Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 2623-2628, 2644-2645 – Prayer in the Age of the Church: Praise and Blessing

clock August 26, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss prayer in the age of the Church and the prayer of praise and blessing. Supporting material comes from the “Summa Theologica”

Article 3

IN THE AGE OF THE CHURCH

2623 On the day of Pentecost, the Spirit of the Promise was poured out on the disciples, gathered "together in one place."92 While awaiting the Spirit, "all these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer."93 The Spirit who teaches the Church and recalls for her everything that Jesus said94 was also to form her in the life of prayer.

2624 In the first community of Jerusalem, believers "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and the prayers."95 This sequence is characteristic of the Church's prayer: founded on the apostolic faith; authenticated by charity; nourished in the Eucharist.

2625 In the first place these are prayers that the faithful hear and read in the Scriptures, but also that they make their own - especially those of the Psalms, in view of their fulfillment in Christ.96 The Holy Spirit, who thus keeps the memory of Christ alive in his Church at prayer, also leads her toward the fullness of truth and inspires new formulations expressing the unfathomable mystery of Christ at work in his Church's life, sacraments, and mission. These formulations are developed in the great liturgical and spiritual traditions. The forms of prayer revealed in the apostolic and canonical Scriptures remain normative for Christian prayer.

I. Blessing and Adoration

2626 Blessing expresses the basic movement of Christian prayer: it is an encounter between God and man. In blessing, God's gift and man's acceptance of it are united in dialogue with each other. The prayer of blessing is man's response to God's gifts: because God blesses, the human heart can in return bless the One who is the source of every blessing.

2627 TWO fundamental forms express this movement: our prayer ascends in the Holy Spirit through Christ to the Father - we bless him for having blessed us;97 it implores the grace of the Holy Spirit that descends through Christ from the Father - he blesses us.98

2628 Adoration is the first attitude of man acknowledging that he is a creature before his Creator. It exalts the greatness of the Lord who made us99 and the almighty power of the Savior who sets us free from evil. Adoration is homage of the spirit to the "King of Glory,"100 respectful silence in the presence of the "ever greater" God.101 Adoration of the thrice-holy and sovereign God of love blends with humility and gives assurance to our supplications.

IN BRIEF

2644 The Holy Spirit who teaches the Church and recalls to her all that Jesus said also instructs her in the life of prayer, inspiring new expressions of the same basic forms of prayer: blessing, petition, intercession, thanksgiving, and praise.

2645 Because God blesses the human heart, it can in return bless him who is the source of every blessing.

In the “Summa Theologica” (Secunda Secundæ Partis, 91, 1), St. Thomas Aquinas discusses the prayer of praise.

Article 1. Whether God should be praised with the lips?

Objection 1. It would seem that God should not be praised with the lips. The Philosopher says (Ethic. 1,12): "The best of men ere accorded not praise, but something greater." But God transcends the very best of all things. Therefore God ought to be given, not praise, but something greater than praise: wherefore He is said (Sirach 43:33) to be "above all praise."

Objection 2. Further, divine praise is part of divine worship, for it is an act of religion. Now God is worshiped with the mind rather than with the lips: wherefore our Lord quoted against certain ones the words of Isaiah 29:13, "This people . . . honors [Vulgate: 'glorifies'] Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me." Therefore the praise of God lies in the heart rather than on the lips.

Objection 3. Further, men are praised with the lips that they may be encouraged to do better: since just as being praised makes the wicked proud, so does it incite the good to better things. Wherefore it is written (Proverbs 27:21): "As silver is tried in the fining-pot . . . so a man is tried by the mouth of him that praiseth." But God is not incited to better things by man's words, both because He is unchangeable, and because He is supremely good, and it is not possible for Him to grow better. Therefore God should not be praised with the lips.

On the contrary, It is written (Psalm 62:6): "My mouth shall praise Thee with joyful lips."

I answer that, We use words, in speaking to God, for one reason, and in speaking to man, for another reason. For when speaking to man we use words in order to tell him our thoughts which are unknown to him. Wherefore we praise a man with our lips, in order that he or others may learn that we have a good opinion of him: so that in consequence we may incite him to yet better things; and that we may induce others, who hear him praised, to think well of him, to reverence him, and to imitate him. On the other hand we employ words, in speaking to God, not indeed to make known our thoughts to Him Who is the searcher of hearts, but that we may bring ourselves and our hearers to reverence Him.

Consequently we need to praise God with our lips, not indeed for His sake, but for our own sake; since by praising Him our devotion is aroused towards Him, according to Psalm 49:23: "The sacrifice of praise shall glorify Me, and there is the way by which I will show him the salvation of God." And forasmuch as man, by praising God, ascends in his affections to God, by so much is he withdrawn from things opposed to God, according to Isaiah 48:9, "For My praise I will bridle thee lest thou shouldst perish." The praise of the lips is also profitable to others by inciting their affections towards God, wherefore it is written (Psalm 33:2): "His praise shall always be in my mouth," and farther on: "Let the meek hear and rejoice. O magnify the Lord with me."

Reply to Objection 1. We may speak of God in two ways. First, with regard to His essence; and thus, since He is incomprehensible and ineffable, He is above all praise. On this respect we owe Him reverence and the honor of latria; wherefore Psalm 64:2 is rendered by Jerome in his Psalter [Translated from the Hebrew]: "Praise to Thee is speechless, O God," as regards the first, and as to the second, "A vow shall be paid to Thee." Secondly, we may speak of God as to His effects which are ordained for our good. On this respect we owe Him praise; wherefore it is written (Isaiah 63:7): "I will remember the tender mercies of the Lord, the praise of the Lord for all the things that the Lord hath bestowed upon us." Again, Dionysius says (Div. Nom. 1): "Thou wilt find that all the sacred hymns," i.e. divine praises "of the sacred writers, are directed respectively to the Blessed Processions of the Thearchy," i.e. of the Godhead, "showing forth and praising the names of God."

Reply to Objection 2. It profits one nothing to praise with the lips if one praise not with the heart. For the heart speaks God's praises when it fervently recalls "the glorious things of His works" [Cf. Sirach 17:7-8. Yet the outward praise of the lips avails to arouse the inward fervor of those who praise, and to incite others to praise God, as stated above.

Reply to Objection 3. We praise God, not for His benefit, but for ours as stated.

Footnotes

92 ⇒ Acts 2:1.
93 ⇒ Acts 1:14.
94 Cf. ⇒ Jn 14:26.
95 ⇒ Acts 2:42.
96 Cf. ⇒ Lk 24:27, ⇒ 44.
97 Cf. ]⇒ Eph 1:3-14; ⇒ 2 Cor 1:3 7; ⇒ 1 Pet 1:3-9.
98 Cf. 2 Cor 13:14; ⇒ Rom 15:5-6, ⇒ 13; ⇒ Eph 6:23-24.
99 Cf. ⇒ Ps 95:1-6.
100 ⇒ Ps 24, 9-10.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 2616-2619, 2622 – Jesus Hear our Prayer and the Prayer of the Virgin Mary

clock August 25, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss Jesus hearing our prayer and praying to the Blessed Mother. Supporting material comes from the “Summa Theologica”.

