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St. Mary Magdalen's
Catholic Church
Willesden Green
London NW10
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Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Holy Week is approaching. This is a profound divine activity within our very midst. The events of the first Holy Week are, because of our celebrations of them here next month, literally, not just symbolically, continuing to be played out in the lives of us who are baptized, Christ’s Mystical body. In order to enable Him to do this it is good to review our listening to God. Here are some words on silent prayer from a spiritual writer.

If silence is employed simply in desiring God, it is enough and we are truly at prayer. We can extend that thought and say that whatever we are doing, if the desire for God is present, we are indeed praying. St Augustine argues that it is only in understanding prayer in this way that we can fulfil St Paul’s command to pray without ceasing. He writes, ‘Your very desire is itself your prayer; if your desire is continued so is your prayer also.’

Could we but grasp this, silent prayer would become very simple; that does not mean that it will not be demanding. You take up your position, you allow thoughts and memories to drop away — which you do by not paying deliberate attention to them — you allow your unwanted bodily tensions to be released, and you simply desire God. It may help to repeat a simple refrain (e.g. some words of Jesus or ‘Lord Jesus, Have mercy upon me a sinner’) over and over again in the silence (or alone if you are alone, for the essence is the silence of the heart before God and not the absence of the voice) and if, after a time, what you are doing appears meaningless, you ask yourself one question only: ‘Do I desire God?’

Perhaps you will tell God that he already knows your desire, or ask him to renew it or strengthen it. If you are simply sitting in the silence and using no words, not even in the heart, the procedure is the same. Whenever your state seems pointless or a waste of time, ask only one question: ‘Do I desire God?’ On the answer to that, everything depends. Even so, if all you believe that you can truly say is that you desire to desire God, that is enough. God takes us from where we are and he will do the rest.This is not to say that every period will be spent in this way; the Holy Spirit is our guide here as at all times.
On another day, or at another stage, the drawing may be simply to rest in God as a child in its mother’s arms and to let God bear us and enfold us in his love. Here is the more passive side of prayer. Prayer is an ongoing process; it might be described as a holding on to God until we move into the knowledge that we are being held.

posted by Sinead Reekie at 3:10 pm