Wednesday, 21 November 2012

More on Prayer and Time

I have been reflecting further, and even praying, about prayer and time.

I still think what I wrote here has some truth, but I am also conscious of a few risks and caveats I would like to discuss.

They are mainly around the focus of our attention, and issues like guilt and worry.

We are not to worry about the past (or the future, come to that) : it is (I think) one of the Devil's favourite strategies to distract us from attending to what we should be doing in the present moment.

So by all means, we may pray about the past; prayers of supplication, as I say, seem right to me, but perhaps we should think more particularly of thanksgiving.  However, I think we should take care not to spend too long focussing on the past: for while there is no doubt that God can do something about it, we cannot (other than pray).

I think it no coincidence that the Pater Noster focuses on today:  Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie Give us this day our daily bread; and likewise that the Ave Maria asks for Our Lady's prayers nunc et in hora mortis nostrae Now and the hour of our death.

These great prayers seem to me to teach us that it is now that we should be mainly focused on in our prayer (though ever mindful of the hour of our death... which might just be now, of course).

By way of digression (though not really) I remember praying the rosary with my mother when she was dying of cancer.  She was weak, but trying hard to vocalise the prayers.  However her voice faded at the end of each Hail Mary, so it sounded as though she were simply praying: pray for us sinners now...  As it was the hour of her death, that was profoundly moving; and I have every confidence that our Blessed Mother was indeed praying with and for her at that hour.

Guilt, of course, is different again.  The purpose of guilt in the moral realm is just like pain in the physical: to let us know that something is wrong.  The correct response is an act of contrition, and sacramental confession.  Once we have confessed and been absolved, we should not indulge any further guilt: to do so is (to say the least) an ungracious response to the love of God the Father, who had His Son hang on a cross precisely to merit forgiveness for us, and continues to pour out His Holy Spirit upon us to sanctify us.  

So if our prayers about the past are prompted by feelings of guilt for confessed sin, perhaps we should strive (and pray for the grace) to transform them into prayers of thanks for the grace of repentance and forgiveness (always assuming we have been to confession: if not, that is the urgent priority!)

So we may, I think, pray for the past (and likewise for the future, though again, worry about it seems to me a distraction) but perhaps our primary focus of attention should be on the present: what is God saying to me here and now - and what is my response?

As ever, I am interested in others' reflections on this: I thought the comments on Mark's blog which he linked to in the comms box of the previous post, were very thought-provoking.


On the side of the angels said...

It's relatively simple when seen from the right perspective. It's quite ironic that Science took over 1500 yrs to catch up with the Theology of Time & History [von Balthasar's two books "Theology of History" & "Man in History" are excellent on the issues - as is the late 1980s back catalogue of Communio - where it relates a time/space paradigm which is taken as merely axiomatic in the Church fathers and subsequent 'dark age' monasticism - we simply didn't reiterate it till Trent] in that we are spatio-temporal beings having our embodied soul-holism's existence stretched out into a sequential 'romance' [try Frank Sheed's "Theology & Sanity" on this - where he explains of course time didn't exist before creation - time is a breaking up of the whole - a many-coloured experience rather than the all-consuming ever-radiant white. The Pre-Socratics [esp. Anaximenes/Anaximander had the right idea when they referred to God existing in the 'apeiron' - the beyond which transcends space and time yet experiences interacts with the whole] Think Heidegger's 'Dasein'.
What it deals with is our spiritual interactions with the Divine where the temporal aeviternal confronts the eternal and the contact is like a spark which lights up the whole of space time - forwards and backwards through history through the cosmos - like a pebble dropped in a pool rippling backwards and forwards and outwards and altering everything accordingly.

The diachronicity of grace [and therefore the negation/blocking/deprivation of it through sin] means that who we are and what we do affects the whole of reality in the whole of always [it really is like some constantly re-written & re-interpreted stage play where nothing truly makes sense or has definitive or intrinsic understanding until the curtain call - for those on the stage - but outside this it already IS.

Using Frank Sheed again - imagine it as reverse Buddhism - we are made from nothing and kept in Being solely through God's will, Power and Love [in whom we can ONLY Live, move and have our Being - everything else is a collapse - a desuetude into the nothingness - a lessening - an occlusion and preclusion] therefore everything we are and do has cosmic and diachronistic relevance.

Once we grasp this everything falls into place and the tear-inducing understanding overwhelms us with its Truth and Beauty but shocks us to the core in its grave consequences for our personal responsibility and culpability - and through it we are able to exorcise those formidable bogeys which forever hound us - Donatism & Pelagianism. [to be continued]

On the side of the angels said...

