Recently in Prayer and Praying Category
The rolling phrases of Pope St. Clement I
from The Letter to the Corinthians
Pope St. Clement I
Helper of those in peril, Savior of those in despair, you created and still kepp watch over all that draws breath. You cause the peoples on Earth to multiply, and from them all choose those who love you through Jesus Christ, your beloved Son. Through Him you have instructed us, sanctified us, honored us.
I think in reading this of the threefold mission--priest, prophet, and king that was announced as of His Baptism. I don't know why, perhaps it is simply the way things are phrased and particularly the trifold "instructed us, sanctified us, honored us."
The rhythm of this thought and its delicacy are pursued until the end of the passage and we culminate with being honored by God. I have to wonder how many have thought of it in that way--being honored by Him. Too often we are busy being cowed or bowed or cozzened or otherwise perturbed in our path. but no--instructed, sanctified, and honored. Honored as children, honored as sons and daughters.
From a Sermon by St. Bernard, Abbot
Because this coming [the second of three] lies between the other two, it is like a road on which we travel from the first coming to the last. In the first Christ was our redemption; in the last, he will appear as our life; in this middle coming he is our rest and consolation.
. . . Where is God's word to be kept? Obviously in the heart as the prophet says: I have hidden your words in my heart, so that I may not sin against you.
Keep God's word in this way. Let it enter into your very being, let it take possession of your desires and your whole way of life. Feed on goodness, and your soul will delight in its richness. Remember to eat your bread, or your heart will wither away. Fill your soul with richness and strength.
What calls to me here is the image of the last line of paragraph 1--"he is our rest and consolation"--a wayside respite--a momentary taste of being fromt he Well amid the waste. How complex and full THAT poetic, echoic image. Our rest and our consolation--our Well amid the waste.
This book by Gary Jansen is yet another discussion of the Rosary. But this one has a number of differences that makes it stand out from the rest. While Mr. Jansen gives a brief overview of the history and meaning of the prayer, he also opens it up to our protestant brethren, suggesting variations that encourage the same mediation on the mysteries, the same rounds of prayer, but deemphasizing the Marian elements that might be off-putting. He even adds suggestions for mysteries that might be good to reflect upon for those who have no problems with the Marian aspects--The Second Coming and The Kingdom of God. Those of us used to the pattern of prayer might ignore these, but I think they would appeal to a great many people--myself included.
Also, in the section that covers each mystery, beads are shown on the page and and can be used to say the prayers. The art for each mystery varies, from some classic and beautiful images to some more modern and haunting images (for example, the picture shown for the resurrection.)
Finally, Mr. Jansen incorporates the Luminous mysteries into the bok between the joyful and sorrowful, giving the fullness of the Rosary--a reflection on the complete Life of Jesus Christ including the ministerial years.
In addition to being short and encouraging, the price is right as a gift for a friend who may be unfamiliar with the Rosary, or, for one like me, who finds a deep challenge in the prayer. This book was a positive encouragement to pray this powerful and beautiful (if difficult) prayer. I've said it somewhat easier in the past few days with the help of the meditations, pictures, and quiet advice of Mr. Jansen.
Highly recommended for everyone.
On a personal note: This book arrived completely out of the blue and given the struggle I've had in recent days, it was a gift from Heaven. I have been able to pray the Rosary more easily (though still not easily) and I am encouraged as I dip into the pages of the book from time to time. I am reminded that in the Rosary, I am praying with a dear friend who cares for me deeply and personally--she who has been given the privilege to be Mother of Our Savior and Mother to the World. I can't thank God enough for the blessings of this book and its timing.
Morning prayer, day-in, day-out 7/365 with rarely a break. And each round of the weeks, I experience something new in the Psalter, I hear something different as the words are spoken. I experience the prayers from where I am at that time, and so they have a different savor on the tongue, in the mind, in the heart.
And today there is a certain sense of joy and frustration.
from Psalter, Wednesday Week 1 of Ordinary Time
My God, the sons of men
find refuge in the shelter of your wings.
They feast on the riches of your house;
they drink from the stream of your delight.
In you is the source of life
and in your light we see light.
Keep on loving those who know you,
doing justice for upright hearts.
