November 28, 2021

Silences Filled with Meaning

Prayer that waits for Christ's coming in glory opens to silences filled with meaning.  The silences that live in the shared gaze of lovers or at the bedside of a dying family member are filled with meanings too deep for words. The depths of these silences approach prayer because they reach down to what is truly sacred in life. Prayer, however, plunges even deeper than these tenderest moments - it knows the tenderness of the King who comes.

Prayer knows an abyss deeper than the depths of eros and death. In that silent depth, prayer discerns the exquisite melodies that the unaided heart cannot hear - but aches to know. This abyss down into which prayer descends is bottomless and the silences there are pregnant with meanings too much for space and time to contain. 

Every human love and every misery are circumscribed in the meaningful silence that prayer explores. In the depths of this contemplative prayer, earthly friendships are purified and vindicated because they are re-established in deeper truths than space and duration can bind.  Betrayal, denial and abandonment do not define the heart that pours itself out in this way. Instead prayer unlocks mysteries more powerful than every human frailty. Death itself ceases to be the last word about one's existence, for this prayer accesses new life. 

Fear of death is an absence of faith but prayer under the shadow of the Cross triumphs over death.  This prayer under the darkness of Christ's last wordless cry conquers disintegration.  Prayer re-establishes and heals bonds between the body and its powers, between body and soul, between one's own soul and souls of one's neighbors, between the soul and God.  Prayer unleashes the courage to love where love seems most absent. Prayer gives birth to hope when all seems most lost. In the face of hardness of heart, prayer draws down the power to forgive and to seek forgiveness. The prayer of faith, the prayer that lives in the Church, the prayer of the Church, this prayer brings back to life.

This kind of prayer is a baptism into the life and death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Prayer knows that His Cross establishes such new silences in the heart that even after so many centuries we have hardly explored their breadth and length, height and depth. Prayer sees His radiance as it illumines all human loves and fears, even in the darkest night.  Prayer find rest even in suffering because His peace conquers rancor in the heart even as the world falls down around us.  

By prayer, His truth dispels lies even when the exigency of the moment attempts to limit our freedom. Prayer is convinced that the bottomlessness of his mercy is deeper than the abyss of any misery. Prayer holds fast His imminent return and instills that conviction that His justice swift even when evil seems to be winning the day.  When the sorrow of death stings in the moment, prayer discovers that His consolation is forever.  When the heart feels most empty, prayer is filled with Him. 

November 14, 2021

Prayer's Power

It is time to return to prayer and to believe in the power of God. The power of God defends and holds up human freedom. Prayer is the safeguard of human dignity.The power of God is able to dispel the fog of anxiety and rage that has gripped our communities.  

Under a cloud of great social anxiety, we tend to make judgments in accord with a certain mass hysteria and surrender things that we would otherwise never surrender. When cave into such things, it is always at the price of human dignity and freedom.  For people of faith, as we experience such societal movements, we must hold fast to the teaching of St. Paul not to conform ourselves "to this age", not to be carried away "by every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness," not occupy oneself with "myths" (see Romans 12:2, Eph. 4:14; and 1 Tim. 1:4).

To hold fast to this teaching, we need God's power. We need prayer. The power of God unleashed in Christian prayer roots the heart in truth. To be rooted in a truth by prayer is radical but when we pray, God does root us in being, goodness and beauty. Before the changing winds of the times, we need this kind of radical. We are not at the mercy of the cunning and crafty when we humble ourselves before God. He protects us from the kinds of social "myths" that gave birth to Gulags and re-education camps. Only God can help his creatures rise above a culture of death. By prayer, He opens the path of life.

Those who are radically with God are not radically ideological, but open to truth.  Driven by anxiety and the need for control, the radically ideological cannot admit when they are wrong. Prayer brings repentance. Radical ideology brings hardness of heart. 

The radically ideological could be commercial or political or even medical, it does not matter, but self-enchanted with social myth, they strive, even without realizing it, to make an absolute claim over our existence. Because ideologically driven myths see the good, beautiful and true only in terms of a means to an end, they are prone to fail to rise to the true greatness that is at stake. The absolute claim they would make of human life easily robs us of the joy of loving one another and being present to each other as true neighbors.  

Whenever we are carried away by ideological claims, we gain a sense of security always at the expense of the truth. When we worship falsehood, truth must be sacrificed on its altar. But with truth, there is peace. With falsehood, anxiety and fear of death. 

A soul at peace feels no compulsion to spy on or report his neighbor, but an anxious soul is duty bound to make sure the non-compliant are shamed.Without the truth, I cannot see my neighbor as a child of God but only the "other" who is alien to me or else a co-conspirator who makes me feel validated in my foolishness. Blinded by ideology and social anxiety, I only see obstacles, cogs and sycophants. An obstacle or a cog in the wheel of social progress does not challenge me to love anymore than a sycophant. Only a neighbor can do that. 

To see our neighbor in truth, the fog of social anxiety and radical ideology need to be lifted. Only the power of God can dispel falsehood and free the heart to see rightly. Christian prayer accesses this power. A child of God, a real neighbor, does not leave me indifferent but summons sacrifice. Prayer calls down power that allows me to welcome this gift.