When we hear from Jesus the word ‘go’ it is the vocation of being sent, of being missionaries, bearers of the Gospel and of Jesus Himself to others.
GO WITHOUT FEARS INTO THE DEPTHS OF MEN’S HEARTS.I SHALL BE WITH YOU….. PRAY ALWAYS. I SHALL BE OUR REST. These last words of the Little Mandate are both a gift of mission and a promise of intimacy with Jesus as we live them out.
What does it means to ‘go into the depths’ of the heart of another human being? How dangerous is it that fear is part of the challenge?
This mandate to go into the depths of hearts presupposes we are not acting merely out of curiosity, far less to acquire information to be used to control someone else. The mandate is focused here on humble, loving, service to other in attentive listening, without judgement or being fearful of encountering the pain in the heart of other.
Prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit of discernment and His words to be spoken is essential. Sound advice here from the Blessed Callistus, monk and patriarch: if you wish to pray as you ought, imitate the dulcimer player: bending his head a little and inclining his ear to the strings, he strikes the strings skilfully, and enjoys the melody he draws from their harmonious notes. Is this example clear to you? The dulcimer is the heart, the strings – the feelings; the hammer – remembrance of God; the player – mind. By remembrance of God and of Divine things the mind draws holy feelings from the God-fearing heart, then in effable sweetness fills the soul, and the mind, which is pure, is lit up by Divine illuminations. 
Going ‘into the depths’ of another’s heart presumes total self-forgetfulness, no agenda other than to listen, heart to heart, with no rush to comment or say anything. It is a matter of peaceful, loving, presence to other.
While it is true the heart is a major organ in the human body The spiritual tradition of the Church also emphasizes the heart, in the biblical sense of the depth’s of one’s being, where the person decides for or against God. 
Therefore, we are called to enter fearlessly into the depths of a most sacred space and must consciously ask Christ to accompany us there.
Chatting ‘heart to heat’ is a common expression and this should influence our attentiveness and any words we are inspired to speak. In these days when countless of our brothers and sisters live in the illusion of texting as true communication, and likewise use other forms of social media, numerous are the lonely who ache in their hearts because for all the frenzy of social communication that dark misnomer is neither.
True social communication is charitable heart to heart speech, with attentive listening, face to face. All else is illusion.
Perhaps never before has a humble, loving willingness to patiently listen to other been as needed as today in our wired world of selfies and cryptic texting.
We should not fear listening deeply to other. We should seek to be present to other. For it is being present and attentive to Christ.
It is said of St. Mother Teresa that she had a notable gift to enable to set at peace a restless and troubled mind”. Her method was simple: first she would listen. She would listen attentively to the account being related to her, but even more she would listen to the pain and confusion that accompanied it……In this heart-to-heart exchange, she was able to listen without prejudice and without a judgemental attitude, giving advice in a way that often was unexpected. With her “vision of faith”, she was able to look at the issue at hand from God’s perspective. 
Pray always. I will be your rest.
The last words of the Little Mandate contain a directive and a promise.
Pray always is rooted in St. Paul’s injunction: Pray without ceasing. [1 Thess. 5:17].Prayer is the life of the new heart. It ought to animate us at every moment. But we tend to forget him who is our life and our all. This is why the Fathers of the spiritual life in the Deuteronomic and prophetic traditions insist that prayer is a remembrance of God often awakened by the memory of the heart "We must remember God more often than we draw breath." But we cannot pray "at all times" if we do not pray at specific times, consciously willing it. These are the special times of Christian prayer, both in intensity and duration. The Tradition of the Church proposes to the faithful certain rhythms of praying intended to nourish continual prayer. Some are daily, such as morning and evening prayer, grace before and after meals, the Liturgy of the Hours. Sundays, centered on the Eucharist, are kept holy primarily by prayer. The cycle of the liturgical year and its great feasts are also basic rhythms of the Christian's life of prayer. The Lord leads all persons by paths and in ways pleasing to him, and each believer responds according to his heart's resolve and the personal expressions of his prayer. However, Christian Tradition has retained three major expressions of prayer: vocal meditative, and contemplative. They have one basic trait in common: composure of heart. This vigilance in keeping the Word and dwelling in the presence of God makes these three expressions intense times in the life of prayer. 
God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” [Gal.4.6]
To pray always is not a matter of reciting various formal prayers, such as the Holy Rosary or various Litanies, nor should we stress ourselves out by setting burdensome quantities of such forms of prayer. To pray always is a state of being aware, aware the Holy Spirit Himself is always at prayer within us, aware Jesus is our perfect prayer to the Father and that we have the Holy Mass wherein we are brought together by the Lord, that He leads us to meet each other. This moment should issue a call to us to accept one another inwardly, open ourselves up, go to meet each other, that even in the distraction of everyday life we should maintain this state of being brought together by the Lord. Our cities, as we all know, have become places of solitude of a kind never known before……But the Lord brings us together and opens us up, to that we can accept one another, belong to one another, so that in standing before Him we can learn again to stand next to each other. 
We can offer no greater prayer than to love one another. Loving always is to be prayer.
The above quotation connects with this from St. John Cassian: ….before we pray we should make an effort to cast out from the innermost parts of our heart whatever we do not wish to steal upon us as we pray, so that in this way we can fulfill the apostolic words: ‘Pray without ceasing.’ And: ‘In every place lifting up pure hands without anger and dissension.’ For we shall be unable to accomplish this command unless our mind, purified of every contagion and vice and given over to virtue alone as to a natural good, is fed upon the continual contemplation of almighty God. 
One of our professors in the seminary, teaching on prayer, told a story attributed to St. Theresa of Avila that she had become irritated the Lord was not freeing her from distractions and that eventually the Lord did respond to her plea stating: “Why should I relieve you my daughter. It is your perseverance in prayer that most pleases me.”
In his book NEW SEEDS OF CONTEMPLATION, Thomas Merton has a whole chapter on the issue of distractions in prayer. Prayer and love are really learned in the hour when prayer becomes impossible, and your heart turns to stone. If you have never had any distractions you don’t know how to pray….it is useless to get upset when you cannot shake off distractions…..it is the will to pray that is the essence of prayer, and the desire to find God, to see Him and to love Him is the one thing that matters…His presence does not depend on your thoughts of Him. He is unfailingly there; if He were not, you could not even exist. 
The next and final instalment will be to focus on the promise; I WILL BE YOUR REST.
 Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart; p.271; Faber and Faber, 1951
 https://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P1B.HTM #368
 A CALL TO MERCY, MOTHER TERESA; p.168; Image Books 2016
 Catechism of the Catholic Church #’s 267-2699 https://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P9J.HTM
 Theology of the Liturgy; Cardinal Ratzinger; p.407; Ignatius Press 2014 [italics are mine]
John Cassian; The Conferences; Newman Press, 1997; p.331 [Italics are mine]
NEW SEEDS OF CONTEMPLATION; Thomas Merton; pps.221-224; a New Directions book, 1961 [Italics are mine]
© 2021 Fr. Arthur Joseph
Post a Comment