Jesus hears our prayer

2616 Prayer to Jesus is answered by him already during his ministry, through signs that anticipate the power of his death and Resurrection: Jesus hears the prayer of faith, expressed in words (the leper, Jairus, the Canaanite woman, the good thief)84 or in silence (the bearers of the paralytic, the woman with a hemorrhage who touches his clothes, the tears and ointment of the sinful woman).85 The urgent request of the blind men, "Have mercy on us, Son of David" or "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" has-been renewed in the traditional prayer to Jesus known as the Jesus Prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!"86 Healing infirmities or forgiving sins, Jesus always responds to a prayer offered in faith: "Your faith has made you well; go in peace."

St. Augustine wonderfully summarizes the three dimensions of Jesus' prayer: "He prays for us as our priest, prays in us as our Head, and is prayed to by us as our God. Therefore let us acknowledge our voice in him and his in us."87

The prayer of the Virgin Mary

2617 Mary's prayer is revealed to us at the dawning of the fullness of time. Before the incarnation of the Son of God, and before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, her prayer cooperates in a unique way with the Father's plan of loving kindness: at the Annunciation, for Christ's conception; at Pentecost, for the formation of the Church, his Body.88 In the faith of his humble handmaid, the Gift of God found the acceptance he had awaited from the beginning of time. She whom the Almighty made "full of grace" responds by offering her whole being: "Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word." "Fiat": this is Christian prayer: to be wholly God's, because he is wholly ours.

2618 The Gospel reveals to us how Mary prays and intercedes in faith. At Cana,89 The mother of Jesus asks her son for the needs of a wedding feast; this is the sign of another feast - that of the wedding of the Lamb where he gives his body and blood at the request of the Church, his Bride. It is at the hour of the New Covenant, at the foot of the cross,90 that Mary is heard as the Woman, the new Eve, the true "Mother of all the living."

2619 That is why the Canticle of Mary,91 The Magnificat (Latin) or Megalynei (byzantine) is the song both of the Mother of God and of the Church; the song of the Daughter of Zion and of the new People of God; the song of thanksgiving for the fullness of graces poured out in the economy of salvation and the song of the "poor" whose hope is met by the fulfillment of the promises made to our ancestors, "to Abraham and to his posterity for ever."

IN BRIEF

2622 The prayers of the Virgin Mary, in her Fiat and Magnificat, are characterized by the generous offering of her whole being in faith.

In the “Summa Theologica” (Secunda Secundæ Partis, 83, 4), St. Thomas Aquinas discusses prayer to God and to the Saints.

Article 4. Whether we ought to pray to God alone?

Objection 1. It would seem that we ought to pray to God alone. Prayer is an act of religion, as stated above (Article 3). But God alone is to be worshiped by religion. Therefore we should pray to God alone.

Objection 2. Further, it is useless to pray to one who is ignorant of the prayer. But it belongs to God alone to know one's prayer, both because frequently prayer is uttered by an interior act which God alone knows, rather than by words, according to the saying of the Apostle (1 Corinthians 14:15), "I will pray with the spirit, I will pray also with the understanding": and again because, as Augustine says (De Cura pro mortuis xiii) the "dead, even the saints, know not what the living, even their own children, are doing." Therefore we ought to pray to God alone.

Objection 3. Further, if we pray to any of the saints, this is only because they are united to God. Now some yet living in this world, or even some who are in Purgatory, are closely united to God by grace, and yet we do not pray to them. Therefore neither should we pray to the saints who are in Paradise.

On the contrary, It is written (Job 5:1), "Call . . . if there be any that will answer thee, and turn to some of the saints."

I answer that, Prayer is offered to a person in two ways: first, as to be fulfilled by him, secondly, as to be obtained through him. On the first way we offer prayer to God alone, since all our prayers ought to be directed to the acquisition of grace and glory, which God alone gives, according to Psalm 83:12, "The Lord will give grace and glory." But in the second way we pray to the saints, whether angels or men, not that God may through them know our petitions, but that our prayers may be effective through their prayers and merits. Hence it is written (Apocalypse 8:4) that "the smoke of the incense," namely "the prayers of the saints ascended up before God." This is also clear from the very style employed by the Church in praying: since we beseech the Blessed Trinity "to have mercy on us," while we ask any of the saints "to pray for us."

Reply to Objection 1. To Him alone do we offer religious worship when praying, from Whom we seek to obtain what we pray for, because by so doing we confess that He is the Author of our goods: but not to those whom we call upon as our advocates in God's presence.

Reply to Objection 2. The dead, if we consider their natural condition, do not know what takes place in this world, especially the interior movements of the heart. Nevertheless, according to Gregory (Moral. xii, 21), whatever it is fitting the blessed should know about what happens to us, even as regards the interior movements of the heart, is made known to them in the Word: and it is most becoming to their exalted position that they should know the petitions we make to them by word or thought; and consequently the petitions which we raise to them are known to them through Divine manifestation.

Reply to Objection 3. Those who are in this world or in Purgatory, do not yet enjoy the vision of the Word, so as to be able to know what we think or say. Wherefore we do not seek their assistance by praying to them, but ask it of the living by speaking to them.

Footnotes

83 ⇒ Jn 16:24.
84 Cf. ⇒ Mk 1:40-41; ⇒ 5:36; ⇒ 7:29; Cf. ⇒ Lk 23:39-43.
85 Cf. Mk 25; ⇒ 5:28; ⇒ Lk 7:37-38.
86 ⇒ Mt 9:27, ⇒ Mk 10:48.
87 St. Augustine, En. in Ps. 85, 1: PL 37, 1081; cf. GILH 7.
88 Cf. ⇒ Lk 1:38; ⇒ Acts 1:14.
89 Cf. ⇒ Jn 2:1-12.
90 Cf. ⇒ Jn 19:25-27.
91 Cf. ⇒ Lk 1:46-55.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 2607-2615, 2621 – Jesus Teaches Us how to Pray

clock August 24, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the instructive prayer that Jesus gives us. Supporting material comes from Tertullian’s “On Prayer”.

Jesus teaches us how to pray

2607 When Jesus prays he is already teaching us how to pray. His prayer to his Father is the theological path (the path of faith, hope, and charity) of our prayer to God. But the Gospel also gives us Jesus' explicit teaching on prayer. Like a wise teacher he takes hold of us where we are and leads us progressively toward the Father. Addressing the crowds following him, Jesus builds on what they already know of prayer from the Old Covenant and opens to them the newness of the coming Kingdom. Then he reveals this newness to them in parables. Finally, he will speak openly of the Father and the Holy Spirit to his disciples who will be the teachers of prayer in his Church.

2608 From the Sermon on the Mount onwards, Jesus insists on conversion of heart: reconciliation with one's brother before presenting an offering on the altar, love of enemies, and prayer for persecutors, prayer to the Father in secret, not heaping up empty phrases, prayerful forgiveness from the depths of the heart, purity of heart, and seeking the Kingdom before all else.64 This filial conversion is entirely directed to the Father.

