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MEDITATION
from issue no. 10 - 2007

«Faith also pleads»


So says Saint Augustine – «... et fides orat» – in a passage of the Enchiridion de fide, spe et caritate (2, 7). We print one of the meditations given by Don Giacomo Tantardini during the spiritual exercises held in November 2006, for the priests of the suburbicarian diocese of Porto-Santa Rufina (Rome)


by Don Giacomo Tantardini


The curing of the woman afflicted with hemorrhages, Catacombs of Saints Peter and Marcellinus in Rome

The curing of the woman afflicted with hemorrhages, Catacombs of Saints Peter and Marcellinus in Rome

This afternoon I would like to speak about prayer. After the recital of the Daytime Prayer, it solaced me that His Excellency intoned the Ave Maria that we sang well together, because what I want to say today can be led back to the phrase «pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen». To that invocation to Our Lady, to that invocation «pray for us» at bottom all our participation, the participation of our freedom in the mystery of grace goes back. «Pray for us». Prayer is our participation in the mystery of the election of God.
Even yet before the premise, forgive this short remark. I am very fond of this small book Who prays is saved. This booklet was put together in the ’eighties, because many young people who encountered Christianity and were coming, in the ’seventies-’eighties, chiefly from extra-parliamentary experiences on the Left, after having begun to make acquaintance with the Christian life were asking how to make confession, because after their first communion many of them had not done it again. Many in fact had not received the sacrament of Confirmation, as still today happens. So, in Rome we made this small book simply to help people who had no knowledge of Christian doctrine, not even of the Ten Commandments, to make a good confession. That is how this booklet came into being. It brings together the simplest prayers, some fundamental truths of the Christian life, the Ten Commandments, the Sins against the Holy Spirit, the Sins that cry out to Heaven for vengeance and how to make a good confession. We used the Catechism of Saint Pius X not out of a dialectical or nostalgic choice, but because some answers in the Catechism of Saint Pius X seemed to us a simpler help for those who had had no contact with the Christian practices. So this booklet was born then. Then it grew, we added some prayers: the prayers of mass, the Rosary, the litanies... In January-February 2005, 30Days decided to produce a new edition, and it came spontaneously to me to wish to ask Cardinal Ratzinger to provide the preface. It was like subjecting to the authority of the Church (Cardinal Ratzinger was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) the small book in which I had collected the catechism I had learned as a child. We sent the booklet to the cardinal. Since, after fifteen days, no answer had still come, one of the 30Days journalists called his secretary, who reassured him by saying: «The cardinal is preparing the introduction, indeed he keeps the booklet Who prays is saved on his desk at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith». Thus, on 18 February 2005, Cardinal Ratzinger sent a simple and beautiful introduction. It begins like this: «Since mankind has existed, people have prayed». Because prayer, that is the plea, is the very structure of the heart of man. «Always and everywhere people have been aware that they are not alone in the world, that there is somebody who listens to them. They have always been aware that they need Another who is greater and that they must reach out to Him for life to be what it must be. But the face of God has always been veiled...». Since mankind has existed, people have prayed... but the face of this Another who is greater has always been veiled.
