October 12, 2016

Praying the 'Our Father'

There are times in a life when we feel our problems and pressures take over our days at the expense of our hopes and our faith; sometimes we feel that the issues we face are unique, that we must face them now alone. It is frightening to feel out on a limb, alone without the support of the community. Yet for many, their day to day existence is just that.
Author, theologian and Priest Alfred McBride O,Praem., writes a fine story that many will find useful as a springboard for their spiritual growth. His topic: the ever present prayer. He includes in his book, the Our Father (Pater Nostre). Prayed by millions for centuries the prayer is both simple for a child to recite and an adult to ponder. He calls his book, How to Pray Like Jesus and the Saints.

His book is composed of 10 chapters;
each explores the spirituality of mystics, poets and Doctors of the Church, those from whom she has derived much wisdom over the centuries. The 'Our Father' prayer he writes, is "crisp and short." Each of its seven parts invites interpretation and consideration. The antiquity of this prayer, has invited many commentaries, some as ancient as those of Saint Cyprian of Carthage.
It is written in the plural, so that when one prays it, he or she prays not for them self alone but in the plural, we/our. It directs one to think of 'Our Father' rather than simply 'my father.'

This sets the universal tone which follows through the other six verses. It distinguishes God the Father, God the Creator, from the unique, personal father, our earthly father which each one of us may know. It encourages that we identify with this One, universal Father, that we may be community for one another, the Body of the Christ.

'Hallowed be thy Name' the next verse reflects the holy, divine nature of the Creator. The one who prays, prays for the gift of holiness of the Creator personally for all mankind.
'Thy Kingdom Come,' the third verse of the prayer asks that we accept God's will. It acknowledges that the kingdom has already arrived, that mankind might cooperate with the agency of Creation, so as to know their own spark of divinity. This unceasing prayer is for a "kingdom of love, justice, holiness, salvation [from evil]… and the grace of divine life." It lends its sanctity to the whole of human activity within every heart.
'Thy Will Be Done' is perhaps the most spiritually challenging directive of the seven verses. It seeks more than acceptance of the Kingdom, the created world that all can see and touch, but more abstractly, the will of the Creator itself a thing which cannot be easily perceived with the eyes; rather it is more of the heart.
'Give Us this Day Our Daily Bread' which in one sense is the literal daily food we eat to survive, but also it's about the spiritual side of our lives, that which sustains and enlivens us and our faith.
'Forgive Us Our Trespasses as We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us,' the spiritual and emotional pains of daily life are nearly unavoidable.
Spiritually everyone who suffers at times needs to be able to release their pains to return to the spiritual state of the child who is loving, without resentment and the essence of forgiveness, hopeful and forward looking.
'Lead Us Not Into Temptation' the Creator makes his creations free, without hold; this is his loving desire that is imparted upon all. While the freedom to choose to love is the ultimate spiritual desire, God recognizes that humanity may be tempted and drawn away from the common good; how many times we are tempted to choose what is our detriment! This verse strengthens our resolve to turn from evil, to walk in the light.
And finally, the seventh verse directly prays that we may be 'But Deliver(ed) Us From Evil.' author McBride recalls C.S. Lewis' book, The Screwtape Letters, a satire in which there is much tempting of mankind by a devil called, Screwtape who lures people to tolerate and perpetuate wrong doing.

In participating in acts of evil, ones' conscience is dampened over time; the harm which may result becomes more obscure to the perpetrator and establishes a new norm-- that they them self are at the center of their own universe. Sadly it more often leads to a slavery of the spiritual self, an attraction of evil for evil, deceit for deceit and a coldness of heart. Screwtape, we learn, is foiled by an encounter with love and the mercy of the Christ which brings Creation back into the community of the Creator.
Pray this prayer often; let it touch you deeply.

September 9, 2016

Two Rivers, the Mystic Union

"There are two rivers that encircle the whole of life; the two touch and renew each other, without ever co-mingling or confusing..." D.H. Lawrence, A Propos of Lady Chatterley's Lover

When Will I See You Again
by Babyface

When can my heart beat again
When does the pain ever end
When do the tears stop from running over
When does you'll get over it begin
I hear what you're saying
But I swear that it's not making sense
So when can I see you

When can I see you again
When can my heart beat again
When can I see you again
When can I breathe once again

The great 20th century English wordsmith and thinker,   
D.H. Lawrence, had many things to bring forth to his readers. Some conveniently have reduced him to the word, sex. However the writer, in his own words, shows that he is more thoughtful and more searching than any facile pre-determination borne by others.

In his little book, an essay of 63 pages, Lawrence writes in 1931, two years after his Lady Chatterley's Lover was published in Europe, at a time when bootleg copies began to appear elsewhere, that he was aware there was a storm prompted by its appearance; many places banned the story as obscene.
Here the Author, Lawrence checks in:
"As David was mad for Bathsheba [in the Bible]... But when a woman's sex has lost its dynamic call, and in a sense is dead or static, then the woman wants to attract men... she exposes her flesh more and more... men are repelled by her, but socially thrilled... a chic declaration of independence, it is modern, free, popular because it is strictly a-sexual or anti-sexual... They want the counterfeit, mental substitution... The very men who encourage women to be the most daring, complain most bitterly of the sexlessness of women... Man is often willing to be deceived-- for a time-- even by nothingness...
The point is when women are alive, quivering, helplessly attractive, they will cover themselves, drape themselves with clothes gracefully... While sex is a power in itself, women try all disguises and men flaunt... 
The Catholic Church, especially in the south [southern Europe], is neither anti-sexual, like the northern churches, nor a-sexual like Mr. Bernard Shaw and such social thinkers. The Catholic Church recognizes sex, and makes it marriage, a sacrament based on the sexual communion... The man is a potential creator, law-giver, father and husband... lives full and satisfied...
The Catholic Church does not spend its time reminding people that there is no marrying nor giving in heaven. So that sexual lure is not deadly to the Church. Much more deadly is the flippancy, "freedom," cynicism, irreverence... in the dangerous, vulgar form of atheism. Naturally the Church is against it. The Chief Priest of Europe knows more about sex... because he knows more about the essential nature of the human being..."
-- A Propos of Lady Chatterley's Lover