Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Biblical Prayer Themes, Part V

[continued from Biblical Prayer Themes, Part IV]

10. Delighting and rejoicing. The community of both Testaments, Old and New alike, is remarkable in how frequently it expresses the intense joy the faithful are routinely expected to experience in the course of their daily lives. They seem to know nothing of boredom. This delight is mentioned over and over again in the psalter and in the prayer life of the Church. Our hearts and our flesh are to thrill with gladness in the living God as we sing alleluias to him as the very source of the thrilling (Ps 84:2). We exult in this Lord and in his marvels (Ps 9:1-16; 40:5; 75:1), and this we do with endless shouts of exultation and triumph (Ps 5:11, 20:5). With the exception of the Lenten season the Church through the year repeats in her daily liturgies these shouts of alleluia.

11. The sound of music. As though all this were not enough, both the inspired word and the contemporary Church elicit the resources of musical talents and instruments. As one of our recent popes remarked, echoing St. Augustine, they who sing pray twice. All this God's people did with gusto. They sang the wonders the Lord had wrought in salvation history (Ps 105:1-5). Their prayer was expressed with music sounding to their King (Ps 47:1, 5-6; 57:7-9; 59:16-17). At least on one occasion they set aside timidity in their celebrations: they praised the transcendent greatness of God with lyre and harp, strings and reeds, the beating of drums and the clashing of cymbals -- and yes, with dancing, too, in praise of his name. For example, David and the community "danced before Yahweh with all their might, singing to the accompaniment of lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets, and cymbals: (2 Sam 6:5; Ps 87:7; 149:3; 150:1-6). Nothing dreary and dull here. Perhaps they were praying three or four times!

12. Amen! In Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, "amen" meant "yes indeed, certainly, so may it be." And so our last words here are reserved to Jesus and his Mother. Both insisted on the identification of their and our wills with that of the Father: "Our Father ... Your will be done ..." and "Let it be done to me according to your word." Yes, amen: let your will be done. So be it. Identifying our will with the divine will is the veryheart of sanctity. And the more perfect the identification, the more lofty the holiness. Both the transforming union in contemplative prayer and the practice of heroic virtue (there is an intercausality between these two traits of perfect sanctity) involve complete identification with the divine will.

The single word "amen" is an affirmation of what God positively wills or of his permitting something to occur (for a still greater good). It reminds us of St. Francis de Sales remarking that if we knew all that God knows, we would will to happen exactly what does happen (see also Rom 8:28). Amen, the conclusion of many prayers in the Church's liturgy, is a proclamation of the all-knowing wisdom of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (For more on this variety of biblical prayer, see CCC 2623-49.)
Prayer Primer, Thomas Dubay, S.M.

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