The Mysterious Prayer of Gethsemane – a reflection with Dr. Anthony Lilles

 

From Dr. Anthony Lilles’ blog “Beginning to Pray

There are stories about great saints who struggled to pray in the face of great difficulty.   This can be baffling until we try to enter into the Passion of Christ and consider the movements of His Heart before the merciful love of the Father.  Until we contemplate the prayer of the Word of the Father, this struggle to pray is often deemed to be merely a stage through which we pass.   Yet, in the Garden of Gethsemane (see Luke 22:35ff), the bloody sweat of the Son of God reveals this struggle as a supreme moment of Christian contemplation, a terrifying standard against which the truth of all our other prayers can be discerned.The hymn of praise learned with the Suffering Servant on the Mount of Olives is shrouded in a mystery.  It is against this mystery that therapeutic approaches to prayer should be discerned.  Psychological or physical tantrums are silenced before the authentic cry of heart offered by the Son of Man.  His love for his disciples and devotion to the Father challenges any consumerist attitude toward the things of God.   His sorrow and spiritual poverty helps us feel the appropriate shame we ought to have over any gluttonous expectation for mental relief or euphoric experience.  Against the dark terror Jesus confronts in prayer, spiritual consumerism can only be seen as limiting the freedom that our conversation with the Lord requires.

The Word made flesh baptized every moment of his earthly life in this kind of prayer.   Every heart beat and every breath was so filled with zeal for the Father and those the Father gave Him, divine love ever exploded in His sacred humanity with resounding silence, astonishing signs, heart-aching wonders and words of wisdom which even after two thousand years still give the world pause.  Each verse of the Gospels attempts to show us His self-emptying divinity boldly hurling His prayerful humanity with the invincible force of love to the Cross.In Gethsemane we glimpse how the Son of Man availed Himself to these mysterious promptings of the Father’s love, an unfathomable love that is not comfortable to our limited humanity.   Unaided human reason cannot penetrate the divine passion that compelled Him into the solitude hidden mountains and secret gardens.   His vigil on the Mount of Olives can only be understood as the culmination of the ongoing conversation to which He eagerly made His humanity vulnerable.

If, in this culminating movement of heart, Christ sweat blood, we who have decided to follow in the footsteps of our Crucified Master should not be surprised by moments of great anguish in our own conversation with God.  In the face of this mystery, we must allow the Risen Lord to give us His courage.   What is revealed on the Mount of Olives helps us see why Christian prayer can mature into a beautiful surrender, a movement of love which gives glory to the Father and extends the redemptive work of the Redeemer in the world.   What Christian contemplation sees with the Son of God can involve very difficult struggle, through the strength that comes from the Savior even the terrifying moments of such prayer can resolve themselves in trustful surrender: “Not my will… Yours be done.”

Dr. Anthony Lilles is the author of “Hidden Mountain, Secret Garden”

Available at Amazon.com as an ebook (click here), a paperback edition (click here).  You may also order a paperback edition at createspace.com.

BTP#26 “The Face of Christ: Radiance of Mercy and Sign of Hope” Beginning to Pray Special w/ Dr. Anthony Lilles

Dr. Lilles’ continues his  Day of Recollection offered in April 2013.

In an age of great confusion and rejection of God, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Elisabeth of the Trinity and St. John Paul II find in Christ the reason for our hope.   Starting with St. Therese’s devotion to the Holy Face expressed in living her life as an offering to merciful love, we will see how the pathway she pioneered was followed and further developed in the spiritual missions of St. Elisabeth of the Trinity and St. John Paul II.   In particular, we will contemplate the relationship of mercy and hope that the Face of Christ helps us to see when hope and mercy are most needed so that we too can follow the path of mercy.

Jesus-shroud

Dr. Anthony Lilles STD - Beginning to Pray 10Anthony Lilles, S.T.D. is an associate professor and the academic dean of Saint John’s Seminary in Camarillo as well as the academic advisor for Juan Diego House of Priestly Formation for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. For over twenty years he served the Church in Northern Colorado where he joined and eventually served as dean of the founding faculty of Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver. Through the years, clergy, seminarians, religious and lay faithful have benefited from his lectures and retreat conferences on the Carmelite Doctors of the Church and the writings of St. Elisabeth of the Trinity. After graduating from Franciscan University of Steubenville, he completed licentiate and doctoral studies in spiritual theology at the Angelicum in Rome. In 2012, he published Hidden Mountain, Secret Garden: a theological contemplation of prayer by Discerning Hearts. He is the author of the “Beginning to Pray”

For other episodes in the series visit the Discerning Hearts page for Dr. Anthony Lilles

BTP#25 “The Face of the Bridegroom: Source of Mystical Prayer” Beginning to Pray Special w/ Dr. Anthony Lilles

Dr. Lilles’ continues his  Day of Recollection offered in April 2013.