2609 Once committed to conversion, the heart learns to pray in faith. Faith is a filial adherence to God beyond what we feel and understand. It is possible because the beloved Son gives us access to the Father. He can ask us to "seek" and to "knock," since he himself is the door and the way.65

2610 Just as Jesus prays to the Father and gives thanks before receiving his gifts, so he teaches us filial boldness: "Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will."66 Such is the power of prayer and of faith that does not doubt: "all things are possible to him who believes."67 Jesus is as saddened by the "lack of faith" of his own neighbors and the "little faith" of his own disciples68 as he is struck with admiration at the great faith of the Roman centurion and the Canaanite woman.69

2611 The prayer of faith consists not only in saying "Lord, Lord," but in disposing the heart to do the will of the Father.70 Jesus calls his disciples to bring into their prayer this concern for cooperating with the divine plan.71

2612 In Jesus "the Kingdom of God is at hand."72 He calls his hearers to conversion and faith, but also to watchfulness. In prayer the disciple keeps watch, attentive to Him Who Is and Him Who Comes, in memory of his first coming in the lowliness of the flesh, and in the hope of his second coming in glory.73 In communion with their Master, the disciples' prayer is a battle; only by keeping watch in prayer can one avoid falling into temptation.74

2613 Three principal parables on prayer are transmitted to us by St. Luke:
- The first, "the importunate friend,"75 invites us to urgent prayer: "Knock, and it will be opened to you." To the one who prays like this, the heavenly Father will "give whatever he needs," and above all the Holy Spirit who contains all gifts.
- The second, "the importunate widow,"76 is centered on one of the qualities of prayer: it is necessary to pray always without ceasing and with the patience of faith. "and yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"
- The third parable, "the Pharisee and the tax collector,"77 concerns the humility of the heart that prays. "God, be merciful to me a sinner!" the Church continues to make this prayer its own: Kyrie eleison!

2614 When Jesus openly entrusts to his disciples the mystery of prayer to the Father, he reveals to them what their prayer and ours must be, once he has returned to the Father in his glorified humanity. What is new is to "ask in his name."78 Faith in the Son introduces the disciples into the knowledge of the Father, because Jesus is "the way, and the truth, and the life."79 Faith bears its fruit in love: it means keeping the word and the commandments of Jesus, it means abiding with him in the Father who, in him, so loves us that he abides with us. In this new covenant the certitude that our petitions will be heard is founded on the prayer of Jesus.80

2615 Even more, what the Father gives us when our prayer is united with that of Jesus is "another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth."81 This new dimension of prayer and of its circumstances is displayed throughout the farewell discourse.82 In the Holy Spirit, Christian prayer is a communion of love with the Father, not only through Christ but also in him: "Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full."8

IN BRIEF

2621 In his teaching, Jesus teaches his disciples to pray with a purified heart, with lively and persevering faith, with filial boldness. He calls them to vigilance and invites them to present their petitions to God in his name. Jesus Christ himself answers prayers addressed to him.

The following excerpt comes from Tertullian’s “On Prayer” (1).

The Spirit of God, and the Word of God, and the Reason of God— Word of Reason, and Reason and Spirit of Word— Jesus Christ our Lord, namely, who is both the one and the other, — has determined for us, the disciples of the New Testament, a new form of prayer; for in this particular also it was needful that new wine should be laid up in new skins, and a new breadth be sewn to a new garment. Besides, whatever had been in bygone days, has either been quite changed, as circumcision; or else supplemented, as the rest of the Law; or else fulfilled, as Prophecy; or else perfected, as faith itself. For the new grace of God has renewed all things from carnal unto spiritual, by superinducing the Gospel, the obliterator of the whole ancient bygone system; in which our Lord Jesus Christ has been approved as the Spirit of God, and the Word of God, and the Reason of God: the Spirit, by which He was mighty; the Word, by which He taught; the Reason, by which He came. So the prayer composed by Christ has been composed of three parts. In speech, by which prayer is enunciated, in spirit, by which alone it prevails, even John had taught his disciples to pray, but all John's doings were laid as groundwork for Christ, until, when He had increased— just as the same John used to fore-announce that it was needful that He should increase and himself decrease John 3:30 — the whole work of the forerunner passed over, together with his spirit itself, unto the Lord. Therefore, after what form of words John taught to pray is not extant, because earthly things have given place to heavenly. He who is from the earth, says John, speaks earthly things; and He who is here from the heavens speaks those things which He has seen. John 3:31-32 And what is the Lord Christ's— as this method of praying is— that is not heavenly? And so, blessed brethren, let us consider His heavenly wisdom: first, touching the precept of praying secretly, whereby He exacted man's faith, that he should be confident that the sight and hearing of Almighty God are present beneath roofs, and extend even into the secret place; and required modesty in faith, that it should offer its religious homage to Him alone, whom it believed to see and to hear everywhere. Further, since wisdom succeeded in the following precept, let it in like manner appertain unto faith, and the modesty of faith, that we think not that the Lord must be approached with a train of words, who, we are certain, takes unsolicited foresight for His own. And yet that very brevity— and let this make for the third grade of wisdom— is supported on the substance of a great and blessed interpretation, and is as diffuse in meaning as it is compressed in words. For it has embraced not only the special duties of prayer, be it veneration of God or petition for man, but almost every discourse of the Lord, every record of His Discipline; so that, in fact, in the Prayer is comprised an epitome of the whole Gospel.

Footnotes

65 Cf. ⇒ Mt 7:7-11, ⇒ 13-14.
66 ⇒ Mk 11:24.
67 ⇒ Mk 9:23; cf. ⇒ Mt 21:22.
68 Cf. ⇒ Mk 6:6; ⇒ Mt 8:26.
69 Cf. ⇒ Mt 8:10; ⇒ 15:28.
70 Cf. ⇒ Mt 7:21.
71 Cf. ⇒ Mt 9:38; ⇒ Lk 10:2; ⇒ Jn 4:34.
72 ⇒ Mk 1:15.
73 Cf. ⇒ Mk 13; ⇒ Lk 21:34-36.
74 Cf. ⇒ Lk 22:40, ⇒ 46.
75 Cf. ⇒ Lk 11:5-13.
76 Cf. ⇒ Lk 18:1-8.
77 Cf. ⇒ Lk 18:9-14.
78 ⇒ Jn 14:13.
79 ⇒ Jn 14:6.
80 Cf. ⇒ Jn 14:13-14.
81 ⇒ Jn 14:16-17.
82 Cf. ⇒ Jn 14:23-26; ⇒ 15:7, ⇒ 16; ⇒ 16:13-15; ⇒ 16:23-27.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 2598-2606, 2620 – Jesus’ Prayer

clock August 23, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss Jesus’s prayers. Supporting material comes from the “Summa Theologica”.

Article 2

IN THE FULLNESS OF TIME

2598 The drama of prayer is fully revealed to us in the Word who became flesh and dwells among us. To seek to understand his prayer through what his witnesses proclaim to us in the Gospel is to approach the holy Lord Jesus as Moses approached the burning bush: first to contemplate him in prayer, then to hear how he teaches us to pray, in order to know how he hears our prayer.

Jesus prays

2599 The Son of God who became Son of the Virgin learned to pray in his human heart. He learns to pray from his mother, who kept all the great things the Almighty had done and treasured them in her heart.41 He learns to pray in the words and rhythms of the prayer of his people, in the synagogue at Nazareth and the Temple at Jerusalem. But his prayer springs from an otherwise secret source, as he intimates at the age of twelve: "I must be in my Father's house."42 Here the newness of prayer in the fullness of time begins to be revealed: his filial prayer, which the Father awaits from his children, is finally going to be lived out by the only Son in his humanity, with and for men.

2600 The Gospel according to St. Luke emphasizes the action of the Holy Spirit and the meaning of prayer in Christ's ministry. Jesus prays before the decisive moments of his mission: before his Father's witness to him during his baptism and Transfiguration, and before his own fulfillment of the Father's plan of love by his Passion.43 He also prays before the decisive moments involving the mission of his apostles: at his election and call of the Twelve, before Peter's confession of him as "the Christ of God," and again that the faith of the chief of the Apostles may not fail when tempted.44 Jesus' prayer before the events of salvation that the Father has asked him to fulfill is a humble and trusting commitment of his human will to the loving will of the Father.

2601 "He was praying in a certain place and when he had ceased, one of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray."'45 In seeing the Master at prayer the disciple of Christ also wants to pray. By contemplating and hearing the Son, the master of prayer, the children learn to pray to the Father.

2602 Jesus often draws apart to pray in solitude, on a mountain, preferably at night.46 He includes all men in his prayer, for he has taken on humanity in his incarnation, and he offers them to the Father when he offers himself. Jesus, the Word who has become flesh, shares by his human prayer in all that "his brethren" experience; he sympathizes with their weaknesses in order to free them.47 It was for this that the Father sent him. His words and works are the visible manifestation of his prayer in secret.

2603 The evangelists have preserved two more explicit prayers offered by Christ during his public ministry. Each begins with thanksgiving. In the first, Jesus confesses the Father, acknowledges, and blesses him because he has hidden the mysteries of the Kingdom from those who think themselves learned and has revealed them to infants, the poor of the Beatitudes.48 His exclamation, "Yes, Father!" expresses the depth of his heart, his adherence to the Father's "good pleasure," echoing his mother's Fiat at the time of his conception and prefiguring what he will say to the Father in his agony. The whole prayer of Jesus is contained in this loving adherence of his human heart to the mystery of the will of the Father.49

2604 The second prayer, before the raising of Lazarus, is recorded by St. John.50 Thanksgiving precedes the event: "Father, I thank you for having heard me," which implies that the Father always hears his petitions. Jesus immediately adds: "I know that you always hear me," which implies that Jesus, on his part, constantly made such petitions. Jesus' prayer, characterized by thanksgiving, reveals to us how to ask: before the gift is given, Jesus commits himself to the One who in giving gives himself. The Giver is more precious than the gift; he is the "treasure"; in him abides his Son's heart; the gift is given "as well."51

The priestly prayer of Jesus holds a unique place in the economy of salvation.52 A meditation on it will conclude Section One. It reveals the ever present prayer of our High Priest and, at the same time, contains what he teaches us about our prayer to our Father, which will be developed in Section Two.

2605 When the hour had come for him to fulfill the Father's plan of love, Jesus allows a glimpse of the boundless depth of his filial prayer, not only before he freely delivered himself up (“Abba . . . not my will, but yours."),53 but even in his last words on the Cross, where prayer and the gift of self are but one: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do",54 "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise",55 "Woman, behold your son" - "Behold your mother",56 "I thirst.";57 "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"58 "It is finished";59 "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!"60 until the "loud cry" as he expires, giving up his spirit.61

2606 All the troubles, for all time, of humanity enslaved by sin and death, all the petitions and intercessions of salvation history are summed up in this cry of the incarnate Word. Here the Father accepts them and, beyond all hope, answers them by raising his Son. Thus is fulfilled and brought to completion the drama of prayer in the economy of creation and salvation. The Psalter gives us the key to prayer in Christ. In the "today" of the Resurrection the Father says: "You are my Son, today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession."62

The Letter to the Hebrews expresses in dramatic terms how the prayer of Jesus accomplished the victory of salvation: "In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered, and being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him."63

IN BRIEF

2620 Jesus' filial prayer is the perfect model of prayer in the New Testament. Often done in solitude and in secret, the prayer of Jesus involves a loving adherence to the will of the Father even to the Cross and an absolute confidence in being heard.

In the Summa Theologica, (Tertia Pars, 21 ,1), Jesus’ prayer is discussed.

Article 1. Whether it is becoming of Christ to pray?

Objection 1. It would seem unbecoming that Christ should pray. For, as Damascene says (De Fide Orth. iii, 24), "prayer is the asking for becoming things from God." But since Christ could do all things, it does not seem becoming to Him to ask anything from anyone. Therefore it does not seem fitting that Christ should pray.

Objection 2. Further, we need not ask in prayer for what we know for certain will happen; thus, we do not pray that the sun may rise tomorrow. Nor is it fitting that anyone should ask in prayer for what he knows will not happen. But Christ in all things knew what would happen. Therefore it was not fitting that He should ask anything in prayer.

Objection 3. Further, Damascene says (De Fide Orth. iii, 24) that "prayer is the raising up of the mind to God." Now Christ's mind needed no uplifting to God, since His mind was always united to God, not only by the union of the hypostasis, but by the fruition of beatitude. Therefore it was not fitting that Christ should pray.

On the contrary, It is written (Luke 6:12): "And it came to pass in those days, that He went out into a mountain, and He passed the whole night in the prayer of God."

I answer that, As was said in the II-II, 83, 1,2, prayer is the unfolding of our will to God, that He may fulfill it. If, therefore, there had been but one will in Christ, viz. the Divine, it would nowise belong to Him to pray, since the Divine will of itself is effective of whatever He wishes by it, according to Psalm 134:6: "Whatsoever the Lord pleased, He hath done." But because the Divine and the human wills are distinct in Christ, and the human will of itself is not efficacious enough to do what it wishes, except by Divine power, hence to pray belongs to Christ as man and as having a human will.

Reply to Objection 1. Christ as God and not as man was able to carry out all He wished, since as man He was not omnipotent, as stated above (13, 1). Nevertheless being both God and man, He wished to offer prayers to the Father, not as though He were incompetent, but for our instruction. First, that He might show Himself to be from the Father; hence He says (John 11:42): "Because of the people who stand about I have said it" (i.e. the words of the prayer) "that they may believe that Thou hast sent Me." Hence Hilary says (De Trin. x): "He did not need prayer. It was for us He prayed, lest the Son should be unknown." Secondly, to give us an example of prayer; hence Ambrose says (on Luke 6:12): "Be not deceived, nor think that the Son of God prays as a weakling, in order to beseech what He cannot effect. For the Author of power, the Master of obedience persuades us to the precepts of virtue by His example." Hence Augustine says (Tract. civ in Joan.): "Our Lord in the form of a servant could have prayed in silence, if need be, but He wished to show Himself a suppliant of the Father, in such sort as to bear in mind that He was our Teacher."

Reply to Objection 2. Amongst the other things which He knew would happen, He knew that some would be brought about by His prayer; and for these He not unbecomingly besought God.

