The Unceasing Prayer of the Church

Św.Benedykt_2008-08-13-426x640Chapter LVIII.  Of the Discipline of Receiving Brethren into Religion

11 Apr. 11 Aug. 11 Dec.

Afterwards let him go into the Novitiate, where he is to meditate and study, to take his meals and to sleep. Let a senior, one who is skilled in gaining souls, be appointed over him to watch him with the utmost care, and to see whether he is truly seeking God, and is fervent in the Work of God, in obedience and in humiliations. Let all the hard and rugged paths by which we walk towards God be set before him.

Dom Chautard’s Teaching

Dom Jean–Baptiste Chautard provides a compelling presentation of the second criterion of a Benedictine vocation: to be fervent or zealous in the Work of God.  And so, I am offering again today  another section from The Soul of the Apostolate.  Note that Dom Chautard begins by addressing Our Lord Himself.  His reflection on the liturgical life is, in effect, a conversation with Our Lord Jesus Christ.

III. The Liturgical Spirit

Jesus, this liturgical life means a special attraction for all that pertains to worship. To some people, You have freely given this attraction. Others are less privileged. But if they ask you for it, and aid themselves by studying and reflecting, they too will obtain it. The meditation I shall make, later on, upon the advantages of the liturgical life, is going to increase my thirst to acquire it at any price.

Carried Godward by the Prayer of the Church

At present I pause to consider the distinctive characteristics of this life, which give it such an important place in spirituality. Union, even remote, together with the Church, to Your Sacrifice, by thought and intention, O Jesus: this is already a great thing. So is it to find one’s prayer fused with the official and unceasing prayer of Your Church. The heart of the ordinary baptized Christian thus takes flight with more certainty towards God, carried up to Him by Your praises, adoration, thanksgiving, reparation, and petition.

Indispensable

An active participation (Pope Pius X’s own words) in the sacrosanct mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer: that means assisting at this worship with piety and understanding; it means an avid desire to profit by the feasts and ceremonies; better still, it means serving Mass, and answering the prayers, or joining in the recitation and chanting of the Office. Is not all this a way to enter more directly into the thoughts of Your Church, and to draw from the prime and indispensable source of the Christian spirit?

Ambassadors Before the Throne of God

But then, O Holy Church, what a noble mission it is to present oneself each day, by virtue of ordination or religious profession, united to the angels and the elect, as your ambassador before the throne of God, there to utter your official prayer! Incomparably more sublime, and beyond all power of expression, is the dignity of a sacred minister who becomes Your other self, O my Divine Redeemer, by administering the Sacraments, and above all by celebrating the Holy Sacrifice. As a member of the Church, I must have the conviction that when I take part, even as a plain Christian in a liturgical ceremony, I am united to the whole Church not only through the Communion of Saints, but by virtue of a real and active cooperation in an act of religion which the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, offers as a society to God. And by this notion the Church like a true Mother helps dispose my soul to receive the Christian virtues. Your Church, Lord Jesus, forms a perfect society, whose members, closely united one to another, are destined to form an even more perfect and more holy society, that of the Elect.

One Body in Christ

As a Christian I am a member of that Body of which You are the Head and the Life. And that is the point of view from which You look at me, Divine Savior. So I give You a special joy when, in presenting myself before You, I speak to You as my Head, and consider myself as one of the sheep of that Fold of which You are the only Shepherd, and which includes in its unity all my brothers in the Church militant, suffering and triumphant. Your Apostle taught me this doctrine which expands my soul and broadens the horizons of my spirituality. And thus it is, he says, that “As in one body we have many members, so we, the many, are one body in Christ, but severally members one of another.”  And elsewhere: “For as the body is one and hath many members: and all the members of the body, whereas they are many, yet are one body, so also is Christ.” There, then, is the unity of Your Church, indivisible in the parts and in the whole, all entirely present in the whole Body, and all in each one of the parts, united in the Holy Spirit, united in You, Jesus, and brought by this union into the unique and eternal society of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Church is the assembly of the faithful who, under the government of the same authority, are united by the same faith and the same charity, and tend to the same end, that is, incorporation in Christ by the same means, which are summed up in grace, of which the ordinary channels are prayer and the Sacraments.

The Surpassing Power of Liturgical Prayer

The great prayer, and the favorite channel of grace is liturgical prayer, the prayer of the Church herself, more powerful than the prayer of single individuals and even of pious associations, no matter how powerful private and non-liturgical forms of social prayer may be, and no matter how much they are recommended in the Gospel. Incorporated in the true Church, a child of God and a member of Christ by the Sacraments of Baptism, I have acquired the right to participate in the other Sacraments, in the Divine Office, in the fruits of the Mass, and in the indulgences and prayers of the Church. I can benefit by all the graces and all the merits of my brethren. I bear, from Baptism, an indelible mark which  commissions me to worship God according to the rite of the Christian religion.