The renewal of mental prayer in 16th Century Spain is characterized by a rediscovery of the face of Christ in contemplation.   Using passages from her life, we will consider how St. Teresa’s contemplation of the face of Christ developed during her conversion.  We will compare this with the way St. John of the Cross pondered the face of Christ in the Spiritual Canticle.  These saints help us see the mysterious Face of Christ, hidden in suffering and reflected in the secret of our faith, as the threshold and source for mystical prayer.

Dr. Anthony Lilles STD - Beginning to Pray 10Anthony Lilles, S.T.D. is an associate professor and the academic dean of Saint John’s Seminary in Camarillo as well as the academic advisor for Juan Diego House of Priestly Formation for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. For over twenty years he served the Church in Northern Colorado where he joined and eventually served as dean of the founding faculty of Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver. Through the years, clergy, seminarians, religious and lay faithful have benefited from his lectures and retreat conferences on the Carmelite Doctors of the Church and the writings of St. Elisabeth of the Trinity. After graduating from Franciscan University of Steubenville, he completed licentiate and doctoral studies in spiritual theology at the Angelicum in Rome. In 2012, he published Hidden Mountain, Secret Garden: a theological contemplation of prayer by Discerning Hearts. He is the author of the “Beginning to Pray”

For other episodes in the series visit the Discerning Hearts page for Dr. Anthony Lilles

BTP#24 “Gazing on the Face of Christ with the Saints” Beginning to Pray Special w/ Dr. Anthony Lilles

Dr. Lilles continues his  Day of Recollection offered in April 2013.

Here is the continuation of the first presentation which focuses on the Mystical Saints who can help us to gaze on the Face of Christ:

Anthony will introduce the saints who will guide us through our reflections:  St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Elisabeth of the Trinity and St. John Paul II.  He also answers questions about methods of prayers, teaching others to pray, and how can one help restore the sense of the sacred to the mass and Eucharistic adoration.

Anthony Lilles, S.T.D. is an associate professor and the academic dean of Saint John’s Seminary in Camarillo as well as the academic advisor for Juan Diego House of Priestly Formation for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. For over twenty years he served the Church in Northern Colorado where he joined and eventually served as dean of the founding faculty of Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver. Through the years, clergy, seminarians, religious and lay faithful have benefited from his lectures and retreat conferences on the Carmelite Doctors of the Church and the writings of Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity. After graduating from Franciscan University of Steubenville, he completed licentiate and doctoral studies in spiritual theology at the Angelicum in Rome. In 2012, he published Hidden Mountain, Secret Garden: a theological contemplation of prayer by Discerning Hearts.  He is the author of the “Beginning to Pray

For other episodes in the series visit the Discerning Hearts page for Dr. Anthony Lilles

 

BTP#23 “Let Your Face shine on us and we shall be saved” Beginning to Pray Special w/ Dr. Anthony Lilles

Episode 23 Beginning to Pray Special:  “Let Your Face Shine on us and we shall be saved.”

Dr. Lilles’ offered a Day of Recollection in April 2013.  We are blessed to have the presentations he gave that day in audio form.  They are OUTSTANDING!

Here is Presentation 1:

Mental prayer, which is the prayer that searches the face of Christ, is a source of conversion. Beautiful truths about the incarnation and the paschal mystery come together in the face of Risen Lord who gazes on us with love.  In the shadow of this love, we discover the freedom to turn ourselves to the Lord ever more completely.   Our day begins with a meditation on the psalms which point the way to this prayer.  We will introduce the saints who will guide us through our reflections:  St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Elisabeth of the Trinity and St. John Paul II.

Anthony Lilles, S.T.D. is an associate professor and the academic dean of Saint John’s Seminary in Camarillo as well as the academic advisor for Juan Diego House of Priestly Formation for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. For over twenty years he served the Church in Northern Colorado where he joined and eventually served as dean of the founding faculty of Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver. Through the years, clergy, seminarians, religious and lay faithful have benefitted from his lectures and retreat conferences on the Carmelite Doctors of the Church and the writings of Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity. After graduating from Franciscan University of Steubenville, he completed licentiate and doctoral studies in spiritual theology at the Angelicum in Rome. In 2012, he published Hidden Mountain, Secret Garden: a theological contemplation of prayer by Discerning Hearts. Married with two young adult children pursuing their careers and a teenager still at home, he has settled in family in Oxnard, California. He is the author of the “Beginning to Pray”  Catholic blog spot.

For other episodes in the series visit the Discerning Hearts page for Dr. Anthony Lilles

BTP#21 St. Hildegard von Bingen and “The Iron Mountain”: Beginning to Pray w/ Dr. Anthony Lilles

 

From Dr. Lilles’ “Beginning to Pray” blog site:

September 17 is the feast of St. Hiildegard of Bingen. She lived from 1098-1179. A Benedictine Nun, at the age of 42, she was given visions and commanded rise up and cry out what she saw. She obeyed and produced a set of writings known today as Scivias.