Reply to Objection 3. To rise is nothing more than to move towards what is above. Now movement is taken in two ways, as is said De Anima iii, 7; first, strictly, according as it implies the passing from potentiality to act, inasmuch as it is the act of something imperfect, and thus to rise pertains to what is potentially and not actually above. Now in this sense, as Damascene says (De Fide Orth. iii, 24), "the human mind of Christ did not need to rise to God, since it was ever united to God both by personal being and by the blessed vision." Secondly, movement signifies the act of something perfect, i.e. something existing in act, as to understand and to feel are called movements; and in this sense the mind of Christ was always raised up to God, since He was always contemplating Him as existing above Himself.

Footnotes

41 Cf. ⇒ Lk 1:49; ⇒ 2:19; ⇒ 2:51.
42 ⇒ Lk 2:49.
43 Cf. ⇒ Lk 3:21; ⇒ 9:28; ⇒ 22:41-44.
44 Cf. ⇒ Lk 6:12; ⇒ 9:18-20; ⇒ 22:32.
45 ⇒ Lk 11:1.
46 Cf. ⇒ Mk 1:35; ⇒ 6:46; ⇒ Lk 5:16.
47 Cf. ⇒ Heb 2:12, ⇒ 15; ⇒ 4:15.
48 Cf. ⇒ Mt 11:25-27 and ⇒ Lk 10:21-23.
49 Cf. ⇒ Eph 1:9.
50 Cf. ⇒ Jn 11:41-42.
51 ⇒ Mt 6:21, ⇒ 33.
52 Cf. ⇒ Jn 17.
53 ⇒ Lk 22:42.
54 ⇒ Lk 23:34.
55 ⇒ Lk 23:43.
56 ⇒ Jn 19:26-27.
57 ⇒ Jn 19:28.
58 ⇒ Mk 15:34; cf. ⇒ Ps 22:2.
59 ⇒ Jn 19:30.
60 ⇒ Lk 23:46.
61 Cf. ⇒ Mk 15:37; ⇒ Jn 19:30b.
62 ⇒ Ps 2:7-8; cf. ⇒ Acts 13:33.
63 ⇒ Heb 5:7-9.
64 Cf. ⇒ Mt 5:23-24, ⇒ 44-45; ⇒ 6:7, ⇒ 14-15, ⇒ 21, ⇒ 25, ⇒ 33.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 2585-2589, 2596-2597 – The Psalms, the Prayer of the Assembly

clock August 22, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the Psalms. Supporting material comes from an audience of Pope John Paul II.

The Psalms, the prayer of the assembly

2585 From the time of David to the coming of the Messiah texts appearing in these sacred books show a deepening in prayer for oneself and in prayer for others.37 Thus the psalms were gradually collected into the five books of the Psalter (or "Praises"), the masterwork of prayer in the Old Testament.

2586 The Psalms both nourished and expressed the prayer of the People of God gathered during the great feasts at Jerusalem and each Sabbath in the synagogues. Their prayer is inseparably personal and communal; it concerns both those who are praying and all men. The Psalms arose from the communities of the Holy Land and the Diaspora, but embrace all creation. Their prayer recalls the saving events of the past, yet extends into the future, even to the end of history; it commemorates the promises God has already kept, and awaits the Messiah who will fulfill them definitively. Prayed by Christ and fulfilled in him, the Psalms remain essential to the prayer of the Church.38

2587 The Psalter is the book in which the Word of God becomes man's prayer. In other books of the Old Testament, "the words proclaim [God's] works and bring to light the mystery they contain."39 The words of the Psalmist, sung for God, both express and acclaim the Lord's saving works; the same Spirit inspires both God's work and man's response. Christ will unite the two. In him, the psalms continue to teach us how to pray.

2588 The Psalter's many forms of prayer take shape both in the liturgy of the Temple and in the human heart. Whether hymns or prayers of lamentation or thanksgiving, whether individual or communal, whether royal chants, songs of pilgrimage or wisdom meditations, the Psalms are a mirror of God's marvelous deeds in the history of his people, as well as reflections of the human experiences of the Psalmist. Though a given psalm may reflect an event of the past, it still possesses such direct simplicity that it can be prayed in truth by men of all times and conditions.

2589 Certain constant characteristics appear throughout the Psalms: simplicity and spontaneity of prayer; the desire for God himself through and with all that is good in his creation; the distraught situation of the believer who, in his preferential love for the Lord, is exposed to a host of enemies and temptations, but who waits upon what the faithful God will do, in the certitude of his love and in submission to his will. The prayer of the psalms is always sustained by praise; that is why the title of this collection as handed down to us is so fitting: "The Praises." Collected for the assembly's worship, the Psalter both sounds the call to prayer and sings the response to that call: Hallelu-Yah! (“Alleluia"), "Praise the Lord!"

What is more pleasing than a psalm? David expresses it well: "Praise the Lord, for a psalm is good: let there be praise of our God with gladness and grace!" Yes, a psalm is a blessing on the lips of the people, praise of God, the assembly's homage, a general acclamation, a word that speaks for all, the voice of the Church, a confession of faith in song.40

IN BRIEF

2596 The Psalms constitute the masterwork of prayer in the Old Testament. They present two inseparable qualities: the personal, and the communal. They extend to all dimensions of history, recalling God's promises already fulfilled and looking for the coming of the Messiah.

2597 Prayed and fulfilled in Christ, the Psalms are an essential and permanent element of the prayer of the Church. They are suitable for men of every condition and time.

In his general audience of March 28, 2001, Pope John Paul II discusses the value of the Psalms.

Psalter is ideal source of Christian prayer

1. In the Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte I expressed the hope that the Church would become more and more distinguished in the "art of prayer", learning it ever anew from the lips of the Divine Master (cf. n. 32). This effort must be expressed above all in the liturgy, the source and summit of ecclesial life. Consequently, it is important to devote greater pastoral care to promoting the Liturgy of the Hours as a prayer of the whole People of God (cf. ibid., n. 34). If, in fact, priests and religious have a precise mandate to celebrate it, it is also warmly recommended to lay people. This was the aim of my venerable Predecessor Paul VI, a little over 30 years ago, with the Constitution Laudis canticum in which he determined the current form of this prayer, hoping that the Psalms and Canticles, the essential structure of the Liturgy of the Hours, would be understood "with new appreciation by the People of God" (AAS 63 [1971], 532).

It is an encouraging fact that many lay people in parishes and ecclesial associations have learned to appreciate it. Nevertheless, it remains a prayer that presupposes an appropriate catechetical and biblical formation, if it is to be fully savoured.

Footnotes

37 ⇒ Ezra 9:6-15; ⇒ Neh 1:4-11; ⇒ Jon 2:3-10; ⇒ Tob 3:11-16; ⇒ Jdt 9:2-14.
38 Cf. GILH, nn. 100-109.
39 DV 2.
40 St. Ambrose, In Psalmum 1 enarratio, 1, 9: PL 14, 924; LH, Saturday, wk 10, OR.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 2581-2584, 2595 – Elijah, the Prophets and Conversion of Heart

clock August 21, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the prophets and conversion of heart. Supporting material comes from the Encyclical, “Redemptoris Missio”.

