Learning How to Pray from Blessed Marmion
Blessed Abbot Marmion’s prayers are, at once, biblical, profoundly theological, deeply personal, and altogether shaped by the language and form of the liturgy. This is his prayer for the Second Sunday of Lent, Transfiguration Sunday. It is found at the beginning of Chapter XII, “On the Heights of Thabor” in Christ in His Mysteries.
(A) Christ Jesus, Eternal Word, Divine Master,
(B) You are the splendour of the Father and the brightness of His substance;
You Yourself have said: “If anyone love Me I will manifest Myself to him,”
grant that we may love you fervently
so that we may receive from you an intenser light upon Your Divinity;
for, as You again told us, the secret of our life , of everlasting life,
is to know that our Heavenly Father is the one true God,
and that You are His Christ,
sent here below to be our King and the High Priest of our salvation.
(C) Enlighten the eyes of our souls with a ray of those divine splendours that shone on Thabor,
(D) so that our faith in Your divinity,
our hope in Your merits,
and our love for Your adorable Person
may be thereby strengthened and increased.
The Liturgical Form of Personal Prayer
One notes that Blessed Columba Marmion’s personal prayer is shaped by the form of the liturgical collect. He begins with (A) a form of address: “Christ Jesus, Eternal Word, Divine Master”. Then (B) he recalls something said or done by God in the past; in this instance, the very words uttered by Christ in the Cenacle on the night before He suffered (John 17:3). He concludes with (C) a petition related to the mystery proposed by the liturgy of the day: “Enlighten the eyes of our souls with a ray of those divine splendours that shone on Thabor”, and (D) further asks for the full effect of the petition: “so that our faith in Your divinity, our hope in Your merits, and our love for Your adorable Person, may be thereby strengthened and increased”.
Speaking About God and to God
Blessed Abbot Marmion is a master of prayer. He teaches one how to pray by praying aloud. It was not uncommon for Blessed Marmion to burst into prayer while giving a spiritual conference in the course of a retreat. There is an ancient monastic precedent for this; one finds it, for example, in the sermons of Saint Bernard and the other 12th century Cistercian authors. These Fathers considered it not enough merely to speak about God; they were compelled to speak directly to God in the hearing of their auditors and, so, by praying, taught others how to pray.