Sacred Tradition and Prayer

January 12, 1997
Brother John Raymond

	Last year (Doesn't that sound so long ago?) we had a group of
 non-Catholics visit our monastery. While we were talking, some in
 the group mentioned how enlightening they found the section on
 prayer in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. So I thought it
 would be a good idea to start off the New Year right be refocusing
 on the Catechism.
	We have looked at chapter one, The Revelation of Prayer. Now we
 move to the next chapter, The Tradition of Prayer. The title gives
 us some hints of what's to come. Prayer cannot be only defined
 spontaneous times of prayer. In other words, I only pray when I feel
 the promptings of the Holy Spirit from within. Prayer engages my
 will, also. I have to will to pray, even if at times I feel nothing.
 Further, it is not sufficient only to know what Sacred Scripture
 reveals about prayer. Prayer comes down to us through a living
 Sacred Tradition in the believing and praying Church. Here with the
 help of the Holy Spirit we learn how to pray.
	There are several founts where we can meet the living Lord Jesus
 Who will give us to drink of the Holy Spirit. One is the Word of
 God. St. Jerome, a Father of the Church and the one who translated
 the Bible into Latin, tells us that ignorance of Sacred Scriptures
 is ignorance of Christ. That is a pretty strong statement. The
 Church forcefully and specially exhorts the faithful to learn the
 knowledge of Jesus by frequently reading Sacred Scripture. But she
 reminds us to read it accompanied by prayer. Then a dialogue takes
 place between us and God. St. Ambrose said that we speak to God when
 we pray and listen to Him when we read Sacred Scripture. (We should
 read them in the Church, that is, within Church teaching. One help
 to do this is using a commentary or a good Catholic Bible with
	Guigo the Carthusian has this to say, "'Seek in reading and you
 will find in meditating; knock in mental prayer and it will be
 opened to you by contemplation.'" (CCC #2654) He says that reading
 is the careful study of Sacred Scripture, concentrating all one's
 powers on it. Meditation is applying one's mind to seek with one's
 own reason for knowledge of hidden truth. Prayer is one's heart
 turned to God to drive away evil and obtain what is good.
 Contemplation is when the mind is in some way lifted and held above
 itself by God. "Reading seeks for the sweetness of a blessed life,
 meditation perceives it, prayer asks for it, contemplation tastes
 it." (Scala claustralium, III)
	The Liturgy of the Church is another fount. "In the sacramental
 liturgy of the Church, the mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit
 proclaims, makes present and communicates the mystery of salvation,
 which is continued in the heart that prays." (CCC #2655) In prayer
 we should both internalize and assimilate the liturgy both during
 and after its celebration. One great help in doing this is to either
 purchase a missal or the Liturgy of the Hours. The oneness of spirit
 recording the in the Acts of the Apostles was founded on the Word of
 God, brotherly communion, on the prayer and on the Eucharist. (Cf.
 2, 42, translation from the Greek) "The Church is a community, and
 it must express its nature as a community in its prayer as well as
 in other ways...There is a special excellence in the prayer of the
 community." (General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, 9)
	Seek Christ and you will most certainly find Him. This New Year
 make Him the focus of your life. Meet Him in both the Word of God
 and the sacramental Liturgy of the Church.