I take my premise from these two observations of Cardinal Ratzinger. First observation: the heart of man is created as plea and, even after sin, the image of God remains1. Man, even after sin, is capax Dei. Even after original sin, the heart of man, the very fabric of the human being, is plea. Saint Augustine says that every creature is created by Wisdom, but the rational creature (angels and man) is created by Wisdom in such a way that his destiny is Wisdom itself2. Man is not only created by the Word but he is created for the eternal Word. He is created not only by God, but ad Deum, ad Te. So is the heart of man. Even Saint Augustine, who stresses with great force, against the Pelagian heresy, original sin, the wound of original sin, says that there is no sin (not only original, but no sin that man may commit) that destroys this limen naturae/this threshold of nature3, this opening to the Mystery. The image of God, wounded, remains as opening to the Mystery. Otherwise, the poor sinner could not meet the Lord when He gratuitously comes to him. If the heart did not remain open as possibility of encounter, He could not meet it. That is the first observation. The second observation (because it would not be realistic and therefore it would not be true if only this were said): this plea, this heart, is wounded. This plea, this heart, has become dimmed. The face of the Mystery is veiled. There is a prayer in the ancient Ambrosian liturgy that appeals to me to a lot, because it describes this natural plea of man in his historical condition: «... oratio captiva peccatis/... the plea captive of sin/quae inimico impediente fuscatur/that by the enemy [by the devil] is hampered and dimmed...»4. The plea of the heart enslaved by the devil is hampered and dimmed. This is the condition of the heart of man. Augustine (I quoted it this morning) says it in an image one cannot forget: «Fugitivus cordis sui/ man is in flight from, is far from his heart»5. This morning we also read Augustine’s commentary on the miracle of the two blind men. If the Lord had not passed, the blind men would not have cried out. «Clausi sunt oculi cordis: / the eyes of the heart are closed: / transit Iesus/Jesus passes/ut clamemus/so that we may plead»6.
I want to read to you, for my solace and yours, the passage from the Creed of the people of God of Pope Paul VI on original sin. If one does not take account of original sin one becomes first idealist, then cynic. If one does not take account of the concrete condition, consequence of original sin, there is no realistic look, no look of faith, on our condition, the condition of man, the condition of the world. The passage on original sin, together with the passage on the real presence of the Lord in the Eucharist, is the most ample passage in the Creed of the people of God, because they were the two truths of faith most questioned then, but not only then. «We believe that all have sinned in Adam: which means that the original offense committed by him caused human nature, common to all men, to fall to a state in which it bears the consequence of that offense, and which is not the state in which it was at first in our first parents – established as they were in holiness and justice, and in which man neither knew evil nor death. It is human nature so fallen, stripped of the grace that clothed it, injured in its own natural powers [wounded therefore in its intelligence and its freedom] and subjected to the dominion of death, that is transmitted to all men; and it is in this sense that every man is born in sin. We therefore hold, with the Council of Trent, that original sin is transmitted with human nature, not by imitation, but by propagation, and that it is thus proper to every one. We believe that our Lord Jesus Christ by the sacrifice of the Cross redeemed us from original sin and all the personal sins committed by each one of us, so that, in accordance with the word of the Apostle, “there where sin abounded, grace did more abound”».
What has been said so far was intended as a grand premise. And that is that the plea, prayer, is the heart of man, but this heart, this plea is dimmed, this heart, this plea is hampered, this heart, this plea is captive. And so in fact man resigns himself and in the long run no longer pleads. He resigns himself to what little or much he manages to possess. This is the condition of man.
If this is the condition of the heart, to speak of prayer (not, as it were, abstractly) one needs to see how Jesus came to meet this condition of man enslaved to sins («you are slave no more, but son», Gal 4, 7), how Jesus came to meet this heart that awaits Him, but that is prevented from pleading. This heart that as creature awaits Him, that as creature awaits the encounter with Him. But this awaiting of the heart is hampered, this awaiting of the heart is dimmed. So that the prayer in the ancient Ambrosian liturgy finishes by asking: «... vultus tui candore purgetur/may [the plea] be purified by the splendor of your countenance». In what way does the countenance of God shine upon us (cf. 2Cor 4, 6), so that the plea may rise from the heart? How does Jesus come to meet our poor heart?

