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제목 What is Prayer? - On The Lord's Prayer(2015-11-14)
작성자 관리자 작성일 2015-11-16



What is Prayer? - On The Lord's Prayer(2015-11-14)


My dear brethren,


I would like to continue on prayer, no longer comparing with Buddhist, but simply giving some of the advices of St Theresa of Avila for a better prayer. It will be quite evident that Catholic prayer is not a search for the nirvana of non-thinking, but rather the filling of the soul by God.

The model of all prayers is the one given by our Lord Jesus Christ, the Our Father. In her beautiful work the Way of Perfection, St Theresa of Avila gives a marvellous commentary of this prayer. It starts by “our Father”. Indeed we should always start our prayer by considering the person(s) to whom we are going to speak.


 One does not speak in the same way to a child and to a king! The very Korean (Japanese) language has special forms and words when addressing a king. Now, in prayer we do not address a human king or emperor, but the King of kings and Supreme Emperor of the whole universe, to Whom all things are subject, all material things from the largest galaxy to the smallest particles in the whole universe, and all spiritual beings including all the legions of angels up to the highest angels. With what reverence, adoration should we not speak with God himself?!


Yet the very Son of God himself taught us to address God as “our Father”! The transcendence of God is expressed by these words “Who art in Heaven”; yet the true God is not like the Freemasons or pagan philosophers thought, far away from mankind and not caring about us: the true God is a caring God, who knows each one of us personally and cares for each one of us as the best of all fathers! O wonders of the Divine Love! O dignity of the Christian, to have become “children of God” (Jn. 1:12) by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ!

“God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son” (Jn. 3:16). But we can say in all truth also that the Son of God gave us His Father to become our Father! We are children of God “in the Son”, that is, in as much as we are living members of our Lord Jesus Christ: God the Father loves us by the very love with which He loves His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, when He sees the image of His Son in us. Indeed St Paul says that God’s intention is to make us “conformable to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn amongst many brethren” (Rom. 8:29).


This transformation is a fruit of prayer: “we all beholding the glory of the Lord with open face, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18). There are “many brethren” and yet “One Son”, because the many brethren are all united together into the Mystical Body of Christ, the one true Church, the Catholic Church. This is the meaning of the “our” in “our Father”: we are not alone, we do not pray selfishly just each one for himself, but we carry in our heart all the needs of the Church, not only of those who are currently actual members of the Church, but of all those who will enter, who should enter into the Church in order to be saved, i.e. of the whole mankind.

A father cares for his children, he provides for them, but he also educates them and corrects them when they go astray, as St Paul says to the Hebrews: “Persevere under discipline. God dealeth with you as with his sons; for what son is there, whom the father doth not correct? But if you be without chastisement, whereof all are made partakers, then are you bastards, and not sons. Moreover we have had fathers of our flesh, for instructors, and we reverenced them: shall we not much more obey the Father of spirits, and live? And they indeed for a few days, according to their own pleasure, instructed us: but he, for our profit, that we might receive his sanctification. Now all chastisement for the present indeed seemeth not to bring with it joy, but sorrow: but afterwards it will yield, to them that are exercised by it, the most peaceable fruit of justice” (Heb. 12:7-11).

The modern world no longer wants of God as a Father who corrects us, and by such refusal they are most rebellious children. This is most dangerous, because as St Paul says in the same epistle: “It is a horrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). What to do to obtain their conversion? What did our Lord Jesus Christ do? He offered Himself as a victim for the salvation of souls: we should offer ourselves with Him in order to obtain true mercy for them, that they may at last accept to change their evil ways and return to the best of all fathers, “persevering under discipline” as true children.

“Hallowed be Thy Name! Thy Kingdom come!” The Name of God is Holy; hence we do not ask that it be holy, but rather that it be acknowledged as Holy, that the perfections of God be known by us and by all men. Now the full knowledge of the perfections of God will only be in Heaven; here below “while we are in the body, we are absent from the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:6), we do not yet have that light wherewith we shall see light, as it is written: “for with thee is the fountain of life; and in thy light we shall see light” (Ps. 35:10).


 The Name of God shall be perfectly acknowledged as holy in the Kingdom of Heaven, which we call for with all our heart in the next petition. So in these very first two petitions of the our Father, our Lord Jesus Christ teaches us to put order in our desires, and to desire first that for which He created us, the very purpose of our life, that is, to sing the glory of God for ever in Heaven: “Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mt. 6:33).


