He pointed to the most profound point of the prayer of Jesus to the Father, the moment of his passion and death. Citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2606), he explained that "his cry to the Father from the cross encapsulated '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."
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI continues to live his life immersed in God. IN so doing he invites us all to join him - by his example and his teaching. This immersion is made possible by prayer becoming a way of life.
He is a man of living faith; the kind that gets into the marrow of the bones of a man who truly walks with God, making him strong, steady and unafraid of any adversary. This is precisely because he is a contemplative. He calls all of us to the kind of conversion that comes only through lives immersed in God through prayer.
No matter our state in life, vocation or career, we are all called to contemplative prayer. In its section on contemplative prayer (CCC #2709-2719) the Catholic Catechism explains:
“Entering into contemplative prayer is like entering into the Eucharistic liturgy: we ‘gather up:’ the heart, recollect our whole being under the prompting of the Holy Spirit, abide in the dwelling place of the Lord which we are, awaken our faith in order to enter into the presence of him who awaits us. We let our masks fall and turn our hearts back to the Lord who loves us, so as to hand ourselves over to him as an offering to be purified and transformed” (CCC #2711).
Only a Church of holiness, mystery, mission and majesty can accomplish the huge task that lies ahead of us in this new missionary age. The Church that was born from the wounded side of Jesus Christ, who stretched his arms out on the tree of our redemption to embrace the world, is now desperately in need of deep and profound conversion within. Prayer is the sure path to this much needed conversion, and it begins in our own heart.
Prayer is an ongoing dialogue of intimate communion with God. Prayer is about falling in love with God, over and over again. Isaac of Ninevah was an early eighth century monk, bishop and theologian. For centuries, he was mostly revered in the Eastern Christian Church for his writings on prayer. In the last century the beauty of his insights on prayer are being embraced once again by both lungs, east and west, of the Church. He wrote these words in one of his many treatises on prayer:
"When the Spirit dwells in a person, from the moment in which that person has become prayer, he never leaves him. For the Spirit himself never ceases to pray in him. Whether the person is asleep or awake, prayer never from then on departs from his soul. Whether he is eating or drinking or sleeping or whatever else he is doing, even in deepest sleep, the fragrance of prayer rises without effort in his heart. Prayer never again deserts him.”
"At every moment of his life, even when it appears to stop, it is secretly at work in him continuously, one of the Fathers, the bearers of Christ, says that prayer is the silence of the pure. For their thoughts are divine motions. The movements of the heart and the intellect that have been purified are the voices full of sweetness with which such people never cease to sing in secret to the hidden God."
Through his incarnation, saving life, death, and resurrection, Jesus opens the way to full communion with God for all men and women. He leads us out of the emptiness and despair that is the rotted fruit of narcissism, nihilism and materialism. When we enter into the dialogue of prayer, we can experience a progressive, dynamic and intimate relationship with God. He transforms us from within. We, as Isaac said, can "become prayer" as we empty ourselves in order to be filled with him.
Through prayer, daily life takes on new meaning. It becomes a classroom of communion. In that classroom we learn the truth about who we are – and who we are becoming – in Jesus. Through prayer we receive new glasses through which we see the true landscape of life. Through prayer darkness is dispelled and the path of progress is illuminated.
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Through prayer we begin to understand why this communion seems so elusive at times; as we struggle with our own disordered appetites, and live in a manner at odds with the beauty and order of the creation within which we dwell only to find a new beginning whenever we confess our sin and return to our first love. Prayer opens us up to revelation, expands our capacity to comprehend truth and equips us to change.
Through prayer we are drawn by love into a deepening relationship with Jesus whose loving embrace on the hill of Golgotha bridged heaven with earth; his relationship with his Father is opened now to us; the same Spirit that raised him from the dead begins to give us new life as we are converted, transfigured and made new.
Through prayer, heavenly wisdom is planted in the field of our hearts and we experience a deepening communion with the Trinitarian God. We become, in the words of the Apostle Peter "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). That participation will only be fully complete when we are with Him in the fullness of his embrace, in resurrected bodies in a new heaven and a new earth, but it begins now, in the grace of this present moment, as we, in a real sense, “become prayer.”
The beloved disciple John became prayer. He writes in the letter he penned in his later years: "See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure. Everyone who commits sin commits lawlessness, for sin is lawlessness" (1John 3:1-4).
As we "become prayer" our daily life becomes the field of choice and we are capacitated to choose the "more excellent way" of love of which the great Apostle Paul wrote (1 Cor. 13). Pondering the implications of the exercise of our human freedom becomes a regular part of our life, as we learn to "examine our conscience," repent of our sin and become joyful penitents. Prayer provides the environment for such recollection as it exposes the darkness and helps us surrender it to the light of love, the living God dwelling within us.
"Becoming prayer" is possible for all Christians, no matter their state in life or vocation, because God holds nothing back from those whom he loves. This relationship of communion is initiated by him. Our part is to respond. That response should flow from a heart that beats in surrendered love, in the process of being freed from the entanglements that weigh us down.