Let the foot of the proud not crush me
nor the hand of the wicked cast me out.
See how the evil-doers fall!
Flung down, they shall never arise.
While I relish the mercy of the Lord, I am often aghast at how He allows the wicked to rule and retain power. Ruthless, brutal, heartless, and cruel--the leadership of the world is so often the leadership of oppression. This is true from governments down to small businesses. Wanton small acts of cruelty from the company my wife worked for that ordered her to put two staples into the application of any person of color to the Lehman Brothers and other precipitators of our present crisis. Will they suffer from it? Not at all, and yet the suffering they have caused and will cause is incalculable.
Do the evil-doers fall? Rarely. How often are those who consistently vote for the extermination of small lives cast out of office--aren't they rather celebrated and extolled? How frequently do we witness any comeuppance?
And yet, I don't really want to see comeuppance either. Rather, I want to see the evil-doers fall--fall into the arms of God and cease to do evil. I want to see the sources of the world's evils dry up--avarice, pride, ambition, lust for power. And I know that they cannot go entirely because it is these drivers that given humanity some of its greatness some of its ability to cope with almost anything. Mysteriously, love is not a tremendous motivator to exploration of new worlds. It is the Dionysian that propels us--but even as tempered, it hurls us toward the stars, untrammeled it hurls us toward Hell itself.
And so the frustration of the psalms. I read the line and at first I want to see the evil-doer cast down--in fact, like the Lord High Executioner in The Mikado, I have a little list. It's not even alphabetical, but ranked. And sometimes I think, Lord, if you saw fit to smite these people, I would not be tremendously troubled. And then I go to confession.
Nevertheless, it would be good if I could see the evil-doers fall--fall into the arms of our Lord and cease to do evil. That, in fact, would be more satisfying than to see them destroyed. And yet, it happens so infrequently--or so it seems.
But I have to call to mind the words of St. Paul who reminds us that the sower of the seed is often not privileged to see the harvest of that same crop. So, I suppose by that logic, I do my part in the fall of evil-doers when I return goodness for malice, blessings for curses. "Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head." (Rom 12:20 quoting Proverbs 25:21-22).
Oh, but how satisfying it would be to see some of the evil of the world lessen, to see some surcease of the repletion of the foul.
I discovered only this morning that I have been off by a week in my morning prayer--praying out of synch as it were. As that is the case, I'll continue being off by a week for this day because of the psalm that speaks so loudly to me right now:
from Psalm 42
Why are you cast down, my soul,
why groan within me?
Hope in God; I will praise Him still,
my savior and my God.
Around me are any number of causes for sorrow and despair. I received alarming and difficult news from a dear friend, for whom I ask your prayers. Matter at work are difficult and require much prayer and reflection. And then there are the larger things wrong--these show up in minor, but still frightening, ways such as the smaller number of advertisements in the Church Bulletin, the "for Rent" sign on the house next door.
Father in heaven, when your strength takes possession of us we no longer say: Why are you cast down, my soul? . . . Inspire us to yearn for you always, like the deer for running streams, unti lyou satisfy every longing in heaven.
Note, every longing in heaven--not all the yearning for peace and certainty that we have here on Earth--but every longing in heaven.
I truly feel the weight of the Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times." I would that they were less interesting. And yet everything is allowed by God for the purposes of proving us and refining us and making us more capable of heaven. Refinement is always painful, burning away the dross always difficult. And yet our hope is in what is left behind once all of the excess has been done way with.
How often do I skip through Psalm 51 to arrive at this verse?
A pure heart create for me, O God,
put a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
nor deprive me of your holy spirit.
Often to the point of forgetting the hard words that I need to internalize:
My offenses truly I know them;
my sin is always before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned;
what is evil in your sight I have done.
While the promise of the latter half of the psalm is a great balm, the pain it is supposed to ease is that of the first half of the psalm--recognition and bone-deep recognition of my constantly sinful state. Without the first, the balm will not be withheld, but its healing will feel trivial, not worth the trouble of a prayer. When I forget my sinfulness, I cannot be deeply grateful for my salvation. If I think I have done nothing wrong or that what I have done is small and trivial, then salvation will be a bandaid--not the life altering surgery it is supposed to be.