Contemplatives in the World: Learning to Pray During the Forty Days of Lent
No longer alienated from God, we participate in the inner life of God. God dwells in us and we dwell in Him through His Spirit. This is prayer.
The prayer of Jesus opened the heavens, brought provision to the hungry, gave Him clarity for making decisions and brought the glory of heaven to earth and earth to heaven. Prayer still does all of this, and more, for all who will learn how to live their lives immersed in God as He did. Through prayer we recover the capacity for a communion of love with the living God and learn how to plunge ourselves into its embrace. Through prayer we cry out with - and in - Jesus, "Abba Father." No longer alienated from God, we participate in the inner life of God. God dwells in us and we dwell in Him through His Spirit. This is prayer. It is not so much about doing or getting but rather about being, receiving, giving, and loving. Through prayer, daily life takes on a 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.
All Christians are called to prayer. Only prayer can satisfy the hunger of our souls. It also changes us as we enter into the cloister of our own hearts. It strips away only what impedes love. Those who pray can then become lanterns of love for others seeking the way through the darkness of their own lives. Lent is a time to learn to pray, to love, and to live our Lives more fully in Communion with God.
One of my favorite Catholic Bishops, Alvaro del Portillo, once wrote, The so-called "practical people" are not really the most useful in the service of Christ's Church, nor are those who merely expound theories. Rather it is the true contemplatives who best serve her; those with the steady, generous and passionate desire of transfiguring and divinizing all creation with Christ and in Christ. It may sound paradoxical, but in the Church of Jesus Christ, the mystic is the only practical person"
Become like Jesus...
In the biblical accounts of the earthly life of Jesus we discover the way in which He lived in a continual communion with the Father. They are meant to teach us all the way of prayer. Here are but a few snippets of many passages in the Gospels;
After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened (Luke 3:21); He was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples." He said to them, "When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. (Luke 11: 1-3);
In those days he departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named apostles: (Luke 6:12-13); About eight days after he said this, he took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white." (Luke 9:28-29)
Jesus was a man of prayer. We often think that He prayed the way He did only because He was Divine. However, in his sacred humanity he reveals the fullness of our own humanity, as it is being redeemed and recreated in Him. The Fathers of the 2nd Vatican Council reminded us of this:
The truth is that only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come, namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. (Gaudium et Spes #22)
In Jesus, we find a new way of being human revealed and opened up to each of us, beginning right now. He Himself is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (Jn. 14:16) By His Incarnation - His Saving Life, Death, Resurrection and Ascension- we are capacitated, made capable,by grace, to live differently. We can become what spiritual writers have long called "sons (and daughters) in the Son." No matter what our state in life, job or even specific lifestyle within the one call to discipleship, we are all called into communion with God through prayer.
The prayer of Jesus opened the heavens, brought provision to the hungry, gave Him clarity for making decisions and brought the glory of heaven to earth and earth to heaven. Prayer still does all of this, and more, for all who will learn how to live their lives immersed in God as He did. Through prayer we recover the capacity for a communion of love with the living God and learn how to plunge ourselves into its embrace. Through prayer we cry out with - and in - Jesus, "Abba Father."
No longer alienated from God, we participate in the inner life of God. God dwells in us and we dwell in Him through His Spirit. This is prayer. It is not so much about doing or getting but rather about being, receiving, giving, and loving. Through prayer, daily life takes on a 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 and find the way to walk. Through prayer darkness is dispelled and the path of true progress is illuminated. Through prayer we begin to understand why this kind of communion seems so elusive at times. Because of sin, 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.
Then, through prayer, we find the way to freedom from the effects of sin and a new beginning. We learn to live as penitents, eagerly confessing our sin and regularly returning to our first love. Lent is a wonderful time for this new beginning.Prayer opens us to Revelation, expands our capacity to comprehend truth and equips us to change, through conversion. Through prayer we are drawn into a deepening relationship with Jesus, whose loving embrace on the hill of Golgotha bridged heaven and 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. We experience 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.
Christian prayer does not always bring us consolation, at least at the affective or emotional level. However, it does always bring an increase in this communion. It is there where we find every answer, by living in God. Most of us, unlike those called into an enclosure, are invited to become contemplatives in the midst of the world. In prayer we learn to crawl into the wounded side of the Savior and find our home next to His Sacred Heart, warmed by the depth of Love, and rest.