 Hallowed be Thy Name will be completely fulfilled when the Light of God shall fully shine in our intelligence in Heaven; Thy Kingdom come will be completely fulfilled when the fire of Divine Love shall entirely rule in our will in Heaven. By teaching us the “our Father”, our Lord Jesus Christ teaches us to long for this always more: “Seek ye the Lord, and be strengthened: seek his face evermore. Let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord” (Ps. 104:3, 2). “Thy face, O Lord, will I still seek” (Ps. 26:8).

Also by these two petitions, we ask that we live truly as the “salt of the earth” and “light of the world” as our Lord says, “So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 5:16). We ask that by truly living a life “worthy of the vocation in which [we] are called,” (Eph. 4:1), the “Kingdom of Christ and God” (Eph. 5:5) be extended.

“Thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”: what do we mean by “in heaven”, that comes again here? God is everywhere: “do not I fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord?” (Jer. 23:24). If He is everywhere, why does our Lord teach us to say “Who art in Heaven”? “God is a spirit; and they that adore him, must adore him in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:24).


 We must not understand the word “heaven” in a material way, as if God was located somewhere in the stars, and not on earth! We must understand the word “heaven” in a spiritual way, as expressing the transcendence of God, that is, the supreme excellence of the most Holy Trinity above all created things! Our Father is “in Heaven”, that means, He is infinitely more perfect than all created things – and therefore should be acknowledged as such and has a strict right to reign in our hearts and will and over all our actions.


The “Kingdom of Heaven” does not mean that our bodies will go on another planet or in another star… as some dream, but rather it expresses the somehow infinite superiority of the joys of the beatific vision above all earthly joys: after tasting a foretaste of these “heavenly” joys in prayer and contemplation, the soul loses all taste for earthly things.


St Thérèse of the Child Jesus, already as a child, having tasted such consolation, had prayed that God would take away from her any such taste for earthly things. And St Theresa of Avila teaches that, though God does give to many souls after a true conversion some similar consolation, they make little progress in the spiritual life because they turn again their hearts to earthly things. This is the cause of so much spiritual stagnation when not worse, i.e. shipwreck: the love of earthly things!


Yet St John strongly warns us: “Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him” (1 Jn. 2:15). Frightful thing: the Charity of the Father is not in him! Such a one is spiritually dead, which is much worse than physical death. So my brethren, I beg you, “Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world!”
 
When we ask, “Thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”, it is something very important – and engaging – that we ask. We do not simply ask that God’s will be done, as if we had nothing to do, but we rather ask that His Will be done IN us and BY us: and that is much more “engaging”: we are involved, and in a big way.


First of all such a petition is absolutely incompatible with sin: one would be actually lying if he would pronounce these words, while at the same time refusing to obey the Commandments of God. If one would say that God does no longer require the obedience to the Ten Commandments, that is even worse, it is to pretend that God Himself would be a liar: this is blasphemy!


Indeed our Lord Jesus Christ is very clear: “Not everyone that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name, and cast out devils in thy name, and done many miracles in thy name? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity” (Mt. 7:21-23).


The Commandments of God are not impossible: we can always pray to obtain the grace to fulfil these Commandments: the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ empowers us to fulfil them. This is what we ask here in the “our Father”: we ask for the grace to obey the Commandments, in order that through obedience we may reach the reward, to enter the Kingdom of Heaven promised to those “who do the will of my Father Who is in Heaven”.


But we ask even for more. Indeed, do you remember where else in the Scriptures such words are found? Here our Lord teaches us to say: “FIAT voluntas tua – Thy will be done…” we remember that we heard our Lady saying “FIAT mihi secundum verbum tuum – be it done to me according to Thy word” and our Lord himself in the garden of olives saying “FIAT – not my will but Thy Will be done!” All the sanctity of our Lady is found in that one word “FIAT – YES to God!”


Our Lady’s whole life is a total, complete, absolute YES to God. Marvellous obedience, humility, love to the utmost, that yes is from the Incarnation all the way to the foot of the Cross! Sin is NO to God; sanctity is YES to God. Our Lord Jesus Christ in His Passion redeems mankind from its NO to God by His perfect YES to God: “He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8).


Sometimes, we tend to be afraid of saying such a complete YES to God; we fear that God might ask too much. But that is to forget that God is the very one who strengthens us and ENABLES us to fulfil His Commandment. Never, absolutely never that He impose a Cross without giving “superabundant graces” (Rom. 5:20) to strengthen us: “I can do all these things in him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13), and also a superabundant reward: “I exceedingly abound with joy in all our tribulation” (2 Cor. 7:4). “For I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).


