Monday, November 26, 2018

Notes from the Hours: Ringing Praise

The vaults of heaven ring with Your praise, O Lord.

The saints and angels in Heaven are continually praising God. They recognize fully the wonders of His being and the marvels of His works, and they express their recognition with great joy and gratitude.

Do we do the same? Are our prayers laced with praise? Or are they focused mostly on what we think we want and need from God, both for ourselves and others?

Prayers of petition and intercession are, of course, important. God wants us to talk to Him about our needs and desires. We're supposed to ask Him for His help and His blessings. He listens; He always responds; and these prayers can make a huge difference, even a critical difference, in our lives and the lives of those around us. After all, as Pascal once said, God gives us prayer that we may have the dignity of causing good things to happen.

But in the midst our petitions and intercessions, we must not forget praise. When we send up our praise to God with grateful hearts, we begin to give Him the worship, the adoration, that He so deserves. We acknowledge the wonderful things He has done for us...our creation, our redemption, our every breath. We express our love for Him, and our love grows deeper and richer as we pour it out.

It can be difficult to establish a habit of praise, for our petitions and intercessions tend to multiply and crowd out other prayers. Begin, perhaps, by praying a psalm of praise each day. Try Psalms 136, 93, 100, 111, 135, 138, 150, and 19. Turn on praise and worship music, and listen to it in the car and/or while doing daily tasks. Take a few moments during morning and evening prayer to simply praise God. Just tell Him how amazing He is, how worthy of all the love His creatures can give, how merciful, how perfect, how beautiful, how loving. The more we say these truths to God, the more they will take root in our hearts and the better we will know and love our Lord.

May the vaults of heaven ring with Your praise, O Lord, and may we help to multiply that praise forever. Amen.

(Antiphon from Monday, Week II, Morning Prayer of the Divine Office)

Monday, November 19, 2018

Psalm 73: A Psalm for Our Times

Even though Psalm 73 was probably composed in the early 900s BC, it sounds as if it might have been written yesterday. That's how applicable the Bible is to every time and every place. Of course, since the Scripture is God's inspired Word, that's not particularly surprising, but every once in a while, a text will stand out as especially relevant, and Psalm 73 is one of those.

The psalm begins with a confession. The author, who is identified as Asaph, a Levite musician in the days of King David, admits that God is good to the pure of heart, to those who are upright, but he doesn't feel like he belongs to that group. He always seems to be on the edge of stumbling, nearly slipping away from God. Why? Asaph notices the arrogance of the wicked and how much they prosper in this world, and his heart becomes full of envy.

Those wicked ones, he observes, don't seem to have any problems at all. They're healthy. They don't experience the trials of other people. They control everyone else with their powerful presence (and their threats). People praise them on every side (mostly because they are afraid not to), and their wealth just keeps on increasing.

Asaph can't understand it, and he wonders why he works so hard to remain innocent. He is plagued by trials right, left, and center, and those who couldn't care less about purity seem to flourish. It makes no sense.

But then Asaph catches himself in his folly. If he were to speak like that, he too would be wicked. He would be turning away from the faith of God's people, the faith he has loyally embraced for so long. He decides that he must broaden his perspective if he's going to understand this problem, and he must bring his questions to prayer. So he enters the sanctuary of God, and suddenly everything became clear.

The wicked may prosper in this world. They may seem to have everything going for them. But this world isn't all there is. God is in control, and the eternity of the wicked will be far from prosperous. Those wicked people, Asaph realizes, are the ones who are truly standing on slippery ground. Their ruin will overtake them. In God's time, they will suffer the consequences of their actions. They will be destroyed, swept away in terror. They will fade away. Justice will come, perhaps not in this world, but certainly in the world to come.

Asaph actually feels pretty stupid after this realization hits him. How could he not have seen it before? Is he no more than a brute beast? He is just so weak, so ignorant. But he remembers, with gratitude, that even in his weakness and ignorance, God has never left his side. God is always holding him by the hand, guiding him, supporting him, giving him strength. “Whom have I in heaven but You?” he calls out to God. “And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than You.”

Asaph gives himself fully to God in the midst of the crazy, mixed up, nasty world in which he lives. He trusts God completely. When his body and his heart fail, he knows that God will be his portion forever. Those who are far from God will perish, but those who cling to Him in trust will remain with Him forever. No matter how bad the world gets, Asaph proclaims that it is simply good to be with God, to make Him one's refuge, to tell everyone that God's works are wonderful, are perfect, and to proclaim that God has a plan for His people even in the darkest times.

Really, Asaph might well have written the exact same psalm if he had been living today.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Colossians 1:5 – Word of Truth

...because of the hope being stored for you in heaven which you heard before in the word of the truth of the Gospel...