At the Wednesday General Audience of February 8, 2012, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI shared some beautiful thoughts on the words Jesus uttered from the Cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Today I want to reflect with you on the cry of Jesus from the Cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" This cry comes after a three-hour period when there was darkness over the whole land." "Darkness is an ambivalent symbol in the Bible - while it is frequently a sign of the power of evil, it can also serve to express a mysterious divine presence. Just as Moses was covered in the dark cloud when God appeared to him on the mountain, so Jesus on Calvary is wrapped in darkness."
Even though the Father appears to be absent, in a mysterious way his loving gaze is focused upon the Son's loving sacrifice on the Cross. It is important to realize that Jesus' cry of anguish is not an expression of despair.On the contrary, this opening verse of Psalm twenty-two conveys the entire content of the psalm, it expresses the confidence of the people of Israel that despite all the adversity they are experiencing, God remains present among them, he hears and answers his people's cry.
In the light of prayer, even pain can become the material for our personal transformation and enable us to open ourselves more to the fullness of life. Even when darkness seems to cover our own land, when the Father seems to be absent, prayer reveals His loving gaze. He always hears us.
The God who is Love hungers for the communion of sons and daughters - and we hunger for communion with Him - because He made us this way. Nothing else will satisfy. The early Church Father Origen once wrote: "Every spiritual being is, by nature, a temple of God, created to receive into itself the glory of God."
We will live the way we love and we will love the way we pray.
One of my favorite spiritual writers of the 20th century, Henri Nouwen, understood the intimacy of prayer and the call to live in God. He wrote these words in his work entitled "Lifesigns":
Jesus, in whom the fullness of God dwells, has become our home by making his home in us he allows us to make our home in him. By entering into the intimacy of our innermost self he offers us the opportunity to enter into his own intimacy with God. By choosing us as his preferred dwelling place, he invites us to choose him as our preferred dwelling place.
This is the mystery of the incarnation. Here we come to see what discipline in the spiritual life means. It means a gradual process of coming home to where we belong and listening there to the voice which desires our attention. Home is the place where that first love dwells and speaks gently to us. Prayer is the most concrete way to make our home in God.
Another great teacher of prayer of the last century was the Trappist Monk, Fr. Louis. He is known to most as Thomas Merton. He once commented on his many writings in these words:
Whatever I may have written, I think it all can be reduced in the end to this one root truth: that God calls human persons to union with Himself and with one another in Christ, in the Church which is His Mystical Body. "It is also a witness to the fact that there is and must be, in the church, a contemplative life which has no other function than to realize these mysterious things, and return to God all the thanks and praise that human hearts can give Him.
As I grow older, things are becoming much clearer and uncomplicated. Left behind with the years was some of my propensity to complicate things. I seem to hunger for more and more prayer. In fact, it is the place where I find all that I need, my real home. I now understand that one can no more survive without prayer then survive without air.
Through prayerful surrender to the loving plans of God in our own lives we go deeper into this communion called prayer. We begin see His loving gaze. In this communion with God, fear dissipates and everything is bathed in love. After all, when all is stripped away, there is only God, and God is Love. Lent is a time for such stripping away; a time to learn the way of prayer.
The beloved disciple John put it so simply, "God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him." (1 John 4:16) In His Sacred Humanity the Lord Jesus prayed for each of us. "May they be one, as you Father are in me and I am in you." (John 17) The words of this prayer reveal the purpose and final goal of human existence; we are all called to love as God loves - to love with God's Love. This occurs through prayer.
Prayer leads us into an ever deepening, intimate, loving relationship with God, and, in Him, into a new relationship with all men and women and creation itself. Contemplatives comprehend, or rather, are comprehended by, this experience of communion. They literally fall in love with God.
As we walk through this Great Lent, these forty days of concentrated prayer, penance, fasting and almsgiving, we have an opportunity to learn to pray again. To be drawn into a deeper place in the communion of God's love.
