The pastor of Holy Family Parish in Hannibal and St. Joseph Parish in Palmyra and moderator for spiritual formation for the Jefferson City diocese offers the following message for Advent:
We are all very busy people living in very busy times. Or, are we?
Sometimes I wonder if we are not quite as busy as we all think we are.
Perhaps rather, in this ever advancing, and ever intrusive technological age, we have simply invented more and more new ways to distract ourselves.
Perhaps we just think we are very busy.
How do we best slow down? How do we search out and find gratitude, and then live in that kind of mindfulness. Can we be the sort of disciples who remember to turn around and thank our Lord?
In the midst of so much nonsense and misinformation on the internet, occasionally we come across a gem. I recently found one such gem on Facebook:
“Have you ever considered that God has fallen in love with you? He sends you flowers every spring. He sends you sunshine every morning. Whenever you want to talk, He listens to you. He can live anywhere in the universe, but He chooses your heart.” (Kelly’s Treehouse on Facebook.)
Can it be possible for us to live with this kind of awareness? This kind of faith? This kind of gratitude?
Brothers and Sisters, because of advancements in social and physical sciences, we now know more about Sacred Scripture than we ever have. In a particular way, thanks to carbon testing, we are now able to date ancient artifacts. In this way, Scripture scholars tell us Jesus Christ was very fond of this saying, and He spoke quite often, “Those with ears ought to listen, those with eyes ought to see.”
Do you want to see and hear in this deeper way, especially as we prepare for Emmanuel in this holy Advent Season?
Now we must turn back to our Lord and ask Him to teach us to pray, so that we can search for this kind of faith, belief and gratitude ... for this kind of seeing and hearing!
We learn that in Luke’s and Matthew’s Gospel accounts, Christ teaches us our beloved “Lord’s Prayer.” The ancients in our tradition call this kind of prayer “kataphatic prayer.” This Greek word means “prayer with form.” When we pray this way, we use words, symbols, thoughts and ideas.
However, we also recall that in Matthew’s Gospel, Christ teaches another way to pray. He instructs us, “But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father Who is in secret; and your Father Who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)
The ancients call this “apophatic prayer,” which is “prayer without form.” In this way of prayer, we turn inwards, on the level of pure faith, trusting that God dwells within us, and in silence … we surrender our wills to our Lord at the deepest level.
You could say that kataphatic prayer is speaking to our Lord, and apophatic prayer is listening to our Lord.
During this Advent Season, as we prepare the way for the Lord, as we strive to make straight the path of Christ to be born in our churches, our communities, our families, and perhaps most of all ... in our hearts, we need both kinds of prayer.
This prayer with form, and this prayer without form, are the two banks, which carry this Mighty River of Grace.
In the midst of so much activity and busyness, remember to occasionally Be Still, and let the Lord find you. Then our lives can become a prayer of thanksgiving!