A Living Victim, Holy and Agreeable to God

My Baptismal consecration makes me a member of the Kingdom of God, and I form part of that “chosen generation, the kingly priesthood, the holy nation.”  And so, I participate as a Christian in the sacred ministry, although in a remote and indirect manner, by my prayers, by my share in the offering, by my active participation in the Sacrifice of the Mass and in the liturgical offices, and in multiplying my spiritual sacrifices, as St. Peter recommends, by the practice of virtues, by accomplishing all things with a view to pleasing God and uniting myself to Him, and by making of my body a living victim, holy and agreeable to God.” And that is what you teach me, Holy Mother Church when, by the priest, You say to the faithful: Orate fratres . . . “Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable,” and where the priest says also, in the Canon: Memento Domine . . . et omnium circumstantium pro quibus tibi offerimus vel qui tibi offerunt hoc Sacrificium laudis, “Remember Lord … (N. and N.) and all thosewho are here present, for whom we offer to Thee, or who offer to Thee this sacrifice of praise.” And, further on: “Receive, Lord, with Kindness, we beg of which we make to Thee, I Thy servant, and Thy family.”

The Communion of Saints

Indeed, the holy Liturgy is so truly the common work of the entire Church, that is of the priests and people, that the mystery of this unity is ever really present in the Church by the indestructible power of the Communion of Saints, which is proposed to our belief in the Apostles’ Creed. The Divine Office and Holy Mass, which is the most important part of the Liturgy, cannot be celebrated without the whole Church being involved, and being mysteriously present. And so, in the Liturgy, everything is done in common in the name of all, for the benefit of all, All the prayers are said in the plural. This close union between all the members, by the same faith and by participation in the same Sacraments, produces fraternal love in their souls, and this is the distinctive sign of those who wish to imitate Christ and walk in His footsteps. “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”’  This bond among the members of the Church draws them all the closer together in proportion as they participate more fully, through the Communion of Saints, in the grace and charity of the Head who communicates to them supernatural and divine life. These truths are the foundation of the liturgical life which, in its turn, brings me constantly back to them.

Love for the Church

O Holy Church of God, what great love for you this thought enkindles in my heart! I am one of your members. I am a member of Christ! What love for all Christians this gives me, since I realize that they are my brothers, and that we are all one in Christ! And what love for my divine Head, Jesus Christ! It is not possible for me to remain indifferent to anything that concerns you. Sad, if I behold you persecuted, I rejoice at the news of your conquests, your triumphs. What a joy to think that, while I am sanctifying myself, I am also contributing to the increase of your beauty and working for the sanctification of all the children of the Church, my brothers, and even for the salvation of the whole human family! O Holy Church of God, I wish, as far as in me lies, to make you more lovely and more holy and more full. And the splendor of your whole unity will come forth from the perfection of each one of your children, built on the foundation of Christ’s prayer after the Last Supper and the true testament of His Heart: “That they may be one. . . That they may be made perfect in one.”

The Immensity of Liturgical Prayer

O Mother, Holy Church, how moved I am with love and admiration for your liturgical prayer! Since I am one of your members, it is my prayer too, especially when I am present or take an active part in it. All that you have is mine; and everything I have belongs to you. A drop of water is nothing. But united with the ocean, it shares in all that power and immensity. And that is the way it is when my prayer is united with yours. To God all things are present. He takes in, at one glance, the past, the present, and the future; and in His eyes, my prayers is all one with that universal chorus of praises which you have been sending up to Him ever since you began, and which will continue to rise up to the throne of His Eternal Majesty even to the end of time.

Catholic Piety

Jesus, You want my piety to take, in certain respects, a utilitarian, practical, and petitioning character. But the order of petitions in the Our Father shows me how much You want my piety to be first of all devoted to the praise of God, and that far from being egotistical, narrow, and isolated, it should make my supplications embrace all the needs of my brothers. Help me, by the liturgical life, to arrive at this generous and exalted piety which, without detriment to the spiritual combat, gives to God, and generously, great praise; this charitable, fraternal, and universal (i.e. Catholic) piety, which takes in all souls and has all the interests of the Church at heart. Holy Church, it is your mission to beget, without ceasing, new children to your Divine Spouse and to bring them up “into the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ.” And that means that you have received all the means, in abundance, to achieve this end. And the importance you attach to the Liturgy proves how efficacious it must be to teach me how to begin to praise God and to make spiritual progress.

Led and Formed by the Liturgy

During His public life Our Lord spoke “as one having power.” And that is the way you talk too, O Holy Church, my Mother. Guardian of the treasure of truth, you realize the importance of your mission. Dispenser of the Precious Blood, you well know all the means of sanctification which the Lord has put into your hands. You do not call upon my reason, and tell me, “Examine these things, study them.” But you do address yourself to my faith, saying, “Trust in me. Am I not your Mother? And is there anything I desire more than to see you grow, from day to day, in likeness to your divine Model? Now who is there that knows Jesus better than I do, who am His Spouse? Where, then, will you better find the Spirit of your Redeemer than in the Liturgy, which is the genuine expression of what I think and what I feel?” Oh yes, dear holy Mother, I will allow myself to be led and formed by you with the simplicity and confidence of a child, reminding myself that I am praying with my Mother. These are her very own words, which she puts in my mouth in order that I may be filled with her spirit, and that her thoughts may pass into my heart. With you, then, will I rejoice; yes, with you, Holy Church. Gaudeamus exultemus! With you will I lament: ploremus! With you will I praise Him: confitemini Domino! With you will I beg for mercy: miserere! With you I shall hope: speravi, sperabo! With you I shall love: diligam! I will ardently unite myself w ith all your demands, formulated in the wonderful prayers, in order that the life-giving movements of the mind and will that you wish to elicit by these words and sacred rites may enter more deeply into my heart, and make it more pliant to the touch of the Holy Spirit, so that my will may at last be totally absorbed into the Will of God.

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