A person praying, Catacombs of Priscilla, Rome

A person praying, Catacombs of Priscilla, Rome

The first remark I would like to make is that this encounter has its source in the mystery of the election of God. Hence this encounter is not in itself reward for the pleading of man. This encounter is pure grace. It is the mystery of the grace of the election. Because Zaccheus maybe had good expectations, certainly a curiosity (cf. Luke 19, 1-10), but when Matthew was called by Jesus he was not awaiting anything. The publican Matthew was not awaiting anything (cf. Mt 9, 9). In Caravaggio’s painting, in San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome, this absolute gratuitousness, this absolutely free election is wonderfully highlighted. This is the first remark. There is a reason for the encounter that lies in the mystery of God, that lies in the mystery of the election of God.
Second remark: this encounter is becoming aware of a presence. It is, to use the Latin expression, confessio/acknowledgment. And this acknowledgement, at its core, is already plea. The acknowledgment of the faith is already, in its heart, a plea. Prayer begins already in the very acknowledgment of faith. The expression that in the Latin liturgy in all masses we always said before the Sanctus: «... supplici confessione/... with pleading acknowledgment», indicates the proprium of the act of faith. The acknowledgment of the faith is always, in its heart, an acknowledgment /confessio/that pleads/supplex. When the child says «mother» it does not demonstrate the existence of the mother. It recognizes her presence, asking to be loved, asking that the mother be close to it. This is the proprium of the acknowledgment of the faith. The acknowledgment of the faith is always supplex confessio. Confessio: an acknowledgment of the intelligence. Augustine says it in a definitive way: «Fides si non cogitetur nulla est/If faith is not thought [intelligence that acknowledges] it is nothing»7. Faith is the intelligence that acknowledges and adheres. And the acknowledgment of intelligence, precisely in that it is acknowledgment of a Presence that attracts, is, at its core, acknowledgment that pleads. It moves me to remember the first encounter of Jesus with John and Andrew, the two disciples of John the Baptist who follow Jesus after the Baptist has pointed to Him as the Lamb of God. Jesus turns and asks them: «What do you seek?» (John 1, 38), and they do not answer, or better, they answer by asking: «Master, where do you live?» (John 1, 38). What they were seeking was right in front of their eyes. They don’t answer with a definition, they answer with a question: «Master, where do you stay?», that also means: «Where, how can we stay with you?». What they awaited they had right in front of their eyes and hence, by acknowledging it, they asked to stay with Him. The acknowledgment of the faith is already prayer, the faith is already plea. As Augustine says: «... et fides orat/ faith also pleads»8. The Creed is a prayer. How beautiful it is that we recite it in the Holy Mass! The faith is an acknowledgment of the intelligence aroused by grace, aroused by His attraction, aroused by His presence, by Him who passes near, by His gesture. It is an act of the intelligence that recognizes and of the freedom that adheres. In defining that «the faith is a supernatural virtue impossible without the enlightenment and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit» the Ecumenical Vatican Council I adds a very fine expression: «Qui dat omnibus suavitatem in consentiendo et credendo veritati/the Holy Spirit gives to all sweetness in recognizing and adhering to the truth»9. How beautiful the word suavitas! One does not acknowledge neither does one adhere to a presence if not because it is sweet, attractive to acknowledge it and adhere to it. So that it might be acknowledged the Truth became human presence, the Word became man (cf. John 1, 14). It is not a theorem to be demonstrated. The thing I wanted to point out is that the heart of the acknowledgment of faith is already prayer.
A third remark. After the encounter, when he went to the house of Zaccheus, Jesus said to him: «“Today salvation has entered this house”» (Luke 19, 9). The encounter with Jesus truly saves man. The acknowledgment of Jesus is the beginning of salvation. Baptism truly bestows salvation on us. «Already now we are sons of God» (1John 3, 2). So John tells us in his first epistle. But how already now are we sons of God? How already now are we saved? How already now are we happy? The reverberation of salvation (see Zaccheus, Luke 19, 6), the second fruit of the Holy Spirit (cf. Gal 5, 22) is joy. Salvation has this human reverberation that is joy. Well, how are we already now joyful? The apostle Paul and the whole of Tradition says that we are already now saved, we are joyful «in spe/in hope» (Rm 8, 24). Cardinal Ratzinger, in an interview also published by 30Days10, firmly stressed how hope is a permanent dimension of the Christian life. Obviously our awaiting is not like the awaiting of the Old Testament. In fact the Lord has come and by grace we have met Him. But hope remains in the Christian life because we also, precisely because of the suavitas/the sweetness of the friendship with Him, await Him («awaiting your coming») and because the encounter with Him, faith, salvation, is not our possession. Our salvation is not our possession. In every moment it is a gift.
