Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pro Orantibus

To-day, the feast of the Presentation of Our Lady in the Temple, is kept as Pro Orantibus Day - when we ought remember with all thankfulness before the Lord those who devote themselves to prayer as cloistered contemplatives, and pray for those who ever do pray God. In particular, I think of the Carmelite nuns I know here and elsewhere (in Melbourne, in Bunbury, in Lismore), who live enclosed lives of sacrifice and supplication, filled with a holy joy by the Holy Ghost.

Their sterling example ought move us to recall in Whose Presence we live our short passing lives so thoughtlessly, heading for Who knows what fate! It is right for us to re-orient ourselves to face Christ, our true East, and our End.

St Alfonso declared that "He who prays is saved, he who prays not is lost". If we persevere in prayer by God's gift of grace, we shall not die sundered from Him at the last, and so go to pray and worship Him in fellowship with all His saints evermore. But if we fall away from the habit of serious converse with Almighty God through Christ in the Holy Ghost, then - if unconverted, and not returned to union with the Lord through faith and prayer - we shall indubitably be damned and separated from Him, thrown into the abyss with the reprobate men and devils without any release.

We should earnestly and soberly keep in mind and practice now what we hope shall be our everlasting occupation in heaven, not rush like the Gadarene swine down the slippery slope to perdition.

We cannot turn from Christ: whether we will or nill, we shall meet Him as our dread Judge upon our departure from this world, which ineluctably approaches: soon, soon we shall appear before His great Assize. Will He recognize us as His friends, or His hardhearted foes? Come, ye blessed... or, Depart from me, ye accursed!

(A very necessary part of our prayer and worship now in mortal life is in the Sacrament of Penance, for in confession we first of all confess God's mercy and holiness, before confessing our sins and need of forgiveness; now is the hour to turn to the Lord, else at our judgement He turn from us.)

Contemplatives put eschatological truth in the first place, and therefore give the first place in their lives to divine worship: to Mass, to the Hours of the Divine Office (the Work of God, the Opus Dei), to lectio divina, to contemplation - for prayer is a dialogue, even if wordless, initiated and sustained by Him Who loves us, and so in worship we read the Revelation of God, praise Him with His own words, and thus pay worthy homage.

Nihil opus Dei præponatur, says wise St Benedict: Let nothing be put ahead of the Work of God. All other necessary occupations are pursued only insofar as they subserve this central concern: his Rule even specifies that, should a monk become overly engrossed in his appointed trade or work, the Abbot ought straightway take it from him, lest it be a snare and a distraction from his primary and proper devotion to the Lord! We who live in the world ought likewise order our lives, fulfilling our duties, but making sure God and sacred communication with Him always comes first.

Holy Church proposes this Collect for to-day's feast, that, just as Our Lady was made the habitation of the Holy Ghost ever since her Immaculate Conception in preparation for her becoming Mother of God (and, as the outward sign of this, pious meditation represents her as presented as a child in the Temple to serve the coming Lord ahead of time, giving concrete form to her espousal to Him as a perpetual Virgin, of undivided heart, ever intent upon the Lord's service), so at her all-prevailing intercession - she who is Mediatrix of grace - may we deserve now and forevermore to be presented in the true temple of God in heaven, now in hope, and one day in all reality :

Deus, qui beatam Mariam semper Virginem, Spiritus Sancti, habitaculum, hodierna die in templo præsentari voluisti: præsta, quæsumus; ut, ejus intercessione, in templo gloriæ tuæ præsentari mereamur. Per... in unitate ejusdem Spiritus...

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