Voce mea ad Dominum

Random thoughts from an amateur theologist.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The things you realize with prayer

Even the friend who had my trust, who shared my table, has scorned me. -Psalm 41:10

I have a method to my prayer. The Church has made it rather easy for us to pray by using what is called The Divine Office or The Liturgy of the Hours. It is an ancient method of praying using the Psalms and canticles from the Old and New Testaments in a four week cycle and consists of Morning Prayer (Lauds), daytime prayer (broken into midmorning (Terce), noon (Sext), and midafternoon (None)), Evening Prayer (Vespers), the Office of Readings (Matins), and Night Prayer (Compline). Since I am not a monk living in a monastery, I don't usually manage to pray every hour every day, but most days I generally pray Lauds, Matins, Vespers, and Compline along with the Rosary. That is not to say that I don't offer spontaneous prayers to the Lord because I do, but liturgical prayer is very fulfilling.

Tonight as I was praying Vespers, Psalm 41 was the first Psalm prayed. The Psalms were written by David and are the songbook of the Jewish faith. Psalm 41 is a thanksgiving for rescue from an illness. David speaks of a friend who betrayed him, one who even ate from his table. Every time I have prayed this Psalm, I read it as though Jesus is speaking, and at verse 10 I think of Judas at the last supper. Even St. John supports this idea in his gospel (John 13:18).

Tonight as I was contemplating this verse, I suddenly realized that anyone who sins is guilty of the same thing, including me. I have eaten at the table of the Lord and myself have been guilty of betraying him through my sinful actions. So, tonight, I will examine my conscience and tomorrow present myself in the confessional and beg for mercy. That way I will be able to approach the Lord's altar with clean hands and a pure heart.

Receiving such insight is why I find praying the Divine Office so fulfilling. God's grace is a wonderful thing.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Personal Revelation

“Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” - John 14:21

This passage from St. John's gospel looks like a mathematical equation. You know, like the transitive property if a=b and b=c then a=c. St. John is showing us that Jesus spells out quite plainly the truth about those who love him and the results of that love.

I am most interested in the part that says, "and reveal myself to him." How does Christ do this? Some say through scripture, some say through other Christians, and still some say through prayer and the sacraments. Truth is that he reveals himself in all of these ways, but above all Christ reveals himself through his Church. Think about it. How else would we know anything about the Lord? It is through the Church that all three of those conditions are met in one place. The scriptures are a product of the Church (and not vice versa), and the Church itself is the family of believers who are united in prayer and the sacramental life. Simply put, without the Church, his body, Christ would never be known to anyone.

For this reason, I always look with a raised eyebrow at people who say, "I don't need to belong to the Church to have a relationship with Jesus." That is silly. It is like saying I don't have to be a part of my family to have a relationship with my mother. The simple reality is that the only way to have a relationship with Jesus is through the Church because that is how Jesus wants it. It is a personal relationship because we come to know Jesus personally when he reveals himself to us, but all revelation about Jesus comes through the Church.

So let us continue to read the scriptures, pray, receive the sacraments and gather together as God's family, for this is how Jesus reveals himself to us, and more importantly, this is how we learn that Jesus loves us.

St. Isidore, pray for us.