And so I would like to read you the old canons on grace because they are of a simple and luminous clarity. First of all two canons from the Council of Carthage in 418 that, approved by Pope Zosimus after some hesitation, is, let’s say, the dogmatic document on grace to which all the Councils, in particular the Council of Trent, have referred. Followed by a phrase from the Indiculus. The Indiculus is a small catechism in which, after the quarrel with Pelagius, the Church of Rome summed up the doctrine of the faith on grace. I read these documents from Tradition because they make clear that salvation is real, but is not our possession. It is real and at the same time, to use an expression very dear to Péguy, precarious11. Thus the relation of the Christian with salvation is always a relation of pleading, it is always a relation of prayer, it is not a relation of possession.
The third canon of the Council of Carthage says: «It has likewise been decided by the bishops that whoever says that the grace of God, whereby man is justified through our Lord Jesus Christ, has power only for the remission of sins which have already been committed, but not also for help, that they be not committed any more in the future, let him be anathema»12. Grace is necessary not only for the forgiveness of sins committed, but as help not to commit any in future. Because salvation, grace, is not our possession. Salvation, grace, is precarious. The astonishment of John and Andrew that day couldn’t be more certain: «It was about four in the afternoon» (John 1, 39). It couldn’t be more certain, and yet it was not their possession. That plea of theirs couldn’t be more certain, and yet it was not their possession. The certainty of the Christian, according to an image of Don Giussani that seems to me definitive in its simplicity, is the abandonment of the child. When the child abandons itself (as says Psalm 130 read in yesterday’s mass) it sleeps most certain in the arms of its mother. That certainty is not one of its possessions. Christian certainty is that kind of abandonment, it is the abandonment of the child.
Canon five of the Council of Carthage: «Thus it has pleased the bishops to establish that whoever says that the grace of the justification is given us for this reason, so that by means of grace we may more easily accomplish what we are ordered to do through free will, just as if , even if grace were not given, we could nevertheless fulfill, though not indeed easily, the commandments of God, be anathema»13. If anyone says that even without grace we can obey, maybe not easily, maybe with difficulty, the commandments of God, let him be excommunicated. Then, the concluding observation is splendid: «The Lord, in fact, referring precisely to the fruit of the commandments [that is to putting into practice what the Ten Commandments indicate], did not say: «Without me you can do so with more difficulty», but said: «Without me you can do nothing (John 15, 5)»14. This expression is splendid. Jesus did not say: «Without me you can do so with more difficulty». No, He said: «Without me you can do nothing». This evangelical simplicity is a comfort, and is liberatory. Liberatory for us and our faithful.
Chapter three of the Indiculus. Here Pope Innocent (401-417) is quoted. Pope Innocent, the predecessor of Pope Zosimus, had accepted with immediacy and cordiality the first condemnations of the Pelagian heresy by the African Councils. The Indiculus says: «No one, even after having been restored by the grace of baptism, is capable of overcoming the snares of the devil and subduing the lust of the flesh except through the daily help of God»15. The Council of Trent was also to declare that with grace it is possible to observe the commandments of God and that it is a reckless affirmation and one condemned by all the Fathers that with grace it is not possible to observe the commandments16. But it was to add that, even if one is in the grace of God, he does not remain in grace without the special help of grace17. In order to remain in grace the special help of grace is necessary. The Indiculus continues: «The teaching of the pontiff himself [Innocent] confirms it: “In fact God, although He has redeemed man from the past sins, knowing however that he could still sin, reserved many ways whereby to be able to raise him up again – even when fallen into sin – by granting him daily helps [daily graces]. If we do not lean forcefully and confidently on these helps, we will in no way be able to vanquish human errors. It is in fact unavoidable that as we vanquish with His help [as we have vanquished with His help in Baptism, as we vanquish with His help in the Sacrament of Confession] so on the other hand, without the renewal of His help, we are vanquished»18. As we have vanquished with His help, so «eo iterum non adiuvante /if He does not help us again /vincamur/we are vanquished». I have read these ancient dogmas so as to say that prayer, pleading, is the way of life of Christians. It is the way of life of those who through grace have encountered salvation. Of those who have been saved in hope. Of those who have found gratuitous answer to their heart’s expectation in friendship with Jesus. The way of living this friendship, the way of living this grace, the way of living this initial happiness is prayer.
The Virgin and child and the prophet Balaam, Catacombs of Priscilla, Rome

