender, or too delicate, but strong, clear, simple and natural.

Then the liturgy is wonderfully reserved. It scarcely expresses, even, certain aspects of spiritual surrender and submission, or else it veils them in such rich imagery that the soul still feels that it is hidden and secure. The prayer of the Church does not probe and lay bare the heart’s secrets; it is as restrained in thought as in imagery; it does, it is true, awaken very profound and very tender emotions and impulses, but it leaves them hidden.

There are certain feelings of surrender, certain aspects of interior candor which cannot be publicly proclaimed, at any rate in their entirety, without danger to spiritual modesty. The liturgy has perfected a masterly instrument which has made it possible for us to express our inner life in all its fullness and depth, without divulging our secrets secretum meum mihi. We can pour out our hearts, and still feel that nothing has been dragged to light that should remain hidden.

[The liturgy here accomplishes on the spiritual plane what has been done on the temporal by the dignified forms of social intercourse, the outcome of the tradition created and handed down by sensitive people. This makes communal life possible for the individual, and yet insures him against unauthorized interference with his inner self; he can be cordial without sacrificing his spiritual independence, he is in communication with his neighbor without on that account being swallowed up and lost among the crowd. In the same way the liturgy preserves freedom of spiritual movement for the soul by means of a wonderful union of spontaneity and the finest erudition. It extols urbanitas as the best antidote to barbarism, which triumphs when spontaneity and culture alike are no more.]

This is equally true of the system of moral conduct which is to be found in prayer.

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The Prayer Of The Liturgy 1 – Fr. Romano Guardini

March 26, 2014
The Liturgy (the Mass and Liturgy of the Hours) is not just powerful and effective. It is the most powerful and effective action of the Church on our behalf. Christ participated in it historically; and continues to do so eternally in heaven and on earth and we participate in His prayer through his mystical body, the Church.

The Liturgy (the Mass and Liturgy of the Hours) is not just powerful and effective. It is the most powerful and effective action of the Church on our behalf. Christ participated in it historically; and continues to do so eternally in heaven and on earth and we participate in His prayer through his mystical body, the Church.

Romano Guardini (17 February 1885, Verona – 1 October 1968, Munich) was a Catholic priest, author, and academic. He was one of the most important figures in Catholic intellectual life in the 20th century.
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An old theological proverb says, “Nothing done by nature and grace is done in vain.” Nature and grace obey their own laws, which are based upon certain established hypotheses. Both the natural and the supernatural life of the soul, when lived in accordance with these principles, remain healthy, develop, and are enriched. In isolated cases the rules may be waived without any danger, when such a course is required or excused by reason of a spiritual disturbance, imperative necessity, extraordinary occasion, important end in view, or the like. In the end, however, this cannot be done with impunity. Just as the life of the body droops and is stunted when the conditions of its growth are not observed, so it is with spiritual and religious life — it sickens, losing its vigor, strength and unity.

This is even more true where the regular spiritual life of a corporate body is concerned. Exceptions play a far greater part, after all, in the life of the individual than in that of the group. As soon as a group is in question, concern is immediately aroused with regard to the regulation of those practices and prayers which will constitute the permanent form of its devotion in common; and then the crucial question arises whether the fundamental laws which govern normal interior life — in the natural as in the supernatural order — are in this case to have currency or not.

For it is no longer a question of the correct attitude to be adopted, from the spiritual point of view, towards the adjustment of some temporary require-mentor need, but of the form to be taken by the permanent legislation which will henceforth exercise an enduring influence upon the soul. This is not intended to regulate entirely independent cases, each on its own merits, but to take into account the average requirements and demands of everyday life. It is not to serve as a model for the spiritual life of the individual, but for that of a corporate body, composed of the most distinct and varied elements.

From this it follows that any defect in its organization will inevitably become both apparent and obtrusive. It is true that at first every mistake will be completely overshadowed by the particular circumstances — the emergency or disturbance — which justified the adoption of that particular line of conduct. But in proportion as the extraordinary symptoms subside, and the normal existence of the soul is resumed, the more forcibly every interior mistake is bound to come to light, sowing destruction on all sides in its course.

The fundamental conditions essential to the full expansion of spiritual life as it is lived in common are most clearly discernible in the devotional life of any great community which has spread its development over a long period of time. Its scheme of life has by then matured and developed its full value. In a corporate body — composed of people of highly varied circumstances, drawn from distinct social strata, perhaps even from different races, in the course of different historical and cultural periods — the ephemeral, adventitious, and locally characteristic elements are, to a certain extent, eliminated, and that which is universally accepted as binding and essential comes to the fore. In other words, the canon of spiritual administration becomes, in the course of time, objective and impartial.

The Catholic liturgy is the supreme example of an objectively established rule of spiritual life. It has been able to develop kata ton holon, that is to say, in every direction, and in accordance with all places, times, and types of human culture. Therefore it will be the best teacher of the via ordinaria — the regulation of religious life in common, with, at the same time, a view to actual needs and requirements.