Elijah, the prophets and conversion of heart

2581 For the People of God, the Temple was to be the place of their education in prayer: pilgrimages, feasts and sacrifices, the evening offering, the incense, and the bread of the Presence (“shewbread") - all these signs of the holiness and glory of God Most High and Most Near were appeals to and ways of prayer. But ritualism often encouraged an excessively external worship. The people needed education in faith and conversion of heart; this was the mission of the prophets, both before and after the Exile.

2582 Elijah is the "father" of the prophets, "the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob."30Elijah's name, "The Lord is my God," foretells the people's cry in response to his prayer on Mount Carmel.31 St. James refers to Elijah in order to encourage us to pray: "The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective."32

2583 After Elijah had learned mercy during his retreat at the Wadi Cherith, he teaches the widow of Zarephath to believe in the Word of God and confirms her faith by his urgent prayer: God brings the widow's child back to life.33 The sacrifice on Mount Carmel is a decisive test for the faith of the People of God. In response to Elijah's plea, "Answer me, O LORD, answer me," the Lord's fire consumes the holocaust, at the time of the evening oblation. The Eastern liturgies repeat Elijah's plea in the Eucharistic epiclesis.
Finally, taking the desert road that leads to the place where the living and true God reveals himself to his people, Elijah, like Moses before him, hides "in a cleft of the rock" until the mysterious presence of God has passed by.34 But only on the mountain of the Transfiguration will Moses and Elijah behold the unveiled face of him whom they sought; "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God [shines] in the face of Christ," crucified and risen.35

2584 In their "one to one" encounters with God, the prophets draw light and strength for their mission. Their prayer is not flight from this unfaithful world, but rather attentiveness to the Word of God. At times their prayer is an argument or a complaint, but it is always an intercession that awaits and prepares for the intervention of the Savior God, the Lord of history.36

IN BRIEF

2595 The prophets summoned the people to conversion of heart and, while zealously seeking the face of God, like Elijah, they interceded for the people.

In his encyclical, “Redemptoris Missio” (46) Pope John Paul II discusses conversion of heart, which is the aim of the prophets.

46. The proclamation of the Word of God has Christian conversion as its aim: a complete and sincere adherence to Christ and his Gospel through faith. Conversion is a gift of God, a work of the Blessed Trinity. It is the Spirit who opens people's hearts so that they can believe in Christ and "confess him'' (cf. 1 Cor 12:3); of those who draw near to him through faith Jesus says: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him" (Jn 6:44).

From the outset, conversion is expressed in faith which is total and radical, and which neither limits nor hinders God's gift. At the same time, it gives rise to a dynamic and lifelong process which demands a continual turning away from "life according to the flesh" to "life according to the Spirit" (cf. Rom 8:3-13). Conversion means accepting, by a personal decision, the saving sovereignty of Christ and becoming his disciple.

Footnotes

30 ⇒ Ps 24:6.
31 ⇒ 1 Kings 18:39.
32 ⇒ Jas 5:16b-18.
33 Cf. ⇒ 1 Kings 17:7-24.
34 Cf. ⇒ 1 Kings 19:1-14; cf. ⇒ Ex 33:19-23.
35 ⇒ 2 Cor 4:6; cf. ⇒ Lk 9:30-35.
36 Cf. ⇒ Am 7:2, 5; ⇒ Isa 6:5, 8, ⇒ 11; ⇒ Jer 1:6; ⇒ 15: 15-18; ⇒ 20: 7-18.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 2574-2580, 2593-2594 – The Prayers of Moses and David

clock August 20, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the prayers of Moses and David. Supporting material comes from Pope Benedict XVI’s “Jesus of Nazareth”.

Moses and the prayer of the mediator

2574 Once the promise begins to be fulfilled (Passover, the Exodus, the gift of the Law, and the ratification of the covenant), the prayer of Moses becomes the most striking example of intercessory prayer, which will be fulfilled in "the one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."19

2575 Here again the initiative is God's. From the midst of the burning bush he calls Moses.20 This event will remain one of the primordial images of prayer in the spiritual tradition of Jews and Christians alike. When "the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob" calls Moses to be his servant, it is because he is the living God who wants men to live. God reveals himself in order to save them, though he does not do this alone or despite them: he calls Moses to be his messenger, an associate in his compassion, his work of salvation. There is something of a divine plea in this mission, and only after long debate does Moses attune his own will to that of the Savior God. But in the dialogue in which God confides in him, Moses also learns how to pray: he balks, makes excuses, above all questions: and it is in response to his question that the Lord confides his ineffable name, which will be revealed through his mighty deeds.

2576 "Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend."21 Moses' prayer is characteristic of contemplative prayer by which God's servant remains faithful to his mission. Moses converses with God often and at length, climbing the mountain to hear and entreat him and coming down to the people to repeat the words of his God for their guidance. Moses "is entrusted with all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly, not in riddles," for "Moses was very humble, more so than anyone else on the face of the earth."22

2577 From this intimacy with the faithful God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love,23 Moses drew strength and determination for his intercession. He does not pray for himself but for the people whom God made his own. Moses already intercedes for them during the battle with the Amalekites and prays to obtain healing for Miriam.24 But it is chiefly after their apostasy that Moses "stands in the breach" before God in order to save the people.25 The arguments of his prayer - for intercession is also a mysterious battle - will inspire the boldness of the great intercessors among the Jewish people and in the Church: God is love; he is therefore righteous and faithful; he cannot contradict himself; he must remember his marvelous deeds, since his glory is at stake, and he cannot forsake this people that bears his name.

David and the prayer of the king

2578 The prayer of the People of God flourishes in the shadow of God's dwelling place, first the Ark of the Covenant and later the Temple. At first the leaders of the people - the shepherds and the prophets - teach them to pray. The infant Samuel must have learned from his mother Hannah how "to stand before the LORD" and from the priest Eli how to listen to his word: "Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening."26 Later, he will also know the cost and consequence of intercession: "Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you; and I will instruct you in the good and the right way."27

2579 David is par excellence the king "after God's own heart," the shepherd who prays for his people and prays in their name. His submission to the will of God, his praise, and his repentance, will be a model for the prayer of the people. His prayer, the prayer of God's Anointed, is a faithful adherence to the divine promise and expresses a loving and joyful trust in God, the only King and Lord.28 In the Psalms David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is the first prophet of Jewish and Christian prayer. The prayer of Christ, the true Messiah and Son of David, will reveal and fulfill the meaning of this prayer.

2580 The Temple of Jerusalem, the house of prayer that David wanted to build, will be the work of his son, Solomon. The prayer at the dedication of the Temple relies on God's promise and covenant, on the active presence of his name among his People, recalling his mighty deeds at the Exodus.29 The king lifts his hands toward heaven and begs the Lord, on his own behalf, on behalf of the entire people, and of the generations yet to come, for the forgiveness of their sins and for their daily needs, so that the nations may know that He is the only God and that the heart of his people may belong wholly and entirely to him.

IN BRIEF

2593 The prayer of Moses responds to the living God's initiative for the salvation of his people. It foreshadows the prayer of intercession of the unique mediator, Christ Jesus.

2594 The prayer of the People of God flourished in the shadow of the dwelling place of God's presence on earth, the Ark of the Covenant and the Temple, under the guidance of their shepherds, especially King David, and of the prophets.

