After the Holy Spirit was sent on the first Pentecost day, the new born Church of just over 3,000 men and women can be seen in its utter simplicity. All the external paraphernalia that we associate with the Church today simply did not exist. What did exist was a group of sinners who had been baptised into the glorified body of Christ to have their sins forgiven and were beginning a journey. This journey was not just with Christ, but in, and through him, to the destiny for which God had created them.

The Mysterion – God’s Secret Plan

The first mystical foundation of the Church was being seen in all its simplicity.  The first Christians now had a new mode of being, not just with Christ, but within what later came to be called his mystical body. Those who persevered in continually opening themselves to receive this love by practising what I have called ‘the asceticism of the heart’ day after day, were being drawn onwards into what St Paul called, The Mysterion, the plan that God made before the foundation of the world to share his life and love with them. That plan was and still is physically and spiritually embodied in the glorified body of the Risen Christ. They were being drawn up into his mystical contemplation of God and were beginning to receive the fruits of that contemplation that set them on fire as they had set the first Apostles set on fire.

Wisdom from St Thomas Aquinas

Those who are drawn up into his mystical body and who then continually strive to be drawn up into his mystical loving of our Common Father, were, and still are mystics in every meaning of that word. That is what St Thomas Aquinas meant when he said that our vocation, and that means all of us, because it is the only way to union with God, is to contemplate and then to share the fruits of contemplation with others.

All who daily practise the ‘asceticism of the heart’ where they persevere in   continually trying to raise their hearts and minds to God in Prayer, will eventually be led on by the Holy Spirit into the prayer of Christ himself. By this I mean into his contemplation of God’s glory which is our ultimate destiny. It is therefore non-sense to say that all are not called to contemplation which, ignorance maintains, is an extraordinary way for a few holy souls. This is sadly the position of all too many, who for the historical reasons that I have outlined, have been starved of the spirituality of our first Christian ancestors. They have therefore become little more than nominal Catholics doing the minimum and expecting the maximum.

From Jewish to Christian Prayer

Only daily perseverance in personal prayer will enable the Holy Spirit to lead us on. Believe me, if we begin again now and persevere in doing our part as best we can, he will always and infallibly do his part. Let us begin by learning from the spirituality that Christ himself gave to the first Christians. Although, after the first Pentecost, they continued to pray in the morning and the evening, at meal times and three times a day and in their nearest synagogue, their prayers were gradually Christianised. This evolution took place as they came to realize ever more deeply that they now prayed in, with, and through Christ to their loving Father, to the Three in One who was rejected by their immediate spiritual forebears.

The Greatest Prayer of All

When the apostles asked Christ to teach them to pray he gave them the ‘Our Father’ that contains within it the very essence of all Christian prayer that finds its completion and its consummation in the Mass. In recent years the words ‘give us this day our daily bread’ have been misunderstood by many, thinking that this means going to daily Mass. Although this is a commendable practice for those who are able, in the Early Church and for more than a thousand years daily Mass as we have come to know it simply did not exist. The daily bread to which Christ was referring was the spiritual food of his own ever-continuing loving that although continuous can only be received by those who create daily quality time to receive it.

It would take too long to detail how, from its Jewish origins, Christian prayer gradually emerged to become the foundation and the inspiration of the daily lives of the first Christians, and how this pattern of prayer has come down to us. I will therefore give you a memory jog or a mnemonic that will help remind you of the essential ingredients of this daily prayer that has come down to us from our Christian forebears. It can become the spiritual foundation and inspiration of our daily lives.

A Mental Memory Jog for Prayer

In order to do this I want to take the two words, ‘Our Father’ and use every letter as a reminder of the essential ingredients of all authentic Christian prayer, and in such a way that you can carry it around with you in your head so that you can turn to it at any appropriate time.  The letters O-U-R can be used as a reminder of the three essential features of morning prayer. The letter -O- would be a reminder to say the Morning Offering in one form or another. The letter -U- would be a reminder that as we make this prayer, we are uniting ourselves with Christ and with all who are in him. Then the letter -R- would be a reminder to review the coming day, resolving to do all and everything for the honour and glory of God.  The letter -F- would remind us to make an act of faith. The letter -A- stands for the word abandonment, -T- for thanksgiving, -H- for Holy Communion, -E- for examination of conscience, and finally -R- for repentance.

Wisdom from The Venerable Fulton Sheen.

The Venerable Fulton Sheen once said, “In human loving all the powerful feelings come at the beginning, but in divine loving the powerful feelings come later, when we have been tried and tested”. It is of vital importance therefore, to persevere in praying whether we feel anything or whether we do not. Those who only pray when they have exhilarating spiritual feelings will get nowhere, because their behaviour makes it abundantly clear that they are only in it for themselves. Prayer, like all true love, must manifest a quality of selflessness that can alone lead a person on and into the love that surpasses the understanding, but in God’s good time, not ours. I will begin detailing the memory-jog next.

In order to develop the prayer that can continually help us to raise our hearts and minds to God as we practise the asceticism of the heart please follow the Podcast on prayer on this web-site entitled The Hermit – Wisdom from the Western Isles









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