Prayer and Silence: Pope Calls Us to Make Space for the Word to Dwell Within
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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. 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
Pope Benedict XVI, man of prayer
P>VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - Every Wednesday the Pope instructs the faithful in either the Paul VI Hall or St Peters square, depending upon the weather. On Wednesday, March 6, 2012, the faithful heard the successor of Peter in the pristine beauty of an early spring day in St. Peter's Square. He concluded his ongoing teaching on learning how to pray from the prayer of Jesus by focusing on Silence.
Ten thousand eager pilgrims heard this man of deep prayer illuminate the beauty of the silence in the life of Jesus Christ as an example for all of us in pursuing our own call to prayer and intimacy with God. The Pope explained that silence is necessary to hear the Word of God, noting that "our age does not, in fact, favor reflection and contemplation; quite the contrary it seems that people are afraid to detach themselves, even for an instant, from the spate of words and images which mark and fill our days".
However, "the Gospels often show us ... Jesus withdrawing alone to a place far from the crowds, even from His own disciples, where He can pray in silence". Moreover, "the great patristic tradition teaches us that the mysteries of Christ are linked to silence, and only in silence can the Word find a place to dwell within us".
"This principle", the Holy Father explained "holds true for individual prayer, but also for our liturgies which, to facilitate authentic listening, must also be rich in moments of silence and of non verbal acceptance. ... Silence has the capacity to open a space in our inner being, a space in which God can dwell, which can ensure that His Word remains within us, and that love for Him is rooted in our minds and hearts, and animates our lives".
The Pope explained a connection between silence and prayer, "In our prayers, we often find ourselves facing the silence of God. We almost experience a sense of abandonment; it seems that God does not listen and does not respond. But this silence, as happened to Jesus, does not signify absence. Christians know that the Lord is present and listens, even in moments of darkness and pain, of rejection and solitude. Jesus assures His disciples and each one of us that God is well aware of our needs at every moment of our lives".
"For us, who are so frequently concerned with operational effectiveness and with the results ... we achieve, the prayer of Jesus is a reminder that we need to stop, to experience moments of intimacy with God, 'detaching ourselves' from the turmoil of daily life in order to listen, to return to the 'root' which nourishes and sustains our existence. One of the most beautiful moments of Jesus' prayer is when, faced with the sickness, discomfort and limitations of his interlocutors, He addresses His Father in prayer, thus showing those around him where they must go to seek the source of hope and salvation".
The Pope explained the most profound point of the prayer of Jesus to the Father came at the moment of His passion and death. Citing the Catechism (Par #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 benedict XVI is a man of deep 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 man of deep prayer, a contemplative. This contemplation is the symbol of his service and reveals the heart of the Church to modern world. He calls all of us to the kind of genuine conversion that comes only through prayer.
Only a Church of holiness, mystery, mission and true majesty can accomplish the huge task that lies ahead of us. 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 desperately in need of deep and profound conversion. Prayer is the path to that much needed conversion.
Pope Benedict XVI has carried forward the mission of the "New Evangelization" announced by his predecessor, Blessed John Paul II. He knows that for the Church to rise to this challenge she must be filled with the Lord and thus able to give Him to others. This kind of deep conversion can only come through prayer.
World Communications Day falls on May 20, 2012. On Thursday, September 29, 2011 the Pontifical Council for Social Communications announced the theme of the event for 2012: Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization. In announcing the theme they explained, "In the thought of Pope Benedict XVI, silence is not presented simply as an antidote to the constant and unstoppable flow of information that characterizes society today but rather as a factor that is necessary for its integration. Silence, precisely because it favors habits of discernment and reflection, can in fact be seen primarily as a means of welcoming the word."
Prayer is an ongoing dialogue of intimate communion with God. Prayer is about falling in love with God. 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.
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.
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.
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."
Mother Teresa once wrote: "God is the friend of silence, in that silence he will listen to us; there he will speak to our soul, and there we will hear his voice. The fruit of silence is faith. The fruit of faith is prayer, the fruit of prayer is love, the fruit of love is service and the fruit of service is silence.
"In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Silence gives us a new way of looking at everything. We need this silence in order to touch souls. God is the friend of silence. His language is silence. 'Be still and know that I am God'."
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