Monday, October 18, 2010

The perfect prayer is holy Mass

The perfect prayer is holy Mass
Sunday Readings for Oct. 17, 2010 (29C)
By Father Cusick

Sunday Mass Readings
Podcast of Readings Video Reflections
Lecturas y Comentarios
Sunday Readings Bible Study
Prayer of the Hours
Burning Question: What does "pray without ceasing" mean to you?

For bodily weariness there is rest and upon arising from sleep one is able to rejoin the human race with renewed vigor. One may even go apart from work and home for an extended period. But in the task of prayer there can be no rest, for Christ commands us "Pray always". Prayer is the vigilance of one in battle, defending the stronghold of the soul against temptation and sin.

In the Book of Exodus Israel is under attack; Moses, his hands aloft, is the figure of intercession and prayer on behalf of the people in the life and death struggle against Amalek. Only as long as he is able to hold his hands thus will the chosen people gain the victory over their enemies. That he may continue to pray and not grow weary he is seated upon a stone and his hands are supported with the help of Aaron and Hur. Aided thus he is steadfast and the chosen people are victorious.

"The prayer of Moses responds to the living God's initiative for the salvation of his people. It foreshadows the prayer of intercession of the unique mediator, Christ Jesus." (CCC 2593)

Moses’ prayer in the battle against Amalek is a sign only of the greatest warrior and the most awful struggle. Jesus Christ upon His cross holds his hands aloft with the help of the nails; His feet are supported not by a stone but by a piercing nail. His hands are held in place in the perfect prayer for the sake of victory over the most terrible enemy of death which entered the world through sin. Until the last drop of His blood is shed and until His last breath His hands are held thus. There is no rest; the battle is total. All must be given to defeat the enemy of all.

The holy Mass is the experience here and now of this most glorious battle of God over the most fearsome enemy of death. But in order that His victory may be in us and that we may find life unending in Him we must pray always this prayer of victory. We must not lose the heart of sacrifice so that our sins may not tear us from His grasp.

A superficial or trite celebration of the holy rites can mislead and deceive the faithful, lulling us into a lax and casual understanding. The liturgy can become a mere social gathering, an opportunity for friends to say hello or a venue for trotting forth the latest fashions. The crowding of the faithful into the sanctuary, making of it a mere stage, have undermined the truths of the Mass, displacing Christ as the actor who saves sinful man. The role of altar server is for many just another activity for the boys and girls to include on their list of social services in anticipation of applying for high school rather than an opportunity to encourage young men to associate with the work of the priest as an opening to a priestly vocation. These things most assuredly have nothing in common with the death of Christ on the cross, relived in each Mass, and undermine what is most necessary in the life of the praying Church.

We have not been serious as a Church about what we say we believe about the Eucharistic Sacrifice. And we have paid the price. Attendance has fallen as uncatechised Catholics on the margins replace the Mass with sleep, shopping or other more satisfying social events. Young men have dropped out of service on the altar as young women, at such an age much more poised and socially at ease, have taken over their roles. Vestments, sacred vessels, and sanctuaries lack noble beauty. Lectors who have not practiced the reading of the Scriptures prior to Mass leave the people without a proper hearing of the Word. Priests replace prayer with banter and prescribed liturgical gestures are ignored.

The family is the unique school of prayer where the most lasting lessons are learned.

"The Christian family is the first place of education in prayer. Based on the sacrament of
marriage, the family is the 'domestic church' where God's children learn to pray 'as the Church' and to persevere in prayer. For young children in particular, daily family prayer is the first witness of the Church's living memory as awakened patiently by the Holy Spirit."
(CCC 2685)

Family prayer leads to and flows from the perfect prayer of the Church which is every holy Mass.

At every moment, all over the world, the Body of Christ is at prayer. In churches, chapels, convents and monasteries, with soldiers in the field of battle or with the persecuted in hidden places, the hands of the faithful are raised aloft in union with the heart of the suffering and triumphant Lord. Our liturgy of the Mass is the upraising of the Lord’s hands on the Cross unto death, that He may then rise to give us life. We must never grow weary of a correct and dignified offering of the sacred rites. The Lord God has proved we are worth it with the payment of the most precious cost: His own Life Divine.

(See also Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph number 695.)

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