“Ora et labora et lege.” Work and study, but first of all pray.

manprayburstenhTHE PRAYER OF THE CHURCH

In the history and life of the Church, prayer has had and continues to have a prominent place, which becomes fully visible only to those who experience it personally, or directly study the historical documents about it.

This prayer is structured above all as liturgy, the public and communal prayer of the Church which, united with Jesus Christ, addresses God the Father in the Holy Spirit. Here emerges in all its poignancy the specifically Trinitarian character of Christian prayer, as participation and immersion in the relationship that Christ has with God the Father in the Holy Spirit’s bond of love. We are immersed, or raised up, in a life that is not ours as men, as creatures, but is the life of God, and the God to whom we turn in the liturgy is not a generic God, and not even properly the one and triune God, but God the Father of Jesus Christ, and in Christ, the Father of us all.

In Christian prayer, moreover, the public and communal dimension and the intimate personal dimension lead to one another and grow together: the “we” of the Church’s prayer accompanies a listening to that God who sees in secret, and whom we are called to encounter in the isolation of our room and in the secrecy of our heart (Mt. 6:5-6). Over the course of the centuries, this personal character of prayer has been expressed in many ways, often sublime, which remain a precious treasure, as the humble expressions of popular piety also remain precious.

Another major characteristic of Christian prayer concerns its “mystical” dimension. I am not referring only to the great mystics in whom the Church is exceptionally rich, but more radically to the specific character of Christian mysticism, as we are able to identify it already in the writings of the apostles Paul and John.

It is directly connected to what we have mentioned about the prayer of Jesus and his relationship with God the Father. The Johannine formula of the reciprocal “remaining in,” according to which the Father is in the Son and the Son in the Father, as believers are called to remain in the Father and in the Son, while the Father and the Son remain in them (John 17:21), expresses in an unparalleled manner that union with God which is the heart of all authentic mysticism.

Here, however, union with God follows the gift of himself that Christ  accomplished in history on the cross, and demands the ethical concreteness of practical love of one’s brethren: “If we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us . . . Whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:12,20).

It is not, therefore, a mysticism that is closed in on itself. On the contrary, it has descended upon history and demands conversion, the transformation of life.

Read the entire article, by Sandro Magister