So whenever we say the our Father, let us never put a limit to that petition, but rather let us ask that our heavenly Father grant us the grace to do His holy Will completely, in imitation of our Lord and our Lady, accepting whatever cross He sends us and offering ourselves with Jesus, so that “by suffering with Him, we may be glorified with Him” (Rom. 8:17).

 “Give us this day our daily bread”: St Matthew actually has “our super-substantial bread”, which clearly is not the bread of the body (that would be a very strange word for it), but rather “the living bread which came down from heaven” (Jn. 6:52), that is the Holy Eucharist, as He said: “the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world” (Jn. 6:52).


This is the food which we should desire with real hunger, because “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day” (Jn. 6:55). Each day you can do a spiritual communion! And if you can go to the Traditional Mass to receive worthily Holy Communion, do so! There is no greater gift that the Son of God could have given us that His own “body, blood, soul an Divinity”, and as St Paul said: “how hath he not also, with him, given us all things?” (Rom. 8:32) God can ask us much, because He has given us much more! He can ask holiness from us, because He gives Himself to us to transform us into Himself.

With this supreme gift, the Father also provides for all the other daily necessities, as He sees fit – not that we are dispensed from working, but when we plant and water, “God gives the increase” (see 1 Cor. 3:6), or after “we worked the whole night”, He gives the catch of fishes (see Luke 5:5-6). Yet it is very important that these material things which we ask be NOT the main object of our requests: in all things, the MAIN object of our request should always be the spiritual and everlasting goods: “seek ye first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Lk. 12:31).

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespassed against us”: apart from the Blessed Virgin Mary, Who by a special grace of our Lord Jesus Christ was preserved from original sin and all sin, we all have some sins, even after conversion there remains some small venial sins, as the Scriptures says: “a just mall shall fall seven times and shall rise again: but the wicked shall fall down into evil” (Pro 24:16): the falls of a just man are small falls (venial sin) quite different from the falls of the wicked (mortal sins).


Yet, it is most important to acknowledge that need for the forgiveness of God: “If thou, O Lord, wilt mark iniquities: Lord, who shall stand it?” (Ps. 129:3) And if we want to receive the forgiveness of God, we MUST forgive our neighbour: of all the petitions of the “our Father”, the only one on which our Lord insists in this one: “For if you will forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offences. But if you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your offences” (Mt. 6:14-15). In forgiving those who offended us, we learn what love is required in forgiveness, we learn how much God loves us in order to forgive us, we learn “not to render evil for evil, but to overcome evil by good” (see Rom. 12:21).


So in His Divine Providence, God does not prevent some people to offend us, in order to give us the opportunity of forgiving our neighbour! When we look at it that way, we get an insight to the Wisdom of God, Who draws good out of evil, Who makes “all things cooperate to the good of those who love God” (Rom 8:28).

“Lead us not into temptation” – it would be better to say: make that we do not enter into temptation. Sin is the only evil we should really fear; hence we beg God to protect us from that one great evil, source of all the other evils. One does not love God truly if he does not avoid offending God. In that prayer there is an act of humility, acknowledging our own weakness: by ourselves we “can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5), we are weak and can only fall: “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak: heal me, O Lord!” (Ps. 6:3) We ask for this with great confidence, as St Paul says: “Let no temptation take hold on you, but such as is human. And God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able: but will make also with temptation issue, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13).


“Deliver us from evil”: after having asked to be delivered from sin itself by forgiveness, delivered from the occasion of sin (temptation), here we ask to be delivered from the consequences of sin. This deliverance shall be complete in Heaven, but already here below God punishes less than we deserve. We accept the mild punishment that He gives – acknowledging that we deserved infinitely more, we deserved Hell, thanking Him for the remission of sin, yet we are not forbidden to ask for further mercy and remission of that penalty due to sin! We ask for ourselves, and we ask it for the souls in Purgatory, that their pains be shortened and lessened. All this contributes to the Glory of the most Holy Trinity.


“Lord, teach us to pray!” (Lk. 11:1) Our Lord has taught us; may He give us the grace always to pray well, especially this most holy prayer, the “our Father”! May the Blessed Virgin Mary teach us how to pray! May St Joseph teach us to pray! In Nazareth, the house of the Lord was most certainly “a house of prayer” (Mt. 21:13). Our souls too should be a “house of prayer”; indeed St Paul says: “Know you not, that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16).


 Inseparably from the Holy Ghost, the Father and the Son also dwell in us, as our Lord Himself says: “If any one love me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and will make our abode with him” (Jn. 14:23). If we are the temple of the Holy Ghost, and the Father and the Son dwell in us, then our soul must be a real “house of prayer”, the “Our Father” being the model of our prayers. Amen.


Fr. F. Laisney(sspxasia)