September 17, 2017
The Other, the Absolute, God or Gods make a claim on our consciousness and our self-understanding just by being there. In the Christian understanding of things, the loving nature of God does not only demand our attention, it invites our trust and confidence. This business of trust and confidence cannot happen without an ever-deepening understanding of the love and the Lover whom we trust.
For Christians the immediate entree into this understanding is to be found in Jesus Christ. The Scriptures of the Church, his sacramental presence to the Church, expressed in just about every medium of human expression — music, plastic and depictive art, cinema and theater, literature of every kind and sacred ritual — is a constant invitation to re-imagine, to re-think, to re-discover the fore-runner and perfecter of what a life lived in the light of this love means.
In this process Catholic Christians (to a notably singular degree) accept the support, encouragement and ‘direction’ that comes to them in and from their faith community — the community that was and is and will be. That last little phrase is critical. The Community that was is the formulator of the Scriptures, the seed-bed of various traditions and practices of faith and devotion, the birthplace of a whole ‘community of saints’ whose memories are preserved and whose practices are emulated and whose prayerful intercession in heaves is sought.
The Community that is rejoices to know that Christ’s promise to be where two or three gather in his name applies to them. No matter how distracted or even distant they may have grown in their personal relationships with God, their decision to step back into the gathering community that is a Church at worship, puts them in the very best of company — Jesus — and makes their wishy-washy or non-existent life of prayer irrelevant.
The Community that will be is headed up by the Risen and Glorious Lord and his Mother. Behind them come apostles and martyrs and holy folk of every time and place. These await our arrival amongst them and, in some ways, have only a partial joy until we arrive.
Without this communal dimension to even our personal prayer we run the risk of getting lost in our own imaginings and judgements; with it, we are assured that there is a group of those who pray to which we belong even when we are not praying on our own; and when we join them, our personal contribution strengthens the cloud-penetrating power of their prayer.
This is why Jesus’ instruction on prayer began with the directive to call God our Father.
Clearly, communitarian prayer will be less meaningful and joyful for the individual if he or she has not experienced the struggles that attend individual prayer. By the same token it will be less powerful for the absent brothers when those who pray together do so as a burden or external obligation rather than an integral part of their personal-and-shared relationship with God and others who pray.
Really, truly and commonly yours,