[It is not by chance that "the religious Pope" so resolutely took in hand the revision of the liturgy. The internal revival of the Catholic community will not make progress until the liturgy again occupies its rightful position in Catholic life. And the Eucharistic movement can only effectually distribute its blessings when it is in close touch with the liturgy. It was the Pope who issued the Communion Decrees who also said, "You must not pray at Mass, you must say Mass!"

Only when the Blessed Sacrament is understood from the point of view of the liturgy can It take that active share in the religious regeneration of the world which Pius X expected of It. (In the same way the frill active and moral power of the Blessed Sacrament is only free to operate unchecked when Its connection with the problems and tasks of public and family life, and with those of Christian charity and of vocational occupations, is fully comprehended.)]

The significance of the liturgy must, however, be more exactly defined. Our first task will be to establish the quality of its relation to the non-liturgical forms of spiritual life.

The primary and exclusive aim of the liturgy is not the expression of the individual’s reverence and worship for God. It is not even concerned with the awakening, formation, and sanctification of the individual soul as such. Nor does the onus of liturgical action and prayer rest with the individual. It does not even rest with the collective groups, composed of numerous individuals, who periodically achieve a limited and intermittent unity in their capacity as the congregation of a church. The liturgical entity consists rather of the united body of the faithful as such — the Church — a body which infinitely outnumbers the mere congregation.

The liturgy is the Church’s public and lawful act of worship, and it is performed and conducted by the officials whom the Church herself has designated for the post — her priests. In the liturgy God is to be honored by the body of the faithful, and the latter is in its turn to derive sanctification from this act of worship.

It is important that this objective nature of the liturgy should be fully understood. Here the Catholic conception of worship in common sharply differs from the Protestant, which is predominantly individualistic. The fact that the individual Catholic, by his absorption into the higher unity, finds liberty and discipline, originates in the twofold nature of man, who is both social and solitary.

Now, side by side with the strictly ritual and entirely objective forms of devotion, others exist, in which the personal element is more strongly marked. To this type belong those which are known as “popular devotions,” such as afternoon prayers accompanied by hymns, devotions suited to varying periods, localities, or requirements, and so on. They bear the stamp of their time and surroundings, and are the direct expression of the characteristic quality or temper of an individual congregation.

Although in comparison with the prayer of the individual, which is expressive of purely personal needs and aspirations, popular devotions are both communal and objective, they are to a far greater degree characteristic of their origin than is the liturgy, the entirely objective and impersonal method of prayer practiced by the Church as a whole. This is the reason for the greater stress laid by popular devotion upon the individual need of edification. Hence the rules and forms of liturgical practice cannot be taken, without more ado, as the authoritative and decisive standard for non-liturgical prayer.

The claim that the liturgy should be taken as the exclusive pattern of devotional practice in common can never be upheld. To do so would be to confess complete ignorance of the spiritual requirements of the greater part of the faithful. The forms of popular piety should rather continue to exist side by side with those of the liturgy, and should constitute themselves according to the varying requirements of historical, social, and local conditions. There could be no greater mistake than that of discarding the valuable elements in the spiritual life of the people for the sake of the liturgy, or than the desire of assimilating them to it.

But in spite of the fact that the liturgy and popular devotion have each their own special premises and aims, still it is to liturgical worship that preeminence of right belongs. The liturgy is and will be the lex orandi. Non-liturgical prayer must take the liturgy for its model, and must renew itself in the liturgy, if it is to retain its vitality. It cannot precisely be said that as dogma is to private religious opinion, so is the liturgy to popular devotion; but the connection between the latter does to certain degree correspond with that special relation, characteristic of the former, which exists between the government and the governed.

All other forms of devotional practice can always measure their shortcomings by the standard of the liturgy, and with its help find the surest way back to the via ordinaria when they have strayed from it. The changing demands of time, place, and special circumstance can express themselves in popular devotion; facing the latter stands the liturgy, from which clearly issue the fundament, laws — eternally and universally unchanging — which govern a genuine and healthy piety.

In the following pages an attempt will be made to select from the liturgy and to analyze several of these laws. But it is an attempt pure and simple, which professes to be neither exhaustive nor con elusive.

The first and most important lesson which the liturgy has to teach is that the prayer of a corporate body must be sustained by thought. The prayers of the liturgy are entirely governed by any interwoven with dogma. Those who are unfamiliar with liturgical prayer often regard them as theological formula, artistic and didactic, until on closer acquaintance they suddenly perceive any admit that the clear-cut, lucidly constructed phrases are full of interior enlightenment.

To give an outstanding example, the wonderful Collects of the Masses of Sunday may be quoted. Wherever the stream of prayer wells abundantly upwards, it is always guide into safe channels by means of plain and lucid thought. Intersperse) among the pages of the Missal and the Breviary are readings from Holy Scripture and from the works of the Fathers, which continually stimulate thought.

