Thursday, April 17, 2008

Meditation for April 18, The Most Perfect Prayer

[Note: This medition is from a different book by Fr. Plus - "Meditations for Religious" will resume on April 20, allowing me to resync the meditations with the dates as listed in the book. My apologies for any inconvenience.]

We may pray to adore, to give thanks, to I implore pardon, or to ask for the graces we need. But whereas in the last three cases our thought comes back to ourselves, in the first we forget ourselves entirely and think of God alone.

If I give thanks it is because I have re­ceived; if I implore pardon it is because I have sinned; if I ask it is because I need. I am never absent from my prayer. But in the prayer of adoration the only person con­sidered is God to whom I pray. There is no intrusion of the creature; he who prays is not mentioned, he disappears utterly. He does not think of himself, he counts for nothing: "We praise thee, O Lord; we adore thee, O Lord; we bless thee, O Lord; Glory be to God on high; O Lord, we sing
thy glory."

I do not suggest that this is the only kind of prayer that we must offer. It will be seen later that the prayer of thanksgiving, the prayer for pardon and the prayer of petition are excellent, legitimate and, by reason of our very condition as creatures, quite necessary. But I say that this kind of prayer is in itself the most perfect, it is the prayer that gives greatest glory to God, that in which we most truly fulfil our duty as crea­tures, since thereby we unreservedly devote the whole of ourselves to singing the praises of our Creator.

Moreover, by this prayer we most truly fulfil our function as intelligent and loving creatures, since the canticle of praise which ascends from our hearts shows that we appreciate what God is in himself, and how much he deserves that we should venerate and adore him.

Some, in view of the excellence of the prayer of adoration, have contended that prayers which involve the element of self (thanksgiving, prayer for pardon, petition) are to be excluded. They reason in this way: pure love is the best; hence we must keep only pure love and any spiritual act in which self enters, however secondarily and imper­ceptibly, is to be regarded as an evil love and almost a sin.

This is a spirituality which ignores the facts of human nature. Pascal used to say that if you try to make man an angel you make him an ass. We are not angels, but frail creatures of flesh and blood. We are not yet dwellers in the land where the eternal Sanctus resounds; and if we give a thought to things other than God we are not doing wrong. It is not wrong to make known our wants, to ask for mercy and to give thanks for blessings received. On the contrary this is precisely what a creature might normally be expected to do when he is in need, when he has sinned, when he has been loaded with benefits.

This being made quite clear, it still re­mains true that many Christians, even good Christians, do not make sufficient use of the prayer of adoration. We instinc­tively ask God for favors, and implore pardon for our sins; but there is a re­grettable tendency to forget praise and adoration. It is not wrong, it is even advis­able and necessary, to think of ourselves. But sometimes at least we might think of God only. The Quietists were wrong to say that we must always do this; but we may try to do it occasionally, because such prayer is the most perfect practice of the Christian religion....

Continued tomorrow....
Adapted from How to Pray Well
by Father Raoul Plus, S.J. ( 1929, Burns, Oates, & Washbourne Ltd.)

No comments: