Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Hannah's Prayer: Exultation

Hannah is on top of the world. She has just brought her dear little son, the child for whom she had prayed so long, to Shiloh to Eli the priest. Little Samuel would now serve the Lord, fulfilling the promise she had made before he was conceived. Hannah's prayers have been answered, and now she would uphold her end of the bargain.

We might think that a mother would be upset to leave her son behind, sorrowful to be far away from him much of the year, but Hannah realizes that she is giving Samuel the best possible gift. He will now belong to God, and God will care for him perfectly.

So Hannah cries out in joy: “My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory.”

The Hebrew in this verse offers some important clues to the deep meaning of Hannah's prayer. The first verb, translated here as “exults,” is alats, and it does mean “to exult” but also “to rejoice” or even “to triumph.” Hannah's joy knows no bounds because it is a response to God and His work in her life. Her whole being, all the strength she has, rises up to God. The verb here is rum, and while “is exalted” serves nicely as a translation, the word also includes shades of offering and triumph. Hannah presents herself to God yet again, completely, joyfully, triumphantly.

What's more, Hannah's enemies no longer have power over her. God has answered her prayers; He is in control. She merely has to look down and smile upon those who once opposed her. In fact, the verb translated here as “derides” is rachab, and it means simply “to enlarge.” Hannah opens her mouth, perhaps to deride those who tormented her or perhaps simply to show them her great satisfaction.

She can do this because she rejoices in her victory. The verb for “rejoice” here is samach, and it emphasizes the sheer gladness and pleasure that Hannah is experiencing because God has answered her prayers.

Indeed, Hannah's heart overflows with exultation, and her prayer expresses her joy in the God Who has so graciously heard her and given her her heart's desire.

(1 Samuel 2:1 – NRSV-CE; Hebrew words from

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Lost Prayers #8

Chaplet of the Twelve Stars

All praise and thanksgiving be to Thee, ever blessed Trinity! Who hath manifested to us Mary, ever Virgin, clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and on her head a mystic crown of twelve stars. For ever and ever. Amen.

Let us praise and give thanks to God the Father, Who chose her for His daughter. Amen. Our Father.

Praise be to God the Father, Who predestined her to be the Mother of His Son. Amen. Hail Mary.

Praise be to God the Father, Who saved her from all stain in her conception. Amen. Hail Mary.

Praise be to God the Father, Who, on her birthday, adorned her with His choicest gifts. Amen. Hail Mary.

Praise be to God the Father, Who gave her St. Joseph for her pure spouse and companion. Amen. Hail Mary and Glory Be to the Father.

Let us praise and give thanks to God the Son, Who chose her for His Mother. Amen. Our Father.

Praise be to God the Son Who became incarnate in her womb, and dwelt there for nine months. Amen. Hail Mary.

Praise be to God the Son, Who was born of her and nourished with her milk. Amen. Hail Mary.

Praise be to God the Son, Who, in His childhood, willed that Mary should teach Him. Amen. Hail Mary.

Praise be to God the Son, Who revealed to her the mysteries of the redemption of the world. Amen. Hail Mary and Glory Be to the Father.

Let us praise and give thanks to God the Holy Ghost, Who made her His spouse. Amen. Our Father.

Praise be to God the Holy Ghost, Who first revealed to her His name of Holy Ghost. Amen. Hail Mary.

Praise be to the Holy Ghost, through Whose operation she was at once Virgin and Mother. Amen. Hail Mary.

Praise be to the Holy Ghost, through Whom she became the living temple of the most holy Trinity. Amen. Hail Mary.

Praise be to the Holy Ghost, by Whom she was exalted in heaven high above all creatures. Amen. Hail Mary and Glory Be to the Father.

For the holy Catholic Church, for the propagation of the faith, for peace among Christian princes and for the uprooting of all heresy.

Hail holy Queen! Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope; to thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn, then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus, O clement, O pious, O sweet Virgin Mary!

(From Manual of Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, 1897)

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Notes from the Hours: Light and Humility

In today's Office of Readings, we encounter the following antiphon between the psalms and the readings:

When we listen to Your word, our minds are filled with light.
It is the lowly heart that understands.

God's word does indeed fill our minds with light. In the Scriptures, God reveals Himself to us. He shows us Who He is (at least as much as we can understand) and what He has planned for our salvation. He explains how He prepared a people for Himself through the centuries, and then He tells us how He Himself came as a human being like us both to show us how to live in this world and then to die that we might live with Him eternally in Heaven. We learn how much God loves us and the lengths He is willing to go so that we might be all His for all time.

But to truly understand the Scriptures, we must humble ourselves. We must be open to God's word, allowing it to speak to us rather than imposing our preconceived notions upon it. What's more, we should ask God to guide us as we interact with His word that He may send the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit by which the Scriptures were inspired, to teach us what we need to know.

If we allow ourselves to be led, we will discover that we understand God's word more deeply than we ever thought we could, and even more importantly, we will meet God in it as He speaks to our hearts and fills our minds with His brilliant light.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Hannah's Prayer: Outpouring of the Heart

Hannah felt like her heart was breaking. She had been married for quite a long time, but she still had no children. Her husband, Elkanah, loved her, but even that wasn't enough, especially since he had taken another wife in order to have an heir. Hannah just wanted a baby of her own, so she did the only thing she knew to do: she took her request to God.

But she did not present her prayer in any formal, stiff fashion. Instead, she wept and poured her whole heart out before the Lord, vowing that if He gave her her heart's desire, a male child, she would give him back to God. She would dedicate her son to His service for life. That, Hannah believed, was the greatest gift she could give both the child and God.

As Hannah continued to pray, her voice faded away. Her lips moved as her heart cried to God. Her whole body became wrapped up in her plea, so much so that to the priest Eli, she looked as though she'd had too much wine.

When Eli confronted her, Hannah was quick to explain. “No, my lord,” she respectfully assured the priest, “I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord.”

Hannah gave her entire self to God in prayer, heart, soul, mind, spirit, thoughts, words, actions, everything, and she did so with complete trust that God would hear her and graciously grant her desire. Indeed He did. God remembered Hannah, just as she requested, and nine months later, she gave birth to a little boy, Samuel.

(1 Samuel 1, NRSV-CE)