Rev. J. Bryan Hehir: Reasons, Questions, Reflections
Continued from Part I.
Christ as the Center of Our Prayer
In Part I, we were locating where the Church fits in the structure of Catholic faith. The Mystery of the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Church.
In worship, we are drawn into the life of the Trinity.
- A dynamic of knowledge and love
- An exchange of love between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
- In prayer, we are drawn into knowledge of God and up into the love of God.
There were two different approaches to the understanding of Life in God.
In the West, under the influence of St. Augustine, there is stress on:
- Unity of God
- Going inside the Trinity to point to three people
In the East:
- Do not start with unity
- Start with three persons, and trace from there back to unity.
The Eastern approach is how you encounter God through worship..
- To the Father
- Through the Son
- In the Holy Spirit
The inner life of God is pure spirit (St. John’s opening passage – “The Word”)
How do we come to know who God is? Through the Incarnation. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. It opened the life of the Trinity to us.
The Incarnate Christ is two things:
1) The perfect revelation of who God is, revealed in word and deed. The image of the invisible God.
2) Christ as the one who takes us back to God. The perfect response to God’s love. The pattern of our way of life, for those who walked in “The Way”. To be a disciple means to “walk in the discipline.”
For some, this is the totality of Christ. Put all together, there is a two-fold meaning, and that becomes Christ as mediator.
Pius XXII – Mediator Dei. Christ stands between God and us, brings grace to us, and lifts us up to God.
Part of our prayer is dependent on the human Christ.
In the three Synoptic Gospels, we see certain aspects of Christ.
- In Luke, forgiveness
- In Matthew, teaching
- In Mark, action
St. John’s Gospel is the only one we hear for the last two weeks of Lent.
“The light came into the darkness, and the darkness could not overcome it.”
Christ entered a world separated from God. The journey back to God can only pass through the Cross. The Passover of Christ, or, Paschal Mystery. It breaks the power of sin in the world. In the Resurrection is the triumph over death and sin. At the Ascension he sends the Holy Spirit.
How are we joined to Christ?
When he becomes one of us, he is never separated from God. He is without sin in a world filled with sin. Jesus walks the earth filled with the Spirit of God, but he cannot share it. The darkness must be broken, which can only occur through his death and Resurrection.
The Risen Christ can only be known through faith. He is only available to us through the eyes of faith. He says to Mary Magdalene, “Don’t touch me, I must return to the Father first. Then I will send the Spirit.” Then the Spirit of God fills the world. We receive it in Baptism, and are joined to the Risen Christ.
We cannot know this Christ or grow in him without prayer. Prayer is a means to an end. The Spirit teaches us to pray,
There are two kinds of prayer:
2) Personal (Private)
1) Public Prayer – Liturgy (from “liturgia” – “public work”)
Essential meaning is that it is the Risen Christ who prays, and we gather around him as a community. It is expressed in:
- Liturgy of the Divine Office
To the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit
The Mass is the great study of public prayer. We gather in the Spirit, bound by the Spirit, in the Mystical Body of Christ. This is two-dimensional:
I. In Word
a. Spirit speaks to Spirit
b. Christ is Teacher
c. Holds special power when read in the assembly
II. In Sacrament
a. Christ is Priest
b. Sacrifice of Christ (unbloodied)
c. Once for all
Regarding Christ’s sacrifice: It was not the degree of suffering that mattered, but the offering of obedience to the Father.
We repeat the sacrifice in ritual and symbol so that we can be drawn into the perfect prayer of Christ.
It is Christ the Priest who offers the liturgy. The Priesthood of Believers joins in community with him. The ordained priest links the community with the Risen Christ.
The other sacraments are also examples of the Public Prayer of the Church.
The two great sacraments:
The other sacraments are built around those two.
- Confirmation (Completion of Baptism)
- Reconciliation (Better prepares us to celebrate in spirit)
- Anointing of the Sick (Healing is needed)
- Matrimony (State in life)
- Holy Orders (State in life)
Sacraments include human signs in which the divine presence of Christ is embodied:
Water – Washing, and sign of living water, springing up eternally.
Eucharist – A meal we share, bread and wine
Oil – Healing ointment
God comes to us in the human, but the Incarnation guides us to the sacraments.
Mystery of Transformation: Ordinary human things in a given place and moment and the Word of God, carry divine power. The transformed things transform us.
Seeing the world in sacramental terms… We look for signs of God’s presence in the human, and we are sent to transform the world. We live with the sense that we are surrounded by God, that he is with us, all around us (The Breastplate of St. Patrick).
2) Private Prayer
- Has real ability to relate us to God.
- We see it in relationship to public prayer
- Personal prayer prepares us for public prayer, and flows out of public prayer.
- Allows us to shape our prayer uniquely in our own way. We try to “Enter in Christ” (St. Paul)
- “When we meet God, we don’t want to meet him as a stranger.”
- Characterized by devotions, and other semi-formal ways – Lectio Divina
- Discipleship is only possible if there is an order of prayer in our lives.
Part of being Catholic is knowing how to pray with the Church.
Next, Part III. Faith and Morality