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Prayer for Peace

Dona nobis pacem

 

Blessed are you, Prince of Peace,
you call us to be peacemakers in you.
But sometimes we become disheartened,
because evil seems so strong,
and while our resources suffice
for making strife,
we lack the implements of peace.

Blessed are you, Crucified One,
we find our peace in your cross,
and there we lay our hoarded treasures —
the burden of needing to be right,
the fear that holds us hostage,
the cry of vengeance
that racks our heart.

Blessed are you, Giver of Peace:
in your love mold us into Christ,
that through us may flow the blessed peace
you long to pour over the world —
peace as fortifying as bread and wine
shared with friends,
as healing as the balm of sunset
after a day of toil,
as restful as finding ourselves
home at last.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven…
(Matthew 5:43-45)

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“Cracked Earth” photo by Rose Hoover, rc

The Lord’s Prayer

I’ve been pondering the Our Father again.  It is well-named the Lord’s Prayer, as there are parts of it that can be prayed whole-heartedly only by Christ himself—or by a person who has taken on the mind and heart of Christ.

When the disciples beg, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1), Jesus’ response is less pedagogical than it is an invitation into his own life. The question, however, is whether or not we really want what we are asking. To consider just one of the petitions: how many of us, if we look deeply into our hearts, can honestly pray, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”?

 Forgive us our debts

With this petition we enter into God’s longing for us to share in the divine life with the entirely forgiving Son. But when Simone Weil describes the ordinary human condition vis-à-vis our debtors, she is brutally blunt:

The effort involved in suffering an offense makes us expect punishment or an apology on the part of the offender; the effort involved in doing good makes us expect the gratitude of the one obliged to us; but these are only particular cases of a universal law of our soul. Every time something goes out from us, we absolutely need at least the equivalent to return to us, and because we need it, we believe we have the right to it. Our debtors: everyone, everything, the entire universe.

(Attente de Dieu, my translation)

The expectations we generally have regarding what life owes us, set alongside the godly expectations God has for us, make the forgiveness requested in this petition virtually impossible on a human level. We are talking about handing over, as Weil says, “all that we are expecting from people and things, all that we believe to be our due”: all of life’s unfairness; all the injustices inflicted on us; all our sorrows in life where there should have been joy.

How supremely difficult, but how freeing!

The Our Father is a prayer of total surrender to the intentions of God both on the individual and the cosmic levels (see especially the first half of the prayer for the cosmic level). Can I truly pray the prayer with my whole being, with an undivided heart? Do I desire what the words say? If so, I am being united with the divine life of Christ. And if I cannot pray it with my whole heart, what then? Shall I stop praying it altogether—this prayer which only Christ can pray?

We do what we can for now with the grace we are given. If we cannot yet pray these petitions with unqualified, flawless sincerity, we pray them as we can, and trust that God accepts our incomplete offering of self, even to the extent of transforming us and the world as we pray, persistently, mindfully, and humbly, the words Jesus gave us.

(See also “The Lord’s Prayer: the Prayer of Prayers.“)

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Image: “Fractal Forgiveness” by Rose Hoover, rc (with the help of Apophysis)

Fire Alarm!

I have always thought that in case of an emergency evacuation, the first things I would grab would be my laptop and portable hard drive. So the other day the fire alarm went off while I was upstairs in my fourth-floor office, and what did I take with me down the stairs (heeding the warning not to use the elevator), and out the front door?

My cup of tea.Teacup in sunlight

That was all. I carried with me a partially-drunk cup of tea. Which only goes to show… what? Failure of presence of mind in a crisis? Or that in the morning a cup of tea is more important to me than prized documents and photos? Or perhaps simply that I don’t always keep in mind what is truly of worth?

What then do I want to take with me, not just when the fire alarm goes off, but throughout the day, every day? How do I carry—not just my cup of tea, or worries about work or health, or petty everyday distractions—but awareness of God?

One helpful practice can be a “walking prayer.” (This is not quite the same as “prayer walking,” which often indicates a form of intercessory prayer.) Here are some examples of this simple repetitive prayer:

  • The Jesus Prayer.
  • Quiet and simple repetition of the holy name of Jesus.
  • A psalm verse or other brief scripture passage that is personally meaningful.

In this way we can pray while taking out the garbage or washing the dishes or shopping for groceries. It may not guarantee that when the fire alarm sounds we will remember the laptop, but it can help us be mindful of what we always want to carry with us, what we know in our heart of hearts is most important to us: the presence of God.

(In case you were wondering, there was no fire, just a very burnt piece of toast.)

Rejoice always,
pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

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See also “Contemplative Practices” for more ways to cultivate mindfulness.”

Photo: “Teacup in Sunlight” by Rose Hoover, rc

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Troubled Planet

 

One evening Sister Elizabeth said to me, “I have a quotation for you.” As soon as I heard it, I asked her for the book so I could copy it down and reflect on it. Here it is:

What is the antidote to real evil? On a political level, it is justice; on a social level, it is compassion; on a personal level, it is meditation.

(Rabbi Rami M. Shapiro, “The Teaching and Practice of Reb Yerachmiel ben Yisrael,”
Meditation from the Heart of Judaism: Today’s Teachers Share Their Practices, Techniques, and Faith, edited by Avram Davis)

These three levels, the personal, the social, and the political, are not separate by any means. It is through personal meditation or contemplative prayer that we learn the compassion needed for the social level. It is only through compassion that we can ever know what justice really is on the political level.

In these troubled times, may we each enter deeply into the presence of the compassionate God. Then let us pray for national and international leaders as they debate the responses to terrorism and the threats posed by despotism, and also for those who commit acts of terrorism. May all of these as well spend the hours needed in humble prayer and meditation, so that their sense of justice will be made true by compassion.

… love your enemies and do good to them, and lend without any hope of return. You will have a great reward, and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate.

(Luke 6:35-36, NJB)

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“Troubled Planet” image by Rose Hoover, rc (with fire texture adapted from NASA photos)

Refocusing

I took this picture of the moon, half full, early last week.  (I admit that it makes the moon look a bit like moldy cheese, but the real thing was more impressive.)

Half moon and leaves (R Hoover)

 

Actually, the moon and the leaves are different layers in this photo, one imposed on the other, since the camera can’t focus on two radically different distances at once. It can focus on the leaves (the following photos were obviously taken at a different time than the one above):

Leaves and rising moon (R Hoover)

 

Or it can focus on the moon while the leaves remain blurred:

Rising moon (R Hoover)

 

Sometimes the human heart, like the camera, has difficulty focusing on different distances or different depths, especially at the same time.  This is why we need to step back from time to time, be quiet, and allow the Spirit of God to refocus us.

So we pray:

Clear the blurriness of my heart, O God,
free it from reluctance of vision,
refocus my thinking and deepen my loving
that I may go beyond
the tangles and twigs of my mind
and the leafy jumble of everyday life
into your own light.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
(Matthew 5:8)

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Moon photographs are by Rose Hoover, rc

 

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