The parallels between Moses and Jesus are discussed by Benedict XVI in Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration.

Jesus sits on the cathedra of Moses. But he does so not after the manner of teachers who are trained for the job in a school; he sits there as the greater Moses, who broadens the Covenant to include all nations. This also explains the significance of the mountain. The Evangelist does not tell us which of the hills of Galilee it was. But the very fact that it is the scene of Jesus' preaching makes it simply "the mountain"—the new Sinai. The "mountain" is the place where Jesus prays—where he is face-to-face with the Father. And that is exactly why it is also the place of his teachings, since his teaching comes forth from this most intimate exchange with the Father. The "mountain," then, is by the very nature of the case established as the new and definitive Sinai. (p. 66)

Footnotes

19 ⇒ 1 Tim 2:5.
20 ⇒ Ex 3:1-10.
21 ⇒ Ex 33:11.
22 ⇒ Num 12:3,7-8.
23 Cf. ⇒ Ex 34:6.
24 Cf. ⇒ Ex 17:8-12; ⇒ Num 12:13-14.
25 ⇒ Ps 106:23; cf. ⇒ Ex 32:1- ⇒ 34:9.
26 ⇒ 1 Sam 3:9-10; cf. ⇒ 1:9-18.
27 ⇒ 1 Sam 12:23.
28 Cf. ⇒ 2 Sam 7:18-29.
29 ⇒ 1 Kings 8:10-61.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 2566-2573, 2590-2592 – Prayer in the Old Testament

clock August 19, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss prayer, particularly as demonstrated in the Old Testament. Supporting material comes from the “Summa Theologica”.

CHAPTER ONE

THE REVELATION OF PRAYER - THE UNIVERSAL CALL TO PRAYER

2566 Man is in search of God. In the act of creation, God calls every being from nothingness into existence. "Crowned with glory and honor," man is, after the angels, capable of acknowledging "how majestic is the name of the Lord in all the earth."1 Even after losing through his sin his likeness to God, man remains an image of his Creator, and retains the desire for the one who calls him into existence. All religions bear witness to men's essential search for God.2

2567 God calls man first. Man may forget his Creator or hide far from his face; he may run after idols or accuse the deity of having abandoned him; yet the living and true God tirelessly calls each person to that mysterious encounter known as prayer. In prayer, the faithful God's initiative of love always comes first; our own first step is always a response. As God gradually reveals himself and reveals man to himself, prayer appears as a reciprocal call, a covenant drama. Through words and actions, this drama engages the heart. It unfolds throughout the whole history of salvation.

Article 1

IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

2568 In the Old Testament, the revelation of prayer comes between the fall and the restoration of man, that is, between God's sorrowful call to his first children: "Where are you? . . . What is this that you have done?"3 and the response of God's only Son on coming into the world: "Lo, I have come to do your will, O God."4 Prayer is bound up with human history, for it is the relationship with God in historical events.

Creation - source of prayer

2569 Prayer is lived in the first place beginning with the realities of creation. The first nine chapters of Genesis describe this relationship with God as an offering of the first-born of Abel's flock, as the invocation of the divine name at the time of Enosh, and as "walking with God.5 Noah's offering is pleasing to God, who blesses him and through him all creation, because his heart was upright and undivided; Noah, like Enoch before him, "walks with God."6 This kind of prayer is lived by many righteous people in all religions.
In his indefectible covenant with every living creature,7 God has always called people to prayer. But it is above all beginning with our father Abraham that prayer is revealed in the Old Testament.

God's promise and the prayer of Faith

2570 When God calls him, Abraham goes forth "as the Lord had told him";8 Abraham's heart is entirely submissive to the Word and so he obeys. Such attentiveness of the heart, whose decisions are made according to God's will, is essential to prayer, while the words used count only in relation to it. Abraham's prayer is expressed first by deeds: a man of silence, he constructs an altar to the Lord at each stage of his journey. Only later does Abraham's first prayer in words appear: a veiled complaint reminding God of his promises which seem unfulfilled.9 Thus one aspect of the drama of prayer appears from the beginning: the test of faith in the fidelity of God.

2571 Because Abraham believed in God and walked in his presence and in covenant with him,10 The patriarch is ready to welcome a mysterious Guest into his tent. Abraham's remarkable hospitality at Mamre foreshadows the annunciation of the true Son of the promise.11 After that, once God had confided his plan, Abraham's heart is attuned to his Lord's compassion for men and he dares to intercede for them with bold confidence.12

2572 As a final stage in the purification of his faith, Abraham, "who had received the promises,"13 is asked to sacrifice the son God had given him. Abraham's faith does not weaken (“God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering."), for he "considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead."14 and so the father of believers is conformed to the likeness of the Father who will not spare his own Son but will deliver him up for us all.15 Prayer restores man to God's likeness and enables him to share in the power of God's love that saves the multitude.16

2573 God renews his promise to Jacob, the ancestor of the twelve tribes of Israel.17 Before confronting his elder brother Esau, Jacob wrestles all night with a mysterious figure who refuses to reveal his name, but he blesses him before leaving him at dawn. From this account, the spiritual tradition of the Church has retained the symbol of prayer as a battle of faith and as the triumph of perseverance.18

IN BRIEF

2590 "Prayer is the raising of one's mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God" (St. John Damascene, Defide orth. 3, 24: PG 94, 1089C).

2591 God tirelessly calls each person to this mysterious encounter with Himself. Prayer unfolds throughout the whole history of salvation as a reciprocal call between God and man.

2592 The prayer of Abraham and Jacob is presented as a battle of faith marked by trust in God's faithfulness and by certitude in the victory promised to perseverance.

St. Thomas Aquinas discusses the appropriateness of praying to God in the “Summa Theologica”, (Secunda Secundæ Partis, 83, 10).

Article 10. Whether prayer is proper to the rational creature?

Objection 1. It would seem that prayer is not proper to the rational creature. Asking and receiving apparently belong to the same subject. But receiving is becoming also to uncreated Persons, viz. the Son and Holy Ghost. Therefore it is competent to them to pray: for the Son said (John 14:16): "I will ask My [Vulgate: 'the'] Father," and the Apostle says of the Holy Ghost (Romans 8:26): "The Spirit . . . asketh for us."

Objection 2. Angels are above rational creatures, since they are intellectual substances. Now prayer is becoming to the angels, wherefore we read in the Psalm 96:7: "Adore Him, all you His angels." Therefore prayer is not proper to the rational creature.

Objection 3. Further, the same subject is fitted to pray as is fitted to call upon God, since this consists chiefly in prayer. But dumb animals are fitted to call upon God, according to Psalm 146:9, "Who giveth to beasts their food and to the young ravens that call upon Him." Therefore prayer is not proper to the rational creatures.

On the contrary, Prayer is an act of reason, as stated above (Article 1). But the rational creature is so called from his reason. Therefore prayer is proper to the rational creature.

I answer that, As stated above (Article 1) prayer is an act of reason, and consists in beseeching a superior; just as command is an act of reason, whereby an inferior is directed to something. Accordingly prayer is properly competent to one to whom it is competent to have reason, and a superior whom he may beseech. Now nothing is above the Divine Persons; and dumb animals are devoid of reason. Therefore prayer is unbecoming both the Divine Persons and dumb animals, and it is proper to the rational creature.