The Virgin and child and the prophet Balaam, Catacombs of Priscilla, Rome

So I would like to point to the way Saint Thomas Aquinas speaks about hope, because Saint Thomas goes so far as to make hope coincide with prayer. In the mid ’eighties I participated, in Collevalenza, in the spiritual exercises preached by Cardinal Ratzinger. There is something from those exercises that I have never forgotten: when, in the meditation on hope, Ratzinger quoted Saint Thomas saying: «Prayer is the interpretation of hope/ Petitio est interpretativa spei»19. Prayer is the voice of hope, is the expression of hope, is the modality whereby hope it is expressed. Being saved in hope means praying. Being happy in hope means pleading. Pleading that that astonishment, that real and precarious beginning of happiness, be renewed. We cannot possess it. If the Lord does not renew it, one does not remain in His grace (cf. John 15, 5).
Saint Thomas, in the Compendium theologiae20, an unfinished work that ends just at the beginning of the second part, the one devoted to hope, makes the following arguments to assert that hope coincides with prayer – so true is it that to let us live in hope Jesus gave us the prayer of the Our Father.
First: «Spes desiderium praesupponit/ hope presupposes desire»21. How beautiful! The premise of hope is to be attracted by what one hopes. If what is hoped in does not attract us, we cannot hope. The premise of hope is the attraction of grace, the Attraction Jesus. The fact that it attracts us means that one also has initial experience of it. This, according to me, is fundamental. To desire eternal life, to desire Paradise, one must already have some initial experience of it. One cannot desire something of which one has not had initial experience of its attraction. The conclusion of Saint Augustine’s discourse on prayer that we read in the breviary some weeks ago puts it in the simplest terms: «The Spirit of God therefore moves the saints to pray with inexpressible sobs, inspiring in them the desire [see that desire is born of the attraction of grace] for something very great [the happiness of Paradise], but still unknown, that we await through hope. [...] In truth if it were altogether unknown it would not be the object of desire, and if on the other hand it were seen, as reality already possessed, it would not be desired and pleaded for with sobs»22. If this happiness, if this eternal life were altogether unknown one could not even desire it and if it were our possession it would not be pleaded for. «Spes desiderium praesupponit». The first presupposition is that what we hope be desired, that happiness for ever be desired. To desire it it needs to attract us. The desire is not born out of us. The desire is from our heart, but it is an attraction that arouses it. An attraction of which we have initial experience.
Second: it is necessary that what one desires «is recognized as possible to achieve/possibile esse aestimetur ad consequendum»23. This, too, is beautiful! Possible, because if the happiness desired were not recognized as possible, it would be an illusion, a dream, it would not be hope. So, a happiness recognized as possible. How fine is that «aestimetur», i.e. «rationally recognized» as possible. Augustine writes in the Confessions: «Merito mihi spes valida in illo est/Rightly my hope is firm in Him»24.
Third: what one hopes for «sit aliquid arduum/be something arduous»25. Arduous translates as difficult. But according to me it’s simpler to say it’s a reality that we can’t construct, that we can’t possess. Arduous means that we can’t pre-tend, that we can’t com-prehend. We cannot reach and we cannot grasp. «Si comprehendis non est Deus/if you understand it is not God»26. Augustine says this in even more beautiful fashion. «Si comprehendere potuisti/if you have been able to grasp/aliud pro Deo comprehendisti/you have grasped something other for God»27. Saint Augustine spoke of alienation before Marx and Nietzsche. If you understand what you call God, it’s other than God, that is you are alienated. God cannot either be presumed nor comprehended. In the Epistle to the Philippians, that we read in Holy Mass, Paul writes that the Son of God «did not count equality with God something to be grasped» (Phil 2, 6). He did not consider his equality with God something to be grasped, he did not consider it a robbery [his own conquest, that is] says the Latin text, his equality with God. It is a perennial gift from the Father in the enjoyment of the Holy Spirit. Thus hope presupposes a reality that is desired, that is possible, but that we cannot presume and cannot comprehend. In this sense it is arduous.
At this point two roads open: the first is that of the man who busies himself to obtain this desired, possible, arduous good, and the second is that of the man who pleads for it and this is the way whereby the virtue of hope expresses itself. Thus Thomas concludes in a stupendous phrase: «Sic igitur ea quae Dominus/ In this way then those things that the Lord/in sua oratione petenda esse docuit/in His prayer [the Our Father] has taught must be asked/ostenduntur homini esseconsideranda possibilia/show themselves such as to be considered possible to man / et tamen ardua/and yet so arduous/ut ad ea non humana virtute sed divino auxilio perveniatur/ that one reaches them not through human ability, but by the grace of God»28. This is all that I wanted to say. That is that prayer belongs to the heart of the Christian faith, that prayer belongs to the heart of the Christian life. To the heart of the faith, because the acknowledgment of the faith is already plea to that presence: supplex confessio. So that in the faith the unity of the intelligence and the heart is affirmed. Prayer belongs to the heart of the Christian life because the salvation that the faith bestows is real and precarious at the same time. «Since in hope we have been saved» (Rm 8, 24). The beginning of happiness is real, so true is it that if one did not have initial experience one could not even desire it. It is real, but it is not our possession. Augustine, in a passage that we read in the breviary on the last day of the liturgical year, before the beginning of Advent, says: «Quotidie petitores, quotidie debitores/Every day we must plead, every day we are poor sinners»29. Every day we must say the Our Father. Every day petitores/people who plead. Every day debitores/people who ask forgiveness.