Often these readings are introduced and concluded by short prayers of a characteristically contemplative and reflective nature — the antiphons — during which that which has been heard or read has time to cease echoing and to sink into the mind. The liturgy, the lex orandi, is, according to the old proverb the law of faith — the lex credendi — as well. It is the treasure-house of the thought of Revelation.

This is not, of course, an attempt to deny that the heart and the emotions play an important part in the life of prayer. Prayer is, without a doubt, “a raising of the heart to God.” But the heart must be guided, supported, and purified by the mind. In individual cases or on definite and explicit occasions it may be possible to persist in, and to derive benefit from, emotion pure and simple, either spontaneous or occasioned by a fortunate chance.

But a regular and recurrent form of devotion lights upon the most varied moods, because no one day resembles another. If the content of these devotional forms is of a predominantly emotional character, it will bear the stamp of its fortuitous origin, since the feeling engendered by solitary spiritual occurrences flows for the most part into special and particular channels.

Such a prayer therefore will always be unsuitable if it does not harmonize, to a certain degree at least, with the disposition of the person who is to offer it. Unless this condition is complied with, either it is useless or it may even mar the sentiment experienced. The same thing occurs when a form of prayer intended for a particular purpose is considered to be adapted to the most varied occasions.

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Learning to Pray – Fr. Romano Guardini

March 13, 2014
The word Abba itself goes back to Gethsemane and the prayer life of Jesus that reached its climax there

The word Abba itself goes back to Gethsemane and the prayer life of Jesus that reached its climax there

Recollectedness Is The Beginning Of Prayer
Prayer must begin with recollectedness, but it is not easy. How little of it we normally possess becomes painfully clear as soon as we make the first attempt. When we try to compose ourselves, unrest doubles in intensity, not unlike the manner in which at night, when we try to sleep, cares or desires assail us with a force they lack during the day. When we want to be truly present we feel how powerful are the voices trying to call us away.

As soon as we try to be unified and to obtain mastery over ourselves, we experience the full impact and meaning of distraction. And when we try to be awake and receptive to the holy object, we are seized by an inertness which lowers our spirit. All this is inevitable; we must endure it and persevere; otherwise we shall never learn to pray.

Everything depends on this state of recollectedness. No effort to obtain it is ever wasted. And even if the whole duration of our prayer should be applied to this end only, the time thus used would have been well employed. For recollectedness itself is prayer. In times of distress, illness, or great exhaustion, it can be most beneficial to content oneself with such a prayer of recollectedness. It will calm, fortify, and help.

Finally, if at first we achieve no more than the understanding of how much we lack in inner unity, something will have been gained, for in some way we would have made contact with that center which knows no distraction.

The Spiritual Realm Of Prayer
Recollectedness opens the door to prayer, reveals its inner “space.” The term is not used here in the literal sense, for this space has no extension; it is neither within nor without. It is a realm of the spirit. But again it is not that realm of the spirit where the images of thought and the intentions of the will dwell, but the realm of the Holy Spirit. It comes into existence only in communion with God. We might liken it to the common ground on which people find themselves who have established a close mutual relationship. It emerges and it disappears in accordance with the esteem, reverence, or love which the two people feel for each other and is as wide or deep as are their feelings. That God has revealed Himself to us, dwells among us, gives us His love, and that we are able to stand before Him in our faith — this constitutes the holy place or ground.

God Summons Us To Recollectedness
One might perhaps say that recollectedness itself in due course brings about the spiritual condition, the holy ground which, in turn, enables man to say, “God is here.” This is the sequence of events as it appears to our limited perception. But in fact, the attainment of recollectedness, the creation of the necessary spiritual condition, the presence of God and man’s communion with Him, form one simultaneous whole. Indeed, man can recollect himself only because God turns to him. The very words “Here I am” could not be uttered by him if God were not present to summon him and indicate the holy ground to him.

God Enables Us To Discover Our Own Deepest Selves
It is God who by His presence creates the holy ground which man discovers by recollecting himself and where, having done so, he stands. God shows man the place where he really belongs, where he will find himself and his true world; where the call can reach him and where he must answer it. Recollectedness, therefore, is the condition which enables man to say, “God is here, the Living, the Holy, of whom Revelation speaks, and here also am I.”

But not the vague I of everyday life, that confused something which sits down at table, walks through the streets of the town, works at the office, but the real I — the self. This is the I which makes me responsible for my existence, that I — humble and poor though he may be — which is unique and irreplaceable and which God had in mind when He created me and to which the words “God and my soul and nothing else in the world” apply. That I awakens only before God.

