When I start feeling squirrely or dissatisfied, I know it’s because I haven’t prayed enough. Prayer is one of the three pillars of Lent, along with fasting and almsgiving. So it’s extra important that we make time for prayer in this penitential season—to help us look inward at our poverty and outward at God’s abundant mercy.
An ancient homilist said that prayer is the soul’s light. I was so taken with his whole homily on the glories of prayer that I wanted to share it with you. I hope you find in it inspiration to grow ever closer to the Almighty, who is also our Brother, this season.
The highest good is prayer and conversation with God, because it means that we are in God’s company and in union with him. When light enters our bodily eyes our eyesight is sharpened; when a soul is intent on God, God’s inextinguishable light shines into it and makes it bright and clear. I am talking, of course, of prayer that comes from the heart and not from routine: not the prayer that is assigned to particular days or particular moments in time, but the prayer that happens continuously by day and by night.
Indeed the soul should not only turn to God at times of explicit prayer. Whatever we are engaged in, whether it is care for the poor, or some other duty, or some act of generosity, we should remember God and long for God. The love of God will be as salt is to food, making our actions into a perfect dish to set before the Lord of all things. Then it is right that we should receive the fruits of our labors, overflowing onto us through all eternity, if we have been offering them to him throughout our lives.
Prayer is the light of the soul, true knowledge of God, a mediator between God and men. Prayer lifts the soul into the heavens where it hugs God in an indescribable embrace. The soul seeks the milk of God like a baby crying for the breast. It fulfills its own vows and receives in exchange gifts better than anything that can be seen or imagined.
Prayer is a go-between linking us to God. It gives joy to the soul and calms its emotions. I warn you, though: do not imagine that prayer is simply words. Prayer is the desire for God, an indescribable devotion, not given by man but brought about by God’s grace. As St. Paul says: For when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, the Spirit himself intercedes on our behalf in a way that could never be put into words.
If God gives to someone the gift of such prayer, it is a gift of imperishable riches, a heavenly food that satisfies the spirit. Whoever tastes that food catches fire and his soul burns forever with desire for the Lord.
To begin on this path, start by adorning your house with modesty and humility. Make it shine brightly with the light of justice. Decorate it with the gold leaf of good works, with the jewels of faithfulness and greatness of heart. Finally, to make the house perfect, raise a gable above it all, a gable of prayer. Thus you will have prepared a pure and sparkling house for the Lord. Receive the Lord into this royal and splendid dwelling—in other words: receive, by his grace, his image into the temple of your soul.
Homily by Pseudo-Chrysostom
Photo: “Turning to Ash” by Rev. Lawrence Lew, OP.
I am on a Retreat for the 1st Weekend in Lent. What a great way to get away and pray at this special time. Hoping to continue to find more time to stop and pray during this Lenten Season when I return home. I have so much to be thankful for.
I love your note of gratitude. I think that’s where happiness starts! Have a beautiful retreat.
Love “The Soul’sLight” I love to converse with God, but, I wish I could hear what He is telling me. Have a great retreat Rose.
Ha! Yes, it can be strange when it feels just “blank” on the other end. When that happens, I just picture God smiling at me as if to say, “I’ve got you. Don’t worry so much.” Like those people he heals in the Bible whom he tells, basically, to back to their families and live their normal lives. And maybe not hearing from him is a way for us to grow in trust. And sometimes he “speaks” in actions later instead of communicating while we’re in prayer. Thanks for your good wishes.
Rose, you seem to find just the right words at just the right time. Thank you for these ancient, yet timely, words.
Thanks for letting me know it resonated with you, too.
Thank you for sharing. It is so uplifting and gives us beautiful ways to bring our prayers to a higher level and bring us closer to God in our lives.
Isn’t it great to know that no matter how close we let God get to us, we can always get closer? What a wonderful way to spend a lifetime in preparation for heaven!
Rose, What a lovely prayer. Thank you for sharing this with me.
Thanks for letting me know it resonated.
Great stuff. Thanks so much, friend.
Old dead guys rock!
Please take this prayer intention to your retreat.
For clarity of thought re commissioning and next steps with 12 new Stephen Ministers.
I will return the favor when I go on retreat with the lay MC’s end of the month.
May you continue to hear the Holy Spirit so clearly in your work.
I’m at the retreat house now and will bring your intentions to Jesus in a few minutes. What beautiful work you do with the Stephen ministry. And you make it look easy.
And to quote Teresa of Avila: “For prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God.”
I appreciate this short homily on prayer. It was rewarding to ponder. So too, Fr. Lew’s photo reminded me about our mortality, our eventual turning into ashes.
In St. Dominic,
So true about the ashes and mortality. At the same time, the fire is so full of life, like the soul leaving a mortal body. Much to ponder!