The Adoration of the Magi, Catacombs of Priscilla, Rome

The Adoration of the Magi, Catacombs of Priscilla, Rome

Now just brief remarks to comment on the way the Compendium of the Catechism defines prayer30.
First remark. The Compendium defines prayer by the two traditional definitions: «Elevatio mentis in Deum/Raising of the mind to God» that is «petitio decentium a Deo/plea to God for goods fitting to His will»31. And it adds a very fine thing. «It is always gift of God»32. This phrase of the Compendium sums up what I have been trying to say. Prayer is always gift of God. The prayer of the sons (cf. Gal 4, 6) always arises from His approach, from His coming forward, from His passage. «Transit Iesus ut clamemus»33. «It is always gift of God that comes to meet man». So says the Compendium. This short answer of the catechism uses the word encounter. Prayer is always gift of God who comes forward. If He does not come forward, the heart does not plead. «Clausi sunt oculi cordis»34. The heart pursues its illusions. Because the heart, that is inwardness, is sick, inwardness is blind, inwardness is deaf, inwardness is dead35.
Second remark. Prayer is thus elevatio mentis in Deum. To understand what this «raising the mind to God» means let me point to a passage of Saint Augustine’s in the De civitate Dei36. Augustine quotes the expression sursum corda/ lift up [our] hearts. So then, as now, the Eucharistic prayer began. Augustine writes: «Bonum est sursum habere cor,/It is a good thing to have one’s heart lifted up,/non tamen ad se ipsum/not however turned to oneself [how important is this! Prayer is not introspection. It is a good thing to have one’s heart high, but not turned to oneself], /quod est superbiae/which belongs to pride,/sed ad Dominum/but turned to the Lord,/quod est oboedientiae/which belongs to obedience/[and here comes the finest observation] quae nisi humilium non potest esse/[obedience] which cannot be if not of the humble/ Est igitur aliquid humilitatis/There is in fact something of humility/miro modo quod sursum faciat cor/that in wonderful fashion raises the heart up [elevatio mentis in Deum] / et est aliquid elationis / and there is something of pride/quod deorsum faciat cor./that brings down the heart./Hoc quidem quasi contrarium videtur,/Thus it seems almost the contrary [of what we also instinctively think]: / ut elatio sit deorsum/the attempt to rise is down/et humilitas sursum/and humility up». In this passage Augustine says simply what Jesus has said: «Who exalts himself shall be humbled and who humbles himself shall be exalted» (Luke 14, 11). How often we too confuse the elevatio mentis in Deum (which is the look – or more simply the tears – of the child who pleads to be picked up) with the elatio (which is man’s attempt to reach God by himself). It is a wonderful fact («miro modo») that it is humility which raises one to God, because it is God that raises. As with the publican, who «did not dare raise even his eyes to heaven» (Luke 18, 13).
Third remark. The definition of prayer «petitio decentium a Deo/plea to God for good things» suggests that prayer is linked to the good life. Prayer is linked to obedience to the commandments. We are poor sinners, but we cannot pray in the compromise with sin. Two contrary things cannot be desired at the same time. An instant after having yielded to temptation, one may through grace plead. But the heart «is a liar» (1John 2, 4), if at one and the same time «it says» (1John 2, 4) it desires two contrary things.
Fourth remark. The two words elevatio and petitio with which the Compendium defines prayer suggest that it is «always and at the same time» (as Pope Benedict said in Cologne last year37) a looking and a pleading, an astonishment and an awaiting, «a sweetness and a desire»38, an initial rejoicing in the sob39. Precisely out of the astonishment at the encounter, John and Andrew pleaded (cf. John 1, 38). And being always gift of God who comes forward, prayer is possible, even in the sob, always for a final astonishment.
Baptism, Catacombs of Saint Callistus, Rome