In the presence of God awakens that with which He has endowed man so that man may respond to Him: spiritual consciousness. Man does not live by the use of his conscious faculties alone; his many and varied needs and aspirations can be satisfied only by drawing on sources lying much deeper in his being. The answer to a routine problem or anxiety over a professional difficulty, the feeling engendered by a great work of art or the devotion to a beloved person — all these reactions rise from equally varied depths which lie close to our essential being.

These sources, however, cannot be tapped at will. Each one will respond only to the need or the object appropriate to it. Many of us do not know what dwells in us and of what we are capable until the right call reaches us. This same condition may be said to apply to spiritual consciousness, which answers to the call of the mystery behind the appearance of things and to the hidden meaning of events; to that which, although in the world, is not of the world — namely, the continuous self-revelation of God.

Awakened by His touch, guided by His call, spiritual consciousness seeks Him: this is religion. But it remains unsure, confused, full of errors until God speaks explicitly, first through His messengers and then through His Son, Jesus Christ. If man puts his trust in this message, he reaches God. This happens in rightly informed prayer. This is the holy encounter. In it awakens not only the religious consciousness but a new and higher consciousness, which we might call the spiritual heart of the child of God.

God Reveals Himself To Us In Prayer
On this holy ground the reality of God becomes manifest. It may happen that man experiences it suddenly and is overcome by its grandeur and flooded by its proximity. If this happens, he knows that he is receiving the great and intimate mystery of prayer. He must receive it with reverence and guard it well. But such an event is rare indeed and more often than not nothing happens. The God of whom the worshipper had said “He is here” remains silent and hidden. Then the prayer, supported by faith alone, must go out into this silent darkness and maintain itself there.

God’s Being Differs From Our Being
In recollectedness the worshipper says, “God is here and here also am I.” In saying this, he becomes aware of an important distinction. He realizes that in the two sentences “God is here” and “Here act I” the verb to be has different meanings. Differences of meaning also attach to it in ordinary life. If someone asks, “What is in this room?” and I answer, “In the center stands a table, on the windowsill is a rose, on the carpet lies a dog, before me sits my friend,” then I have said of all these various things and living beings that they are in the room.

But they are not there in the same manner. The plant which lives and grows is more than and is different from the table; the dog who knows me and answers my call also is, but he is more so than the plant, and in a different way. But man also is — differently and more intensely, being endowed with freedom and dignity and able to reason and to love. And different men possess, to varying degrees, the power and the manner of being.

Someone enters the room and is there, but he is there only in the sense that one has to take notice of his physical presence and position in space. Another one, however, is there to a degree which demands that we pay attention to what he says. A third will, by his mere presence, become the center of interest. From this, what has been said about the different meanings of the verb to be becomes clear. God is, as nobody and nothing is. He is from Himself and by reason of Himself. Thus He alone has substance; He alone verily is. The Scriptures express that He is the Lord. He does not become the Lord by virtue of His power over things; He is Lord of His very nature — the absolute Being.

I, however, am not from myself and by reason of myself. I am through Him: not being, but existing by His grace; not absolute, but contingent. Between my way of being and His, the coordinating conjunction and has no place. The sentence “God and I are” is devoid of meaning. Were I to maintain it in all seriousness, I would be blaspheming.

My being stands in an entirely different relationship to God than does the being of a creature to that of his fellow. I am only before Him and through Him. [Romans 11:36; Ephesians 4:6] In a state of true recollectedness, one experiences this truth. One will have learnt something very important when one knows that one is before God, and in reality only before Him. It is something very great; it can become frightening and at the same time joyous, and we shall see that on this realization rests one of the fundamental acts of prayer, that is, adoration.

Prayer Brings Us To Know The Face Of God
Who, then, is this God, toward whom man may, in a proper state of recollectedness, direct his thoughts — direct them because He Himself enables man to do so? He is not only the all-embracing ineffable, the mystery of existence, the ground of the world, or whatever term one may use to designate that which cannot be named. All these are attributes of God, but it is merely the breath of God, the vibration with which He penetrates the universe. God Himself is more: not merely meaning or idea, but reality; not only the depth, structure, center, width of the universe, but Being pure and absolute; not mere potentiality, but Himself.

The beginning and end of all Revelation is contained in that made to Moses on Mount Horeb when God revealed Himself and Moses said: “I shall go to the children of Israel, and say to them: `The God of your fathers hath sent me to you.’ If they should say to me: `What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses: “I Am Who Am.” He said: “Thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel: `He Who Is hath sent me to you.’ [Exodus 3:13-14.] 

In this solemn moment God dispenses with all such attributes as the mighty, the just, the merciful and calls Himself as He is, in Himself responsible to Himself alone, free — the God who is. It is this being in His own right that is His essence.

God is Himself Person — not only the most powerful, exalted, purest person, but the Person in itself. When we spoke of the reality of God we said that it was of a kind which precluded finite reality from being mentioned in the same context. God is, but man is only through Him and before Him. Here we say that God is the essential person, but man becomes person only when God calls him.

