Thursday, 28 May 2015

The Practice of Prayer - One

Some Reflections

A person enters a room. At first they sit, then stand again. Going to the window they look out, then come back and sit again. A sense of uncertain anticipation prevails. They take out a paper with some notes written down. They stand again, walking around as they go over these notes. They look out of the window again, then return and sit down - speaking to themselves as if rehearsing what they will say. 

There is a knock, one's name is called, as the door opens, and the Other enters, embraces the first without words, then they sit down. The prepared notes are set aside as a sense of calm fills the room. There is a peaceful silence for a time, then the Other begins to speak. 

"Go to your room, composed and waiting, 
and when you are called, reply, 'Speak, LORD, 
for your servant is listening.'” (A paraphrase of 1 Samuel 3:9)

Much has been written and said on the subject of contemplative prayer. However, there is an inherent risk of this turning into a "how to" instruction, which could lead one into thinking it is simply a matter of following a formula and you have contemplation. Contemplation is not something you make happen, it is a gift.

Contemplative Prayer is akin to a meeting. Like any meeting, two separate parties must come together. If one is absent, there is no meeting. The one who prays may be open to this meeting, even longing for it to take place, but nothing they do will make it happen. It happens only when The Other comes, revealing His presence, making it possible for an encounter to happen. 

The following are some quotes with reflections taken from Thomas H. Green S.J., from his book, Opening To God. Here is a link to his opening chapter, recorded on the Ignatian website [LINK - Thomas H. Green S.J. ]

There is an infinite chasm between God and man; man, no matter how hard he tries, cannot come to God -- cannot leap across infinity.(2) He cannot even, as the semi-Pelagians maintained, take the first step in coming to God. God must come to man. He alone can leap the infinite gulf between creator and creature; this is what he did in the Incarnation of Jesus and what he does in the life of every pray-er who truly encounters him. T.H.G. SJ

Fr. Green explores the traditional definition of prayer - "Prayer is the lifting of the mind and heart to God." He points out how this definition taught us that:
  1. God is far beyond our ordinary experience; 
  2. prayer entails effort on our part; and 
  3. prayer involves both the mind and the heart -- the understanding and the feelings and will -- of man.
He goes on to show how errors in theology lead to thinking that prayer was a product of one's own efforts. He suggests that a better definition of prayer describes prayer as an OPENING of the mind and heart to God. 

My point is simply that Christian prayer is grounded in a very specific conception of God: a personal God who encounters his creatures in love. To return to the catechism definition, the idea of prayer as a raising of our minds and hearts to God seems to me to over stress our own effort and activity in prayer. For some time, I have been suggesting that a better approach would be to define prayer as an opening of the mind and heart to God. This seems better because the idea of opening stresses receptivity, responsiveness to another. To open to another is to act, but it is to act in such a way that the other remains the dominant partner. T.H.G. SJ

Being open implies LISTENING. Learning to pray is learning the art of listening.

Hearing or listening is a good metaphor for prayer. The good pray-er is above all a good listener. Prayer is dialogue; it is a personal encounter in love. When we communicate with someone we care about, we speak and we listen. But even our speaking is responsive: What we say depends upon what the other person has said to us. Otherwise we don't have real dialogue, but rather two monologues running along side by side. I believe that our remarks have carried us a good way toward understanding what prayer is. T.H.G. SJ

Learning to listen implies the need to understand the language the other is speaking. How does God speak to us? Who will teach us the divine language? Only God can. But we can learn much by sharing in the experience of others who have been people of this way of prayer.

To the beginner, there is still a puzzle and a mystery in listening to God. (To the proficient pray-er it is no longer a puzzle, but it will always be a mystery.) Since we never encounter God in the same way we encounter another human being, how do we know when God talks? How do we interpret what he "says" when he does not speak as men speak? How can I respond meaningfully to someone whose coming is always veiled in the mystery of faith? In short, how do I know I am not just talking to myself when I pray? The central purpose of this book is to help to answer these questions -- not in a way that will eliminate the mystery of faith, but in a way that will encourage the beginner to begin and to continue to discover God speaking in his or her own life. T.H.G. SJ

God is not hindered in the choice of ways to speak to us. Perhaps the most common language God uses is the language of the heart. Our hearts are moved and insights arise in our thoughts as he speaks to us. As we progress in this practice of prayer, we see a pattern in these movements and the insights we gain form a coherent grasp of the message. In Ignatian prayer, this is the discernment of prayer. This dialogue, unfolding in our heart and mind, inspiring our response is Prayer. 

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Baptism In the Holy Spirit - Two

On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.” Jn. 20:19


When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.

And suddenly there came from the sky
a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.

Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Acts 2:1


Jesus my Lord, I confess to you and to all the world  my need for your presence in my life.  I am alone and in darkness without you.  I am influenced and controlled by the many forces that surround me.  Even though I struggle against them, it is sin that so easily dominates my life. Who can save me but you alone, my Lord and my God.  Deliver me from the Evil One.  Touch my life with that power which flows from your resurrection.  Cause your Holy Spirit to be born in me anew.  Prince of Peace and Lord of Glory / reign now in my heart.  Baptize me with your Holy Spirit and Fire.  Raise me up to a New Life in you. (From the Eucharistic Devotions)


Holy Mary Mother of God, on Pentecost Day you gathered all the friends of Jesus in that meeting room of prayer.  Jesus had instructed that all must come together in prayer, to wait in trusting hope for the Promised One to come.  In the mystery of God’s grace, let us gather with you now.  We desire with all our hearts that the Anointing of Pentecost may come upon us once again.  Pray for us dear Mary, that the Mighty Wind of God’s Breath will come and fill our house of prayer.  Pray that Jesus your Son will send down upon us now, those tongues of flame, to enkindle in our hearts the fire of love and the light of faith.  Pray that our tongues be freed so that we might fill this house with the praises of God.  Pray O Queen of heaven that the Holy Spirit will give to our hearts a song of joy and thanksgiving for His mighty works now done in our midst. Come Holy Spirit, come.  Come down upon us now. Melt our frozen hearts, reshape our distorted minds renew our sagging spirits with your Breath of Life. (From the Eucharistic Devotions)


for the


Prayers from the Mass of the Vigil of Pentecost

Dear brethren (brothers and sisters),
we have now begun our Pentecost Vigil,
after the example of the Apostles and disciples,
who with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, persevered in prayer,
awaiting the Spirit promised by the Lord;
like them, let us, too, listen with quiet hearts to the Word of God.
Let us meditate on how many great deeds
God in times past did for his people
and let us pray that the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father sent as the first fruits for those who believe,
may bring to perfection his work in the world.

Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that the splendor of your glory
may shine forth upon us
and that, by the bright rays of the Holy Spirit,
the light of your light may confirm the hearts
of those born again by your grace.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Baptism In the Holy Spirit - One

In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

When they had gathered together they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:1-8


POWER to ...

  • ... believe" no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit." 1 Cor. 12:3
  • ... be baptized" But after me [John]comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Mtt. 3:11
  • ... be salt and light to the world" But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? ... let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Mtt. 5:13-14
  • ... be instruments of healing" Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Mtt. 10:8
  • ... cast out evil spirits" And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases. Lk. 9:1
  • ... to commit" [Jesus] said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Lk 9:23
  • ... to enter the mystical"  [Jesus] was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. … a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." Mtt. 17:2&5
  • ... to live humbly" [Jesus] he said to them, "If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all." Mk 9:35
  • ... to challenge hypocrisy"  [Jesus] entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be a house of prayer'; but you have made it a den of robbers." Lk. 19:45
  • ... to pray with conviction" Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mk. 11:24
  • ... to drink from the cup of suffering" Jesus said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible to you; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what you will." Mk. 14:36
  • ... to put your life in His hands" "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." … "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." Lk. 23:42
  • ... to forgive" Jesus said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." Lk: 23.34
  • ... to accept death peacefully" "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!" … having said this he breathed his last. Lk. 23:46

Novena to the Holy Spirit begins on Friday ... LINK

When he had said this, as they were looking on,
he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.
Acts 1:9

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Communion of Saints - Five


I am the bread of life.
Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, 
“How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?”

Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.

For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me .
This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” Jo 6:48-59

Last real physical evidence of Jesus                                                                Present real physical evidence of Jesus
Some Thoughts For Reflection and Prayer

  • "... eats my flesh and drinks my blood ... feeds on me ..." Why does Jesus not soften his expressions, say it is only symbolic language? Is it because this is not merely symbolic language but language pointing to what is real. In the Eucharist, the sign of bread and wine, which we see and taste, now point, not to bread and wine, but to the REAL presence of Jesus.
  • As he speaks, Jesus makes this connection: the Passover Lamb, its life sacrificed, only those who eat its flesh are spared from the angel of death. Jesus is the New Sacrificial Lamb who's flesh must be eaten in order to be saved. [ link to Ex.12: ]
  • The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” ... Indeed! Now we must turn this question around, from a stumbling block to a wondrous mystery to be explored ... "how can" becomes "how does?".
We must seriously examine the quality of our participation in the Eucharist, the Communal gathering of Christ' Faithful, who are the Church. Anyone can come to Mass, hear the words of scripture and the prayers said; even walk up and partake in the bread and cup at communion, and yet not be a part of the "Communion", taking place.
  • One must recognize that the elements of the liturgy are signs, pointing to realities happening, here and now, yet things hidden behind the vale of rites and symbols. 
  • The rituals of the liturgy, which we experience in our two dimensional world, take us beyond into a third dimension, to hidden realities.

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