Baptism, Catacombs of Saint Callistus, Rome

So one goes ahead «proficiens/growing», says Saint Augustine speaking of Peter: «Non praeveniendo sicut Petrus praesumens/not wanting to pre-cede [not wanting to go beyond] like Peter when he presumed/sed sequendo et orando/but following and pleading [astonishment and plea] sicut Petrus proficiens/like Peter when he walked growing»40. In this fashion one becomes good. As Pope Benedict said at the meeting with the First Communion children on 15 October 2005: «Being with Jesus life becomes good and gets on well».
Fifth remark. To learn to pray one must pray. Being always gift of God Who comes forward, we are simply asked to repeat. To re-peat that is to ask again. To repeat the simplest formulas of prayer. It is the Lord Who comes forward. «To the humble ones He gives grace» (Pr 3, 34; 1Pt 5, 5).
It is not us who, with words invented by us, reach the Lord. Let us take the Holy Rosary as an example. Those words grow with the growth of the experience of the faith. As with children. At the beginning the words may be only the sound of the voice. In repeating those words, the reality that they indicate show itself gratuitously in its beloved beauty: «Beloved beauty». Read, possibly in front of the Eucharist, chapter 11, verses 1-13, and chapter 18, verses 1-14, of the Gospel of Luke.
I conclude with a phrase of Saint Augustine from the De civitate Dei: «The supreme and all embracing activity of the Church here on earth, in this mortal condition, is to set hope in praying»41.
This expression of Augustine’s is splendid! «Supreme and all embracing activity» suggests that prayer is a dimension of every act. «To set hope in pleading» suggests, for example, that when we celebrate the Holy Mass, hope is in the prayer of Jesus, not in us.


Notes
1 Cf. Augustine, De Trinitate XIV, 8, 11.
2 Cf. Augustine, De vera religione 44, 82.
3 Cf. Augustine, De civitate Dei XIX, 12, 2.
4 Antico Breviario Ambrosiano, Sabbato ad Vesperas, oratio secunda.
5 Augustine, Enarrationes in psalmos 57, 1.
6 Augustine, Sermones 88, 10, 9.
7 Augustine, De praedestinatione sanctorum 2, 5.
8 Augustine, Enchiridion de fide, spe et charitate 2, 7.
9 Vatican I Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius, chap. III, De fide (Denzinger 3010).
10 Cf. N.C. Hvidt, Christianity always carries within it a structure of hope, 30Days, 1, January 1999, pp. 72-83
11 Cf. Charles Péguy, Note conjointe sur M. Descartes et la philosophie cartésienne, in Oeuvres en prose complètes, Gallimard, Paris 1992, pp. 1449 -1450.
12 Cf. Denzinger 225.
13 Denzinger 227.
14 Ibid.
15 Denzinger 241.
16 Council of Trent, decree De iustificatione, chap. XI, De observatione mandatorum, deque illius necessitate et possibilitate (Denzinger 1536 -1539).
17 Council of Trent, decree De iustificatione, Canones de iustificatione, can. 22 (Denzinger 1572).
18 Denzinger 241.
19 Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae II-II q. 17 a. 4; cf. J. Ratzinger, Guardare Cristo. Esercizi di fede, speranza e carità, Jaca Book, Milano 1989, p. 54.
20 Thomas Aquinas, Compendium theologiae II, 7.
21 Ibid.
22 Liturgy of the Hours, Friday of the XXIX week of Ordinary Time, Office of lessons, second lesson, from the Letter to Proba of Saint Augustine, bishop (Epistolae 130, 15, 28).
23 Thomas Aquinas, Compendium theologiae II, 7.
24 Augustine, Confessiones X, 43, 69.
25 Thomas Aquinas, Compendium theologiae II, 7.
26 Augustine, Sermones 117, 3, 5.
27 Augustine, Sermones 52, 6, 16.
28 Thomas Aquinas, Compendium theologiae II, 7.
29 Liturgy of the Hours, Saturday of the XXXIV week of Ordinary Time, Office of lessons, second lesson, from the Discourses of Saint Augustine, bishop (Sermones 256, 1).
30 Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 534.
31 Ibid.
32 Ibid.
33 Augustine, Sermones 88, 10, 9.
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