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A Universal Prayer – Pope Clement XI

February 21, 2013
Praying hands also known as Study of the Hands of an Apostle, is a famous Pen-and-ink drawing by the German printmaker, painter and theorist Albrecht Dürer made circa 1508. The artwork is stored at Albertina museum  --  Graphische Sammlung in Vienna, Austria. Dürer used white heightening technique and black ink on (self-made) blue colored paper. The drawing shows two male hands palm to palm praying, the body to the right (not seen). Also, the partly up-folded sleeves of the prayer are seen. The drawing is a sketch (study) for an apostles' hand who was planned to be in the center panel of the triptych for the Heller altar. On the same paper is a sketch of the apostle's head, but the sheet has been divided from it. Overall, Dürer made 18 sketches for the altarpiece. Dürer painted the Heller altarpiece, a triptych, between 1507 and 1509 together with Matthias Grünewald. The artwork was named after Jakob Heller who ordered it. Dürer painted the interior, Grünewald the exterior.The hand sketch is realized on the triptych in the inside center panel on the right in similarity, although in smaller size. The painting was destroyed by a fire in 1729. The famous Dürer copyist Jobst Harrich painted a duplicate in the 17th century. The central panel is also called große Taffel von unser lieben Frauen Himmelfahrt mit den zwölf Aposteln. The first public recognition of the artwork was in 1871 when it was exhibited in Vienna. The image depicts probably the master's own hands.

Praying hands also known as Study of the Hands of an Apostle, is a famous Pen-and-ink drawing by the German printmaker, painter and theorist Albrecht Dürer made circa 1508. The artwork is stored at Albertina museum — Graphische Sammlung in Vienna, Austria. Dürer used white heightening technique and black ink on (self-made) blue colored paper. The drawing shows two male hands palm to palm praying, the body to the right (not seen). Also, the partly up-folded sleeves of the prayer are seen. The drawing is a sketch (study) for an apostles’ hand who was planned to be in the center panel of the triptych for the Heller altar. On the same paper is a sketch of the apostle’s head, but the sheet has been divided from it. Overall, Dürer made 18 sketches for the altarpiece. Dürer painted the Heller altarpiece, a triptych, between 1507 and 1509 together with Matthias Grünewald. The artwork was named after Jakob Heller who ordered it. Dürer painted the interior, Grünewald the exterior.The hand sketch is realized on the triptych in the inside center panel on the right in similarity, although in smaller size. The painting was destroyed by a fire in 1729. The famous Dürer copyist Jobst Harrich painted a duplicate in the 17th century. The central panel is also called große Taffel von unser lieben Frauen Himmelfahrt mit den zwölf Aposteln. The first public recognition of the artwork was in 1871 when it was exhibited in Vienna. The image depicts probably the master’s own hands.

Lord, I believe in you: increase my faith.
I trust in you: strengthen my trust.
I love you: let me love you more and more.
I am sorry for my sins: deepen my sorrow.

I worship you as my first beginning,
I long for you as my last end,
I praise you as my constant helper,
And call on you as my loving protector.

Guide me by your wisdom,
Correct me with your justice,
Comfort me with your mercy,
Protect me with your power.

I offer you, Lord, my thoughts: to be fixed on you;
My words: to have you for their theme;
My actions: to reflect my love for you;
My sufferings: to be endured for your greater glory.

I want to do what you ask of me:
In the way you ask,
For as long as you ask,
Because you ask it.

Lord, enlighten my understanding,
Strengthen my will,
Purify my heart,
and make me holy.

Help me to repent of my past sins
And to resist temptation in the future.
Help me to rise above my human weaknesses
And to grow stronger as a Christian.

Let me love you, my Lord and my God,
And see myself as I really am:
A pilgrim in this world,
A Christian called to respect and love
All whose lives I touch,
Those under my authority,
My friends and my enemies.

Help me to conquer anger with gentleness,
Greed by generosity,
Apathy by fervor.
Help me to forget myself
And reach out toward others.

Make me prudent in planning,
Courageous in taking risks.
Make me patient in suffering, unassuming in prosperity.

Keep me, Lord, attentive at prayer,
Temperate in food and drink,
Diligent in my work,
Firm in my good intentions.

Let my conscience be clear,
My conduct without fault,
My speech blameless,
My life well-ordered.

Put me on guard against my human weaknesses.
Let me cherish your love for me,
Keep your law,
And come at last to your salvation.

Teach me to realize that this world is passing,
That my true future is the happiness of heaven,
That life on earth is short,
And the life to come eternal.

Help me to prepare for death
With a proper fear of judgment,
But a greater trust in your goodness.
Lead me safely through death
To the endless joy of heaven.

Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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The Philokalia On Prayer 2 – Various

February 8, 2013
The Early Church Fathers of the Western Christian Tradition are widely known, but the Early Desert Fathers of the Orthodox Church (The Writers of the Philokalia) are not as widely known or understood. What makes them unique is their unusual asceticism. Most of them became hermits and lived in the caves of Egypt to uncover the deepest secrets of the inner soul of man. It was in this profound aloneness and heightened dispassion, that these Early Desert Fathers found God. And it was in this utter silence, that they expounded the deep truths which they discovered and wrote down for generations to come. ‘Writers of the Philokalia’ seeks to simplify the four to six volume collection of the Philokalia by introducing the lives and teachings of these Desert Fathers in an Overview fashion.

The Early Church Fathers of the Western Christian Tradition are widely known, but the Early Desert Fathers of the Orthodox Church (The Writers of the Philokalia) are not as widely known or understood. What makes them unique is their unusual asceticism. Most of them became hermits and lived in the caves of Egypt to uncover the deepest secrets of the inner soul of man. It was in this profound aloneness and heightened dispassion, that these Early Desert Fathers found God. And it was in this utter silence, that they expounded the deep truths which they discovered and wrote down for generations to come.

Prayer, like faith itself, is a gift from God. But we must actively accept the gift through our participation.

The Fathers define prayer as a spiritual weapon. Unless we are armed with it, we cannot engage in warfare, but are carried off as prisoners to the enemy’s country. Nor can we acquire pure prayer unless we cleave to God with an upright heart. For it is God who gives prayer to him who prays and who teaches man spiritual knowledge.
St. Theodoros The Great Ascetic, A Century Of Spiritual Texts, Sec. 8

Especially important is pure prayer — prayer that is unceasing and uninterrupted. Such prayer is a safe fortress, a sheltered harbor, a protector of virtues, a destroyer of passions. It brings vigor to the soul, purifies the intellect, gives rest to those who suffer, consoles those who mourn. Prayer is converse with God, contemplation of the invisible, the angelic mode of life, a stimulus toward the Divine, the assurance of things longed for, “making real the things for which we hope” Hebrews 11:1). As an ascetic you must embrace this queen of the virtues with all your strength. Pray day and night. Pray at times of dejection and at times of exhilaration. Pray with fear and trembling, With a watchful and vigilant mind, so that prayer may be accepted by the Lord. For, as the psalmist says: “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are open to their prayer” (Psalm 34:15).
St. Theodoros The Great Ascetic, A Century Of Spiritual Texts, Sec. 60

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The monastic tradition emphasizes the importance of rising early to praise God.

Whatever a man loves, he desires at all costs to be near to continuously and uninterruptedly, and he turns himself away from everything that hinders him from being in contact and dwelling with the object of his love. It is clear therefore that he who loves God also desires always to be with him and to converse with him. This comes to pass in us through pure prayer. Accordingly, let us apply ourselves to prayer with all our power; for it enables us to become akin to God. Such a man was he who said: “O God, my God, I cry to Thee at dawn; my soul has thirsted for Thee” (Psalm 63:1, LXX). For the man who cries to God at dawn has withdrawn his intellect from every vice and clearly is wounded by divine love.
St. Theodoros The Great Ascetic A Century Of Spiritual Texts, Sec. 94

Prayer gives thanks for blessings received and asks for failures to be forgiven and for power to strengthen us for the future; for without God’s help the soul can indeed do nothing. Nonetheless, to persuade the will to have the strongest possible desire for union with and enjoyment of God, for whom it longs, and to direct itself totally toward him, is the major part of the achievement of our aim.
St. Theodoros The Great Ascetic, Theoretikon

Almsgiving heals the soul’s incensive power, fasting withers sensual desire; prayer purifies the intellect and prepares it for the contemplation of created things. For the Lord has given us commandments that correspond to the powers of the soul.
St. Maximos The Confessor, First Century On Love, Sec. 79

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In the West, there is a strong tradition of prayer using images (kataphatic prayer), as well as imageless (apophatic) prayer. In the East, however, and especially in the Athonite (that is, having to do with Mount Athos) spirituality contained in the Philokalia, the use of images in prayer is strongly discouraged.

When during prayer no conceptual image of anything worldly disturbs intellect, then know that you are within the realm of depression.
St. Maximos The Confessor, First Century On Love, Sec. 88

He who truly loves God prays entirely without distraction, and he who prays entirely without distraction loves God truly. But he whose intellect  is fixed on any worldly thing does not pray without distraction, and consequently he does not love God.
St. Maximos The Confessor, Second Century On Love, Sec 1

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Christ becomes king over man’s soul through man’s frequent prayer and the outpouring of his self. He becomes the true center of its being and movements. At that stage, man will never find rest in anything except in Christ alone, where the image would rest in its own likeness. Since the soul has been created for immortality, it will thus find in Christ, when it unites with him, its ultimate joy. Through his existence, he consummates its own existence and immortality.
Matthew the Poor, Orthodox Prayer Life: The Inner Way