In our last reflection on Colossians, we talked about hope being stored up for us in Heaven. But how do we know about that? How do we know that we can and must desire and expect the eternal life God holds out to us and the grace He gives us to attain it? How do we know that our hope, our eternal life, is waiting for us, that God is preparing marvelous things for us? Paul tells us: we have heard about it beforehand in the Gospel.

The verb for “heard before” is proēkousate. There is a delightful anticipation in this verb. We can know something about our hope, our eternal life, before we realize it in full. The more we hear about it, the more we desire it; the greater our expectation becomes. We can start living eternity now in a limited way because we understand (at least in part) what is in store for us in the future if only we hold firm to the grace of God. God doesn't keep secrets from us. He wants us to look forward to the fullness of life with Him. He wants us to have an idea of what's coming. He wants us to begin to grasp the greatness of His gift of salvation even now in this life.

Where, then, do we hear about our hope? In the word of truth of the Gospel. This is actually quite a complicated little prepositional phrase in the Greek. It begins with the preposition en, which identifies the sphere where the information is located. That sphere is the word, tō logō. Logos is a loaded word, for Jesus Himself is the Logos, the Word of God. And indeed, we do hear about our hope through Him. He is the One Who brings our hope to fruition by His life, death, and resurrection. He is the One Who opened the gates of Heaven that we may have eternal life with Him. He is the One Who speaks hope into our hearts.

God's word also comes to us through the channels of Divine Revelation: Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, both of which are interpreted by the Church's Magisterium. The Bible and the Church's living Tradition (which includes the sacraments) are both filled with hope. They teach us that God is preparing a place for us; they show us how to get there; and they serve as pathways for the grace that God pours out upon us. Our job is to read and to listen and to open our hearts in humility to receive the message.

This message, this word, is truth. Paul makes this very clear in the construction he chooses: ō logō tēs alētheias, literally, the word of the truth. Paul might simply have used the adjective “true,” but he chose the abstract noun instead to give his phrase greater punch. This isn't just any true word; it is the word of truth, something unique, something special, something amazing. He might also be hinting at Jesus' assertion, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.” In that case, the word belongs to Truth Himself, and Truth Himself has shared it with us.

Where do we find this word of truth? In the Gospel, the euaggelion, the good news. Good news! Isn't that the understatement of the millennium? The Gospel is the best possible news ever, for it gives us the word of truth that our God loves us so much that He became one of us. He died on the cross for us. He rose again from the dead. He opened Heaven to us. He pours His divine life into our souls so we can live with Him and for Him and in Him right now. He gives us hope for eternal life that we may be with Him forever. It doesn't get any better than that.

(Greek definitions come from, especially HELPS Word Studies.)

Monday, November 5, 2018

Lost Prayers #10

A Selection of Morning Prayers

Remember, O Christian soul, that you have this day, and every day of your life –
God to glorify,
Jesus to imitate,
The angels and saints to invoke,
A soul to save,
A body to mortify,
Sins to expiate,
Virtues to acquire,
Hell to avoid,
Heaven to gain,
Eternity to prepare for,
Time to profit of,
Your neighbor to edify,
Passions to subdue,
Devils to combat,
The world to despise,
Death, perhaps, to encounter,
And judgment to undergo.

Prayer of St. Mechtilde

When you awake in the morning,” said our Blessed Lord to St. Mechtilde, “let your first act be to salute My Heart, and to offer Me yours.”

I adore, praise, and salute Thee, O most sweet Heart of my Jesus, fresh and gladdening as the breath of spring, from which, as from a fountain of graces, far sweeter than the honeycomb, floweth for ever all good and all delight. I give Thee thanks with all the powers of my heart for having preserved me through this night, and for having rendered to God the Father praises and thanksgivings on my behalf. And now, O my sweet Love, I offer Thee my miserable and worthless heart as a morning sacrifice; I place it in Thy most tender Heart, and commit it to Thy holy keeping; entreating Thee to deign to pour into it Thy divine inspirations, and to enkindle it with Thy holy love. Amen.

Devotions for the Morning

O my God, I adore Thee, and give Thee thanks for all Thy benefits, and especially for having preserved me during the past night. I love Thee with my whole heart, and I offer to Thee whatever I shall do or suffer in the course of this day, in union with the sufferings of Jesus Christ and of Mary, and with an intention of gaining all the indulgences I am able.

I will endeavor, by the assistance of Thy holy grace, to avoid all sin; and I beseech Thee, for the love of Jesus, to pardon me my past sins, and to grant me perseverance in virtue. I will endeavor, particularly in such things as shall be contrary to my inclinations, to unite myself to Thy blessed will, saying: “Lord, Thy will be done.” O Jesus, extend Thy hands over me this day. Most holy Mary, protect me. Faithful guardian, my good angel, and you, my holy advocates, saints in heaven, assist me. Amen.

From The Treasury of the Sacred Heart, 1877