PRAYER – PART TWO
As I looked over Part One of Prayer, you are probably wondering where I am going with this. I do have a goal in mind. The first goal is get us all on the same page. So if this isn’t new to you, good, then it will be a review. If it is, please let me know if I am going too fast or too deep. This is the talk that I gave to our new men in Africa who want to join the Marianists.
Just to highlight, Prayer is either public or private. We need and hopefully do both. Unfortunately, we as even Christians tend to do only Public Prayer most of the time, that is, we tend to go to Mass on Sunday and that’s it, we did our duty. For me, it is like saying, I ate my meal on Sunday and that’s enough. We know that it will not sustain us physically and it will not sustain us spiritually simply because prayer is entering into a relationship with God. In spiritual reality, prayer should be like breathing. Any relationship with another PERSON will not last if communication is few and far between!
I also mentioned that Public Prayer is Liturgy, the work of the people, what we as Christian do when we gather usually on Sundays. In the early church it would be unthinkable to miss the Sunday Liturgy, and many bishops threatened excommunication for missing too many masses in a row. The reasoning is that the person has cut themselves off from the community by missing the most important public Faith Community event.
Through our Baptism we are given the right to pray for ourselves and for others. Without Baptism, who are we to think we can pray for ourselves and others? Public Prayer is a public witness to others of our faith community’s commitment to God, and as a corporate witness, it can be very powerful, especially if we are known as a community of prayer. Whether we realize it or not, others will notice and even be attracted to God because they knew of their public and personal witness.
Before I begin this section on PERSONAL PRAYER, let me add to the Jewish way of prayer in the time of Jesus. Their PUBLIC PRAYER was centered on sacrifice, usually an animal, but also of bread! Interestingly enough, their Passover meal was in the HOME! The MEN would go to the temple to pray, but women had to go to a separate section of the temple. Only men could be closer to the HOLY OF HOLIES, but that is another talk.
Generally, PERSONAL or PRIVATE PRAYER falls into three general categories: Meditation, Affectation, and Contemplation.
MEDITATION is the type of prayer that is done in the HEAD. A person prepares themselves by reading Scripture first, or picking a faith belief, dogma, (etc.) topic to reflect on. In the seminaries, the person was usually given a topic to reflect on or meditate on by the rector. In the monasteries, a type of prayer called: Lectio Divina, was the prayerful reading of Scripture. This type of prayer is done MENTALLY! St. Thomas Aquinas would be an example of promoting and using this type of prayer.
AFFECTATION is the type of prayer that is done using the HEART, usually with the emotions and being attentive to them. One can also use the Scriptures or dogmatic statements, etc., as above, but the person is now more interested in the feelings that are generated. For example, reading the story of the disciples and Jesus in the boat. One is attentive to every detail of the story and feelings that are stirred up, especially when the storm hits them almost sinks their boat. This type of prayer was used by St. Ignatius of Loyola, especially in his Thirty Day Retreat.
Under the heading of Affective Prayer would come the type of prayer that might be just a prayerful walk in the woods. St. Francis would be a good example of this type of prayer. One would be attentive to God’s creation all around them and how one would react in a prayerful way literally to a walk in the park.
CONTEMPLATION would include the Prayer of Quiet where the person would still themselves and allow GOD TO TALK to them! Even though this is probably the simplest it is also the hardest. The main reasons is that it seem we are wasting our time just sitting there, but that is the most important part because IN FAITH we believe that God is sitting there with us. The other reason, it is so difficult to quiet our active brain and we can get easily distracted. This prayer can be done in the privacy of ones’ own room or on a park bench after the walk.
There is no way we can shut off our minds and emotions. That only comes at death. So part of the technique is to find a word or phrase that brings us back to our quiet. That is why this prayer is sometimes called Centering Prayer. This practice of bringing ourselves back to prayer, to our center, letting go of the thought, is the most powerful part of this prayer. Practiced over time we find ourselves letting go of many things and thoughts that lead us astray, even feelings. Eventually it brings peace. And for those who have practiced this prayer over the years, God eventually takes over and brings us to places we will never know but will have a residual intuition.
All Prayer will eventually lead us to this last part of Contemplation. Mental Prayer (or mediation), and Affective Prayer, will lead to this final part of Quiet. Even Good Liturgies will lead us there to that Quiet if properly observed within the service itself. Since Contemplation is the practice of letting go and letting God, this last part is when God takes over. And that will be the topic of our next part.
INTRODUCTION TO MARIOLOGY
Place of Mary in Theology
Christian theology reflects on God’s salvific revelation and self-communication through Jesus Christ. God revealed himself to us not through doctrinal formulae but through his works. The first medium of his communication is the created world. God also revealed himself in the events of the lives of individuals and nations.
Theology is centered on this final speaking of God in Jesus Christ. He speaks in the person of Jesus: in the human life and work of Jesus, we encounter the Father who sent him. N him we also find the authentic meaning of human existence.
However, revelation needs an addressee; self-communication seeks a partner. God’s revelations is addressed to us. The addressee of God’s word, the partner in the divine life, is our human world. Theology is concerned not only with God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ, but also with our human world, our condition, our needs. It includes our openness to Gods’ work, our freedom to respond to it and our involvement in the coming of the new creation. Hence, though centered in Jesus Christ, theology also includes anthropology, the understanding of our human existence before God.