Two states of pure prayer are exalted above all others. One is to be those who have not advanced beyond the practice of the virtues, the other in those leading the contemplative life. The first is engendered in the soul by fear of God and a firm hope in him, the second by an intense longing for God and by total purification. The sign of the first is that the intellect, abandoning all conceptual images of the world, concentrates itself and prays without distraction or disturbance as if God himself were present, as indeed he is. The sign of the second is that at the very onset of prayer the intellect is so ravished by the divine and infinite light that it is aware neither of itself nor of any other created thing, but only of him who through love has such radiance in it. It is then that, being made aware of God’s qualities, it receives clear and distinct reflections of him.
St. Maximos The Confessor, Second Century On Love, Sec. 6

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Imageless prayer is seen as superior to the use of images in prayer, and as necessary to unceasing prayer.

It is said that the highest state of prayer is reached when the intellect and the flesh and the world, and while praying is utterly free from matter and form. He who maintains this state has truly attained unceasing prayer.
St. Maximos The Confessor,  Second Century On Love, Sec. 6

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Enmity is considered not only alien to the life of prayer, but as an enemy of prayer. Here Maximos exhorts us to accept an apology (if made), or to assume that we are at fault. The point is not to establish who is right, but to be forgiving and humble.

Has a brother been the occasion of some trial for you and has your resentment led you to hatred? Do not let yourself be overcome by this hatred, but conquer it with love. You will succeed in this by praying to God sincerely for your brother and by accepting his apology; or else by conciliating him with an apology yourself, by regarding yourself as responsible for the trial, and by patiently waiting until the cloud has passed.
St. Maximos The Confessor, Fourth Century On Love, Sec. 22

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Maximos provides practical guidance for each part of the soul and body. The Eastern approach is holistic.

If you want to be a just person, assign to each aspect of yourself — to your soul and your body — what accords with it. To the intelligent aspect of the soul, assign spiritual reading, contemplation, and prayer; to the incensive aspect, spiritual love, the opposite of hatred; to the desiring aspect, moderation and self-control; to the fleshly part, food and clothing, for these alone are necessary (1 Timothy 6:8).
St. Maximos The Confessor, Fourth Century On Love, Sec. 44

Who in this generation is completely free from impassioned conceptual images, and has been granted uninterrupted, pure, and spiritual prayer? Yet this is the mark of the inner monk.
St. Maximos The Confessor, Fourth Century On Love, Sec. 51

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The Philokalia on Prayer 1 – Various

February 7, 2013
The Philokalia is a "principal spiritual text" for all the Eastern Orthodox Churches; the publishers of the current English translation state that "The Philokalia has exercised an influence far greater than that of any book other than the Bible in the recent history of the Orthodox Church."

The Philokalia is a “principal spiritual text” for all the Eastern Orthodox Churches; the publishers of the current English translation state that “The Philokalia has exercised an influence far greater than that of any book other than the Bible in the recent history of the Orthodox Church.”

The Philokalia is a collection of writings by monks of the fourth to the fifteenth centuries and more than any other text reflects the Eastern Church’s interpretation of the Bible’s meaning. Philokalia means “Love of the Beautiful” and shows the text’s emphasis on the mystical and contemplative practices to engage all our senses in the acts of worship and prayer. The translations here are done by G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard and Bishop Kallistos Ware. The annotations by Allyne Smith.

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Evagrios the Solitary (346-399), also known as Evagrius of Pontus, was a monk and an ascetic. His spiritual father was Makarios of Alexandria (died ca. 395), and he also knew Makarios of Egypt. He was ordained reader by Basil the Great (ca. 330-379) and deacon by his friend and mentor, Gregory of Nazianzus (329-389), known in the East as Gregory the Theologian. He was greatly influenced by the Cappadocians — Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa (ca. 340-394), Gregory of Nazianzus, and Macrina (ca. 330-380) — and by Origen (ca. 175-254). His works, written in Greek and subsequently translated into Syriac and Latin, were very influential in shaping the Eastern spiritual tradition.

If you are disheartened, pray, as the apostle says (James 5:13). Pray with fear, trembling, effort, with inner watchfulness and vigilance. To pray in this manner is especially necessary because the enemies are so .malignant. For it is just when they see us at prayer that they come and stand beside us, ready to attack, suggesting to our intellect the very ‘things we should not think about when praying; in this way they try to take our intellect captive and to make our prayer and supplication vain and useless. For prayer is truly vain and useless when not performed with fear and trembling, with inner watchfulness and vigilance.
Evagrius The Solitary, Outline Teaching On Asceticism And Stillness In The Solitary Life

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Obedience to God’s commandments is the first step in the spiritual life.