All Christians are called to prayer. Only prayer can satisfy the hunger of our souls. It also changes us as we enter into the cloister of our own hearts. It strips away only what impedes love. Those who pray can then become lanterns of love for others seeking the way through the darkness of their own lives. Lent is a time to learn to pray, to love, and to live our Lives more fully in Communion with God. Let us become Contemplatives in the World.
Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2015
Universal: That political responsibility may be lived at all levels as a high form of charity.
Evangelization: That, amid social inequalities, Latin American Christians may bear witness to love for the poor and contribute to a more fraternal society.
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Lent / Easter News
- Missing The Point of Easter
- The Power of the Resurrection in our Lives: Christ Is Risen; Indeed, He Is Risen!
- Easter: Through the Octave and Beyond!
- The Happy Priest on Easter: He Has Truly Risen, We Are Free From Fear
- Holy Saturday: 'Make Sure He's Dead'
- HOLY SATURDAY: The Whole Earth Keeps Silence
- Good Friday Reflection on the Logic of the Cross
- Good Friday: The Church Born From the Wounded Side of Christ Pauses at the Cross
- Reflection on the Nature of Sin for Good Friday
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?
More Easter / Lent
'So it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead' - Luke 24:46
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption. continue reading
Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in all four canonical Gospels. (Mark 11:1.11, Matthew 21:1.11, Luke 19:28.44, and John 12:12.19) ... continue reading
On Palm Sunday, we celebrate the first joy of the season, as we celebrate Our Lord's triumphant entrance into Jerusalem where he was welcomed by crowds worshiping him and laying down palm leaves before him. It also marks the beginning of Holy Week... continue reading
HOLY THURSDAY is the most complex and profound of all religious observances. It celebrates his last supper with the disciples, a celebration of Passover ... continue reading
On Good Friday, each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption. In the solemn ceremonies of Holy Week we unite ourselves to our Savior, and we contemplate our own death to sin in the Death of our Lord ... continue reading
Easter is the principal feast of the ecclesiastical year. Leo I (Sermo xlvii in Exodum) calls it the greatest feast (festum festorum), and says that Christmas is celebrated only in preparation for Easter. It is the centre of the greater part of the ecclesiastical year ... continue reading
For most people the easiest practice to consistently fulfill will be the traditional one, to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year. During Lent abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory in the United States as elsewhere. Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed (Lk. 5:35). continue reading
Everything answered from when does lent end, ashes, giving something up, stations of the cross and blessed palms. The key to understanding the meaning of Lent is simple: Baptism... continue reading
Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion. First Station: Jesus is condemned to death... pray the stations now
What did you give up for Lent?
From the humorous to the bizarre, people have had interesting Lenten experiences. Tell us about what you are going to give up for this Lenten Year.
What others gave up »
Alex Basile - Catholic Online, 4/10/2015
Author Alex Basile reflects of the true meaning of the Resurrection of Christ and how many Christians overlook the real joy of Easter. In the haziness of the first Easter morning, Mary Magdalene made ...Continue Reading
Fr. James Farfaglia - Catholic Online, 4/6/2015
With the resurrection of Jesus, the physical is exalted. When we truly believe in Jesus, we are resurrected in this life because we are freed from the fear and worry that are characteristic of ...Continue Reading
Randy Sly - Catholic Online, 4/6/2015
While Easter is a Solemnity and an Octave Feast, it is also a 50-day journey until Pentecost. We continue to remember his resurrection with special devotion. Saint Augustine shares this ...Continue Reading
F. K. Bartels - Catholic Online, 4/6/2015
There is great cause for belief in the Resurrection. One of the most wonderful tenets of Catholicism and the true Christian religion the Church transmits, is that the Resurrection is a historical ...Continue Reading
On Good Friday, the entire Church fixes her gaze on the Cross at Calvary. Each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption.
In the symbol of the Cross we can see the magnitude of the human tragedy, the ravages of original sin, and the infinite love of God. Learn More
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption.
The ashes are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense. Learn More
Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion.
ACT OF CONTRITION. O my God, my Redeemer, behold me here at Thy feet. From the bottom of my heart... Pray the Stations
'Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed' Lk. 5:35
Abstinence. The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted.
Fasting. The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday (Canon 97) to the 59th Birthday (i.e. the beginning of the 60th year, a year which will be completed on the 60th birthday) to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal.
Learn More »