This presence before God, this openness to his word, this response to his invitation in freedom, this total involvement with body, mind and heart in God’s work of salvation has most beautifully been revealed in Mary. She was chosen to be the mother of Jesus not merely to give him human life, but through her motherhood she was drawn into the mystery of salvation. Vatican II states: “The Father of mercies willed that the incarnation should be preceded by assent of the predestined mother. This is preeminently true in the mother of Jesus.”
In preparation for her response to God’s call and her involvement in the divine plan of salvation, Mary was sanctified form the beginning.
Thus from ancient times she is seen “not merely passively engaged by God, but as freely cooperating in the work of man’s salvation through faith and obedience.”
This then is Mary’s place in theology: as we encounter God’s revealing and saving word in the person of Jesus Christ, so we contemplate in the person of Mary the human response to god’s word. Already in the Gospels, Mary is seen not merely as an individual who is touched by God’s grace—many have been touched by God’s overwhelming power at all times—but as the one in whom the encounter of God with our human world has taken place for the sake of the whole human family.
Ecclesial Dimension of Mariology
The core of Mariology is obviously the person of Mary, the woman of Nazareth who, according to the Gospel, gave birth to Jesus. God’s entry into our world is described by the Gospel by Luke, not as an act of divine omnipotence, but as a personal encounter: the divine invitation addressed to Mary and the free response to the handmaid of the Lord. In faith and surrender she is the first to respond to the message of salvation.
Just as the conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb is the Son’s first step in an ever-deepening and widening communion with our human family, likewise Mary’s “fiat”, her response to God’s word and her involvement in the divine work of salvation, is the first voice of an ever growing chorus of responses coming from all believers. Mary gave birth to Jesus’ earthly body, the Church is to give birth to the body of his faithful. Mary, the virginal mother, becomes the model of the Church.
Mariology is the attempt at a comprehensive understanding of Mary’s place in God’s plan of salvation. Mariology becomes Christian anthropology, an epitome of human existence before God.
Problems of Mariology
–Exaggerations of popular devotions which assign her a disproportionate role in Christian life, and create for her, as it were, an isolated glorious world of her own. Historians of religion consider Mary the Christian heiress of the great mother goddesses of the ancient Mediterranean world.
Apparitions of Mary, true or alleged, draw millions to the spot where she has been seen and has given her messages.
The tendency to supernaturalize Mary’s earthly life continued through the centuries. Legends were added to the biblical accounts and filled up the sober silence of the gospels. These legends tended to remove Mary form the earthly sphere of our human life, totally opposite to the Bible where Mary appears first as the guarantee of Jesus’ true humanity: “born of a woman”. (Gal 4:4)
–Mary’s Privileges: Critical questions were asked not only about their biblical basis but also about their theological soundness. During the decades before the second Vatican Council the Mariologists were divided into two camps, summarily called “Maximalists”, those who claimed many prerogatives for Mary, and Minimalists” those who were critical and tended to underrate Mary’s unique place in the Church.
It is one of the important tasks of modern Mariology not only to strike a sober balance between extreme forms of devotion and neglect of Mary in Christian life, but also, based on the Bible, to free the image of Mary form Gnostic spiritualization and to see to it that her life and mission are integrated into the mystery of salvation, into the life and mission of Jesus and the Church.
Significance of Mariology
-Mariology holds an important place in Theology itself.
Theology is part of the life of the Church. It articulates the faith that is expressed in the Church’s teaching and worship in relation to the social and cultural conditions of the faithful. Mariology has to interpret the actual place held by Mary in the life of the Church and of the people.
-Mariology and Ecclesiology.
Vatican II has inserted Mariology into the life stream of the Church, and so freed it form isolation. At the same time, the presentation of Mary as the “typos” of the Church symbolically expresses the renewed image of the Church itself. Mariology is a substantial contribution to ecclesiology.
She is first “mystery”, sacrament of salvation, not primarily and institution. She is community. Mary is its symbol.
Mary stands for the entire community of believers. Hers is the strong silent faith of one whose trust is the Lord. It is the faith of a woman with no trace of a guarantee in her hands, often puzzled and suffering, pondering, growing, never shaken. It seems very much the symbol of the Church today.
Today the image of the Church is undergoing a crisis: The Church, in so far as she is a worldwide organization of dogmatic orthodoxy and rigid liturgical rituals, has become cold and empty; she has lost credibility; people today do not feel at home in it.
A new vision is emerging, the stirrings of a deep desire are beginning to rouse the Church from her lethargy. Many keenly feel the need for community rather than institution, faith and contemplation rather than orthodoxy.
A new image of the Church has been born, based on the Bible in communion with all people who are in search of truth, a Church which is truly human without any discrimination based on gender, as God wanted it, in togetherness and complementarity, serving God’s kingdom. The symbol of this Church is Mary.
(Please avail yourself to the following topics through these connections.)
Feasts of Mary
MARY AND THE SCRIPTURES
MARY IN OLD TESTAMENT
MARY IN THE GOSPELS