Friday of the Fifth Week
of the Year I
Mediators and Intercessors
“And they brought to Him one deaf and dumb; and they besought Him that He would lay His hand upon him” (Mk 7:32). I am struck by the role of “the others” in today’s Gospel: those who brought the man who was deaf and dumb to Jesus. They are mediators and intercessors. “And they besought Him that He would lay His hand upon him.”
It is urgent that we recover the language of beseeching both in our liturgical and in our solitary prayer. The hapless translations of the liturgy to which we have been subjected for at least thirty–five years systematically eliminated the language of beseeching. The distinctive da nobis quaesumus of the Roman Rite disappeared from liturgical prayer not only in English but in other vernaculars as well.
To Hear and to Speak
The man in today’s Gospel has, in fact, lost the ability to hear and to speak: to hear the Word of God and to speak the praises of God. Is this not the essential structure of the sacred liturgy? The Word of God heard; the Word of God repeated; the Word of God become praise, thanksgiving, and supplication in the mouth of the hearer; the Word of God held in the heart.
Touched By Christ
Both hearing and speaking are restored by the physical touch of Christ, that is, by contact with His vivifying Flesh. The hand of Jesus is the hand of God. the touch of Jesus is the touch of God. Every contact with Jesus is contact with God. I hold in my heart all that Blessed Abbot Marmion wrote concerning this in his classics, Christ in His Mysteries and Christ, the Life of the Soul.
A Place Apart
“And taking him from the multitude apart” (Mk 7:33). Our Lord does this not only because He wants to act quietly and without attracting attention, but also because He desires to grace this man with a moment of divine intimacy that will remain forever within his heart. There are certain healings which can take place only in solitude, in a place apart. By this I do not mean that Our Lord acts apart from His Body, the Church, nor that sacramental and, when God so wills, even charismatic mediations, such as the intercession of the saints, are not necessary. I do mean that what happens in solitary communion with Our Lord is the fruit of the intercession — beseeching — of the Church, flowing from the sacraments and leading back to them.
For us, healing contact with the Flesh of the Word is realized sacramentally not by means of saliva from the mouth of Christ nor by means of His finger in our ears, but by the ineffable gift of His Sacred Body and Precious Blood in the Eucharist. The liturgy itself, and the prayer before Holy Communion attributed to Saint Thomas Aquinas ascribe to the Holy Mysteries the divine virtus (power) by which we are healed of our infirmities and restored to the wholeness willed for us by God for His glory.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
“And looking up to heaven, He groaned, and said to him: Ephpheta, which is ‘Be thou opened'” (Mk 7:34). Our Lord’s “looking up to heaven” is the expression of His filial and priestly prayer to the Father; His “groaning” is the expression of the Holy Spirit. This one verse is a mysterious epiphany of the Trinity.
O Lord, Open Thou My Lips
“And immediately his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke right” (Mk 7:35). To speak right! Is this not why the Church makes us begin every day with the verse, “O Lord, open Thou my lips, and my mouth shall declare Thy praise? Is this not why the rubrics place this verse before the articulation of any other prayer? He who “speaks right” has entered into “all the truth” (Jn 16:12). He who “speaks right” has entered into the prayer of Christ to the Father. He who “speaks right” has received “the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father” (Jn 15:26). For this — for ourselves and for one another — let us beseech the Lord.
For those of you who may not be familiar with Saint Thomas Aquinas’ Prayer Before Holy Communion, here it is:
Almighty and everlasting God,
behold, I come to the Sacrament of Your only begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
I come as one infirm to the physician of life,
as one unclean to the fountain of mercy,
as one blind to the light of everlasting brightness,
as one poor and needy to the Lord of heaven and earth.
Therefore, I implore the abundance of Your measureless bounty
that You would vouchsafe to heal my infirmity,
wash my uncleanness,
enlighten my blindness,
enrich my poverty
and clothe my nakedness,
that I may receive the Bread of Angels, the King of kings, the Lord of lords
with such reverence and humility,
with such sorrow and devotion,
with such purity and faith,
with such purpose and intention as may be profitable to my soul’s salvation.
Grant unto me, I pray, the grace of receiving
not only the Sacrament of Our Lord’s Body and Blood,
but also the grace and power of the Sacrament.
O most gracious God, grant me so to receive
the Body of Your only-begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ,
which He took from the Virgin Mary,
as to merit to be incorporated into His Mystical Body
and to be numbered among His members.
O most loving Father, give me grace to behold forever
Your beloved Son with unveiled face,
Whom now I propose to receive veiled in the way. Amen.