When the soul has been purified through the keeping of all the commandments, it makes the intellect steadfast and able to receive the state needed for prayer. Prayer is the communion of the intellect ith God.
Evagrius The Solitary, On Prayer, Sec. 2-3

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John Chrysostom is thinking along these lines when he writes, “The mystery [of the Eucharist] requires that we should be innocent not only of violence but of all enmity, however slight, for it is the mystery of peace.”

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If you desire to pray as you ought, do not grieve anyone; otherwise you “run in vain” (Philippians 2:16). “Leave your gift before the altar; first go away and be reconciled with your brother” (Matthew 5:24), 1 when you return you will pray without disturbance. For rancor darkens the intellect of one who prays, and extinguishes the light of prayers.
Evagrius The Solitary, On Prayer, Sec. 21-22

Undistracted prayer is the highest intellection of the intellect. Prayer is the ascent of the intellect to God. If you long for prayer, renounce to gain all. Pray first for the purification of the passions; second, for reverence from ignorance and forgetfulness; and third, for deliverance from all temptation, trial, and dereliction.
Evagrios The Solitary, On Prayer, Sec. 35-38

Do not pray only with outward forms and gestures, but with reverence and awe try to make your intellect conscious of spiritual prayer.
Evagrios The Solitary, On Prayer, Sec. 28

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Buddhists refer to this distraction from prayer as “monkey mind” — when we try to still the mind, it seems determined to “jump from tree to tree,” that is, from thought to thought.

If intellect is still distracted during prayer, you do not yet know it is to pray as a monk; but your prayer is still worldly, embellishing the outer tabernacle. When you pray, keep close watch on your memory, so that it does not distract you with recollections of past. But make yourself aware that you are standing before God. For by nature the intellect is apt to be carried away by memories during prayer. While you are praying, the memory brings before you fantasies either of past things, or of recent concerns, or of the face of one who has irritated you. The demon is very envious of us when we pray, and uses every kind of trick to thwart our purpose. Therefore he is always using our memory to stir up thoughts of various things and our flesh to arouse our passions, in order to obstruct our way of ascent to God.
Evagrius The Solitary, On Prayer, Sec.. 45-47

The state of prayer is one of dispassion, which by virtue of the most intense love transports to the noetic realm the intellect that longs for wisdom
Evagrios The Solitary, On Prayer, Sec.. 53

He who prays in spirit and in truth is no longer dependent on created when honoring the Creator, but praises him for and in himself.
Evagrios The Solitary, On Prayer, Sec.. 60

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For the Church Fathers in the Eastern Christian tradition, theology refers first to God the Trinity; second to the experience of God the Trinity; third to the worship of God the Trinity; fourth to the Holy Scriptures; and last (and arguably least) to “thinking about God.”

If you are a theologian, you will pray truly. And if you pray truly, you heologian.
Evagrius The Solitary, On Prayer, Sec.. 61

I shall say again what I have said elsewhere: blessed is the intellect that is completely free from forms during prayer. Blessed is the intellect that, undistracted in its prayer, acquires an even greater longing for God. Blessed is the intellect that during prayer is free from materiality and stripped of all possessions. Blessed is the intellect that has acquired complete freedom from sensations during prayer.
Evagrius The Solitary, On Prayer, Sec. 1 17-120

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Hesychios the Priest (eighth or ninth century) was thought by Nikodimos to have been the early fifth-century Hesychios of Jerusalem, but nowadays he is believed to have been the later Hesychios, who was abbot of a monastery on Sinai. His work draws on Maximos Confessor, Mark the Ascetic, and John Klimakos (ca. 579-649). He emphasized devotion to the name of Jesus.

If we have not attained prayer that is free from thoughts, we have no weapon to fight with. By this prayer I mean the prayer that is ever active in the inner shrine of the soul, and that, by invoking Christ, scourges and sears our enemy.
St. Hesychios The Priest, On Watchfulness And Holiness, Sec. 21

It is written: “Prepare yourself, O Israel, to call upon the name of the Lord your God” (Amos 4:12, LXX); and the apostle says, “Pray without Ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Our Lord himself says, “Without me you can do nothing. If a man dwells in me and I in him, then he brings forth much fruit”; and again: “If a man does not dwell in me, he is cast out as a branch” (John 15:5-6). Prayer is a great blessing, and it embraces all blessings, for it purifies the heart, in which God is seen by the believer.
St. Hesychios The Priest, On Watchfulness And Holiness, Sec. 62

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Unceasing prayer first brings us to the stage of purgation, which Is naturally followed by the second stage of illumination. But Hesychios warns that a lack of humility will prevent this illumination.

It is through unceasing prayer that the mind is cleansed of the dark Ids, the tempests of the demons. And when it is cleansed, the divine light of Jesus cannot but shine in it, unless we are puffed up by esteem and delusion and a love of ostentation, and elevate selves toward the unattainable, and so are deprived of Jesus’ help. Christ, the paradigm of humility, loathes all such self-inflation.
St. Hesychios The Priest, On Watchfulness And Holiness, Sec. 175

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