Papist Orthodoxy

September 25, 2009

On Prayer

Filed under: Ascetical & Mystical Theology — Tags: , — Antiochian-Thomist @ 9:11 pm

“There is nothing more worthwhile than to pray to God and to converse with Him, for prayer unites us with God and His companions. As our bodily eyes are illuminated by seeing the light, so in contemplating God our soul is illuminated by Him. Of course, the prayer I have in mind is no matter of routine — it is deliberate and earnest. It is not tied down to a fixed timetable; rather it is a state that endures by night and day.

“Our soul should be directed to God, not merely when we suddenly think of prayer, but even when we are concerned with something else. If we are looking after the poor, if we are busy in some other way, or if we are doing any type of good work, we should season our actions with the desire and remembrance of God. Through this salt of the love of God we can all become a savory dish for the Lord. If we are generous in giving time to prayer, we will experience its benefits throughout our life.

“Prayer is the light of the soul, giving us true knowledge of God. It is a link mediating between God and man. By prayer the soul is borne up to Heaven and in a marvelous way embraces the Lord. This meeting is like that of an infant crying on its mother, and seeking the best of milk. The soul longs for what it needs and what it receives is better than anything to be seen in the world.

“Prayer is a precious way of communicating with God; it gladdens the soul and gives repose to its affections. You should not think of prayer as being a matter of words. It is a desire for God, an indescribable devotion, not of human origin, but the gift of God’s grace. As Saint Paul says:

We do not know how to pray as we ought, but the spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.

(Romans 8:26)

“Anyone who receives from the Lord the gift of this type of prayer possesses a richness that is not to be taken from him, a heavenly food filling up the soul. Once he has tasted this food, he is set ablaze by an eternal desire for the Lord, the brightest of fires lighting up his soul.

“To set about this prayer, paint the house of your soul with modesty and lowliness and make it splendid with the light of justice. Adorn it with the beaten gold of good works and, for walls and stones, embellish it assiduously with faith and generosity. Above all, place prayer on top of this house as its roof so that the complete building may be ready for the Lord. Thus He will be received in a splendid royal palace and by grace His image will already be settled in your soul.”

St. John Chrysostom

Homily 6 On Prayer

Sacred Scriptures: How to Study Them

Filed under: Doctrine, Sacred Scripture and Theology — Tags: , , , , — Antiochian-Thomist @ 12:27 am

Hebrew Scriptures

St. Augustine on how we should proceed in the study of Scripture (On Christian Doctrine, Book II, Chapter 9):

“And in pursuing this search the first rule to be observed, as I said, to know these book [of Holy Scriptures], if not yet in understanding, still to read them so as to commit them to memory [emphasis mine –Antiochian-Thomist]…. Next, those matters that are plainly laid down in them, whether rules of life or rules of faith, are to be searched into more carefully and more diligently…. For among the things that are plainly laid down in Scripture are to be found all matters that concern faith and the manner of life, –to wit, hope and love…. After this when we have made ourselves to a certain extent familiar with the language of Scripture, we may proceed to open up and and investigate the more obscure passages, and in doing so draw examples from the plainer expressions to throw light upon the more obscure…. And in this matter memory counts a great deal.”

St. Augustine on knowledge of languages for Sacred Scriptures (On Christian Doctrine, Book II, Chapter 11):

“The great remedy for ignorance of proper signs is knowledge of languages…. And men…need two other languages for the knowledge of Scripture, Hebrew and Greek [emphasis mine]…. For in some languages there are words that cannot be translated into the idiom of another language.”

St. Augustine gives counsels on how and what to study in Sacred Scriptures. From the context, it should be evident that our Latin Father of the Church is addressing the clergy and learned laity. Nonetheless, his pronouncements should still ring true for our clergy and apt laity of today. Consider the instruction of Pope St. Pius X in his letter Quoniam in Re Biblica (24 March, 1906) which established the rules governing education in Holy Writ in the seminaries. It is as though he read St. Augustine, put down the book, and picked up the pen and scribed the following:

“In all of the academies, the candidates for the academic degrees of theology must answer certain Scriptural questions concerning the historical introduction of the Bible and its critique, and also concerning exegesis; and they will show by an examination that they can interpret Holy Writ with relative ease and understand Hebrew and Biblical Greek [emphasis mine].”

Further, consider this from Pope Leo XIII in Providentissimus Deus

“It is necessary that professors of Holy Scripture –and the same applies to theologians– know the languages in which the canonical books were originally drafted by the sacred writers, and it would be excellent if the ecclesiastical students acquire the same knowledge, above all those who aspire to academic degrees in theology. It will be necessary to take special care to have, in all Academies, teaching chairs in the languages of antiquity, above all the Semitic languages [emphasis mine].”

How many seminaries, ‘traditional’ or otherwise, Latin or Eastern, can claim to train at least the better part of their seminarians in this manner (admittedly, probably more Eastern than Latin)?

It should be noted that the Church continues to encourage the laity to delve into the infinite riches of Sacred Scripture. Although many of the faithful do not have the time or the aptitude to memorize Scripture or the learn Scriptural languages, much wisdom can be gleaned from the prayerful rumination of Holy Writ translated into one’s vernacular. Further, there exist several good translations of Scriptural commentaries composed by various Fathers of the Church and St. Thomas Aquinas, so one need not worry about lacking good guides through some of the complexities of Holy Writ.

In the words of Our Lord to St. Augustine as the latter was pondering a theological issue: “Tolle et lege!” [Take and read!]

St. Augustine of Hippo

St. Augustine of Hippo

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