The easiest way to explain is through [ironically five ways]

a] the efficacy of prayer [CS Lewis is phenomenal on this and his essays on it are available online]

b] Original Sin - Augustine on our collaboration, complicity, conspiracy and co-operation with the preclusion of grace via our actual sin effecting the holism - stopping grace from flowing from its source to its end - making holes and cracking or blocking up our earthen vessels and preventing us from receiving the grace to which we were destined. We stand with Adam at the Fall. The actual sin was his but its consequences are compounded by all actual sin and the consequences makes us responsible for each and every neighbour - our sin made their lot worse from the very beginning - by my sin the whole of humanity have been scarred and left bereft - I drove those nails into Christ.

c] The sacrifice of the Mass - Our redemption on Calvary is the zero point - where the huge boulder was thrown in the pool and great tidal waves washed over reality and rewrote history; they drowned and washed everything clean in its purifying baptismal waves - forwards and backwards. At the Consecration we return to Calvary - in just the same way that at the Last Supper the Apostles were thrust forward in time and space to experience that redemptive act - before it had 'historically happened' but eternally 'always was'. We all too readily fail to recognise the reality of a sacrament - that at that moment we marry or are baptised or anointed or are absolved or bow before that raised host and chalice we are at the Threshold of Heaven where Christ breathes His last. There is but one sacrifice of the Mass into which we are all subsumed. [tbc]

On the side of the angels said...

d] The fruits of our redemption - which is where Aquinas inadvertently - although having understood and taught the reality - didn't see the link where those less capable or wise could - all miracles, all prophecy and all pro-salvific martyr witness originate from Calvary itself - the prophets didn't foretell what would happen - they saw what was happening [which we temporal entities were yet to encounter - it was not a crystal ball but merely a telescope]. BUT the BIG fruit which flowed backwards from Calvary was the Immaculate Conception and thus all the reticence and qualms we possess in acceptance of this sacred mystery are salved with an oil of credibility - it makes the ostensibly impossible - possible. It makes the unimaginable - conceivable! [and we also shed tears of joy when Our Lady bestowed upon us that wondrous gift at Lourdes by confirming our speculations were vindicated]. The Mother of God [how we don't explode when acknowledging that Truth and its consequences is beyond me!] and her 'Yes' to her Son and her Lord and her All is God's greatest gift to historial humankind - she is the God-bearer, the co-Redemptrix and by necessity as she actuated God's will through her subsumation to His will - becomes the vessel by which all Grace was able to flow via that zero-point on calvary - thus she becomes the mediatrix of All Graces - it's no use speculating on how it could have differed - the reality IS - through her - the second Eve who is the primary Eve - we were able to be redeemed and receive every grace as a consequence. [tbc]

On the side of the angels said...

e] The ontology of priesthood - when a priest is ordained/a bishop consecrated - reality is rewritten and they ALWAYS were a priest - there was not a time when they were not - note the awesome consequences for those clerical converts who struggle to deny the reality of their past ministries or the nature of their [non-existent] 'ordination' in protestant ministries [and note it is a grave scandal for any convert minister to be ordained if they refuse to acknowledge the invalidity of their orders - the lie MUST be confronted and negated and excised]...
BECAUSE if and when they do - something truly wonderful happens - once they have 'died' to their past self and are reborn through true ordination their past becomes a reality beyond their wildest hopes and imaginings - the shadows become real - the delusions and mis-praxis and well-intentioned but inefficacious actions - are vitalised in their true ordained priesthood. The analogies used by CS Lewis in the Great Divorce really come into effect here. Cardinal Ratzinger was excellent in his mind-breaking understanding of this 'become nothing and you'll become everything' paradigm [something the blessed John Paul II didn't truly understand [ludicrous notion of conditional ordination rather than ratzinger's 'conditionalising'] and our more oecumaniacal prelates sadly still don't seem to get!!]
That in order for a convert's previous ministry to become real they have to accept the reality of a true ordained priesthood rather than reside in selfish, narcissistic shadows of stubborn refusal to concede that basically it was broken away from Peter but can become one with Peter and history CAN be rewritten...[this is jaw-dropping stuff for we mundane materialistic ingrates - we say we believe but if we really recognised what we say we believed we would be stunned at the ramifications of certain actions]

[nb before anyone jumps down my throat and suggests I'm implying ALL a protestant minister's past actions are radically sanated - I'm not - but where the Holy Spirit is not wilfully thwarted - He flows!!!]

and the same goes for a couple's 'ordination' into married life...if a couple who have not married live as husband and wife to the fullest unto death - they WERE ALWAYS married...the diachronicity of the grace affords a sacramentality to the never becoming always - we don't understand how often we touch Heaven and the reality is rewritten with every encounter with the Divine Mercy...

So: What does prayer - our conformity with God and our very being in Him - affect?
Everything - everywhere - always...
Ditto every grace and virtuous action - the good is not limited by mere spatio-temporality - it transcends and makes everything more blessed.

BUT - therefore too does every preclusion, denial, thwarting and prevention of that grace - and leads us to the mind-shattering truly horrific recognition of the consequences of our sin - which affects everything and corrupts and scars the very nature of reality - but THANK GOD - the consequences of that sin have been wiped away on Calvary - the future's already written yet for us unwritten but the past is exactly the same - and I sometimes thank God that I'm too ignorant and oblivious to realise both the grave consequences and the unending Divine Mercy which resolves it know my sin is grave is more than enough to deal with - only an overwhelming kindness by Our loving Father shelters the real consequences from us....therefore we must forgive unceasingly - as we are forgiven unceasingly even when oblivious to it.

Ben Trovato said...


Thanks for that 'relatively simple' explanation.

I will (later) get a wet towel, wrap it around my head, and see how well I can follow your simple exposition! ;-)

I do appreciate you taking the time and trouble to comment in such detail, and will attempt to give it the attention it deserves (but not immediately as other things are more pressing).

On the side of the angels said...

It's the kind of thing I discuss with the kids while doing the dishes or taking the sunday joint out of the biggie...and if Stuart's reading this the best sci-fi analogy is in Stargate SG1 and the Ashen episodes...