Reply to Objection 1. Receiving belongs to the Divine Persons in respect of their nature, whereas prayer belongs to one who receives through grace. The Son is said to ask or pray in respect of His assumed, i.e. His human, nature and not in respect of His Godhead: and the Holy Ghost is said to ask, because He makes us ask.

Reply to Objection 2. As stated in I, 79, 8, intellect and reason are not distinct powers in us: but they differ as the perfect from the imperfect. Hence intellectual creatures which are the angels are distinct from rational creatures, and sometimes are included under them. On this sense prayer is said to be proper to the rational creature.

Reply to Objection 3. The young ravens are said to call upon God, on account of the natural desire whereby all things, each in its own way, desire to attain the Divine goodness. Thus too dumb animals are said to obey God, on account of the natural instinct whereby they are moved by God.

Footnotes

1 ⇒ Ps 8:5; ⇒ 8:1.
2 Cf. ⇒ Acts 17:27.
3 ⇒ Gen 3:9, 13.
4 ⇒ Heb 10:5-7.
5 Cf. ⇒ Gen 4:4, ⇒ 26; ⇒ Gen 5:24.
6 ⇒ Gen 6:9; ⇒ 8:20- ⇒ 9:17.
7 ⇒ Gen 9:8-16.
8 ⇒ Gen 12:4.
9 Cf. ⇒ Gen 15:2 f.
10 Cf. ⇒ Gen 15:6; ⇒ 17:1 f.
11 Cf. ⇒ Gen 18:1-15; ⇒ Lk 1:26-38.
12 Cf. ⇒ 18:16-33.
13 ⇒ Heb 11:17.
14 ⇒ Gen 22:8; ⇒ Heb 11:19
15 ⇒ Rom 8:32.
16 Cf. ⇒ Rom 8:16-21.
17 Cf. ⇒ Gen 28:10-22.
18 Cf. ⇒ Gen 32:24-30; ⇒ Lk 18:1-8.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 2558-2565 – Prayer in the Christian Life

clock August 18, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections begin the 4th part of the Catechism, which is devoted to prayer. Supporting material comes from the Sermons of St. Augustine.

PART FOUR:

CHRISTIAN PRAYER

SECTION ONE

PRAYER IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

2558 "Great is the mystery of the faith!"

The Church professes this mystery in the Apostles' Creed (Part One) and celebrates it in the sacramental liturgy (Part Two), so that the life of the faithful may be conformed to Christ in the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father (Part Three).

This mystery, then, requires that the faithful believe in it, that they celebrate it, and that they live from it in a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. This relationship is prayer.

WHAT IS PRAYER?

For me, prayer is a surge of the heart;
it is a simple look turned toward heaven,
it is a cry of recognition and of love,
embracing both trial and joy.1

Prayer as God's gift

2559 "Prayer is the raising of one's mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God."2
But when we pray, do we speak from the height of our pride and will, or "out of the depths" of a humble and contrite heart?3
He who humbles himself will be exalted;4 humility is the foundation of prayer,
Only when we humbly acknowledge that "we do not know how to pray as we ought,"5 are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer.
"Man is a beggar before God."6

2560 "If you knew the gift of God!"7
The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human being.
It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God's desire for us.
Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God's thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him.8

2561 "You would have asked him, and he would have given you living water."9
Paradoxically our prayer of petition is a response to the plea of the living God:
"They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water!"10
Prayer is the response of faith to the free promise of salvation and also a response of love to the thirst of the only Son of God.11

Prayer as covenant

2562 Where does prayer come from?
Whether prayer is expressed in words or gestures, it is the whole man who prays.
But in naming the source of prayer, Scripture speaks sometimes of the soul or the spirit, but most often of the heart (more than a thousand times).
According to Scripture, it is the heart that prays.
If our heart is far from God, the words of prayer are in vain.

2563 The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live; according to the Semitic or Biblical expression, the heart is the place "to which I withdraw."
The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others;
only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully.
The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives.
It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death.
It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation:
it is the place of covenant.

2564 Christian prayer is a covenant relationship between God and man in Christ.
It is the action of God and of man, springing forth from both the Holy Spirit and ourselves, wholly directed to the Father, in union with the human will of the Son of God made man.

Prayer as communion

2565 In the New Covenant, prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father who is good beyond measure, with his Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit.
The grace of the Kingdom is "the union of the entire holy and royal Trinity . . . with the whole human spirit."12
Thus, the life of prayer is the habit of being in the presence of the thrice-holy God and in communion with him.
This communion of life is always possible because, through Baptism, we have already been united with Christ.13
Prayer is Christian insofar as it is communion with Christ and extends throughout the Church, which is his Body.
Its dimensions are those of Christ's love.14

St. Augustine discusses prayer in his “Sermon 55 on the New Testament” (6).

6. See other three things: Who is there of you, whom if his son ask a loaf, will he give him a stone? Or who is there of you of whom if his son ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? Or if he ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him! Let us then again consider these three things, if haply there be not here those three, faith, hope, charity; but the greatest of these is charity. Set down then these three things, a loaf, a fish, an egg; the greatest of these is a loaf. Therefore in these three things do we well understand charity by the loaf. On which account He has opposed a stone to a loaf; because hardness is contrary to charity. By a fish we understand faith. A certain holy man has said, and we are glad to say it too; The 'good fish' is a godly faith. It lives amidst the waves, and is not broken or dissolved by the waves. Amidst the temptations and tempests of this world, lives godly faith; the world rages, yet it is uninjured. Observe only that serpent is contrary to faith. For My faith is she betrothed to whom it is said in the Song of Songs, Come from Lebanon, My spouse, coming and passing over to Me from the beginning of faith. Therefore betrothed too, because faith is the beginning of betrothal. For something is promised by the bridegroom, and by this plighted faith is he held bound. Now to the fish the Lord opposed the serpent, to faith the devil. Wherefore to this betrothed one does the Apostle say, I have betrothed you to One Husband, to present you a chaste virgin to Christ. And, I fear lest as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds also should be corrupted from the purity which is in Christ; that is, which is in the faith of Christ. For he says, That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith. Therefore let not the devil corrupt our faith, let him not devour the fish.

Footnotes

1 St. Therese of Lisieux, Manuscrits autobiographiques, C 25r.
2 St. John Damascene, Defide orth. 3, 24: PG 94,1089C.
3 ⇒ Ps 130:1.
4 Cf. ⇒ Lk 18:9-14.
5 ⇒ Rom 8:26.
6 St. Augustine, Sermo 56, 6, 9: PL 38, 381.
7 ⇒ Jn 4:10.
8 Cf. St. Augustine De diversis quaestionibus octoginta tribus 64, 4: PL 40, 56.
9 ⇒ Jn 4:10.
10 ⇒ Jer 2:13.
11 Cf. ⇒ Jn 7:37-39; ⇒ 19:28; ⇒ Isa 12:3; ⇒ 51:1; ⇒ Zech 12:10; ⇒ 13:1.
12 St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio, 16, 9: PG 35, 945.
13 Cf. ⇒ Rom 6:5.
14 Cf. ⇒ Eph 3:18-21.