Her first vision is of a hidden mountain, the mountain of God’s throne, an iron mountain of immutable justice hidden in divine glory. A purifying Fear of the Lord contemplates this splendor. Not the kind of fear that pulls away to protect itself. Rather the kind of fear that is vigilant and sees the truth. Eyes which gaze with this holy fear can never be satisfied with the merely mediocre. They guard against every form of compromise. The glory they behold demands absolute allegiance, complete surrender, and total humility.

Dr. Anthony Lilles STD - Beginning to Pray 4In this description, is St. Hildegard suggesting a way by which we might enjoy the same vision she has shared in? This is no exercise in esoteric navel gazing. Her vision demands a journey beyond our own self-pre-occupation and into real friendship with God, a friendship protected by the strength of divine justice. She sees the truth in a way that demands an ongoing conversion of life.

She is well-formed in St. Benedict’s conversatio morum. The mountain she sees is not a truth we scrutinize so much as the truth that scrutinizes us: a scrutinizing of all our thoughts and actions in light of the Gospel. The truth she beholds demands repentance from the lack of justice we allow ourselves to slip into. The iron mountain she contemplates renders futile every effort to conform the Gospel to our own ways and invites us to be transformed by its just demands.

Today, where all kinds of cruelty are so easily excused and any form of self-indulgence so readily lifted up to the level of a fundamental human right, we need to rediscover the shadow of the iron mountain from which St. Hildegard cries out to us. Only under the glory of this mountain can we find the peace that the Lord has come to give. Only in the blinding light into which Holy Fear gazes can we find the humility to love one another the way Christ has loved us.

Anthony Lilles, S.T.D. is an associate professor and the academic dean of Saint John’s Seminary in Camarillo as well as the academic advisor for Juan Diego House of Priestly Formation for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. For over twenty years he served the Church in Northern Colorado where he joined and eventually served as dean of the founding faculty of Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver. Through the years, clergy, seminarians, religious and lay faithful have benefited from his lectures and retreat conferences on the Carmelite Doctors of the Church and the writings of St. Elisabeth of the Trinity.  He is the author/editor of the “Beginning to Pray”  catholic blog spot.

For other episodes in the series visit the Discerning Hearts page for Dr. Anthony Lilles

The music that is used comes from 

This the text we use  for our readings comes from:

 

The Gift of the Holy Spirit – A reflection by Dr. Anthony Lilles

Anthony-Lilles

 From Beginning to Pray authored by Dr. Anthony Lilles

Pentecost is a Feast of Love.  It is the feast of the Canticle of Canticles where the Bridegroom comes to kiss his Bride. Today the Church cries out to her Bridegroom for a divine kiss, a kiss from the mouth of God.   It is this kiss entrusted to frail humanity that makes all the difference in the world and in our lives.  It is by this kiss that God discloses the depths of his love, that He surrenders His Holy Spirit to each of us in the most unique and particular way.   It is the kiss God entrusts to humanity from the Cross.

The Holy Spirit is the life of the soul.  He is the great gift that the Risen Lord breaths into the world.   When lovers kiss, it is as if they are trying to breath their spirits into each other.  Each wants the other to completely possess the gift of who they are.   It is by way of a holy kiss that Christ breaths his Holy Spirit into the Church.

The whole Church and each of us as members of this mystical Body, through this same Gift, want to give everything we have to Christ and find in ourselves the power to do so and the inner conviction that we do not want to have it any other way.  This is because with the Gift of the Holy Spirit we realize this is exactly the way God has loved us in Christ Jesus.

Wherever the Spirit blows, the most beautiful affections are ignited in our humanity.  The Spirit of the Father and the Son moves us with a passion so sacred that it raises us up above ourselves.  Such holy desires caused by the Fire of God in us allow us to participate in the very life of God.

The more humble we are, the more the kiss of Christ permeates the deep places of our hearts.  He won the right to enter into these deep places, to breath his Holy Spirit into these depths, by emptying Himself until he became like us.  In solidarity with our humanity, having embraced this most frail work of his creation to his Uncreated Nature in his Divine Person, He allowed himself be completely vulnerable to us – like a lover who attempts to disclose his love to the beloved.  Spurned and rejected from the beginning, He would not give up on the friendship He yearned to share with us.  He offered his kiss to a distrustful humanity by humbling Himself in the face of our pride and overcame our hostility to Him by his death.  When we gaze on Him who died for us, always we see His arms are wide open, ready to embrace us.  He waits to kiss us with the Gift of His Spirit whenever we allow our hearts to be pierced by his love.

Will we surrender to his kiss?  Will we allow ourselves to be caught up in his love?  True, the more we offer ourselves in love, we find ourselves dying to our old way of life. It is the pathway of surrender and trust. We are afraid of this — abandoning our old way of life leads somewhere with which we are not familiar. But the kiss of Christ is so beautiful, so life giving, it is worth this death a thousand times over.  Let Him kiss you with the Kisses of his Mouth!

The Risen Lord Waits for Us to Call on Him – a reflection by Dr. Anthony Lilles

Catholic Spiritual Formation - Catholic Spiritual Direction

The Risen Lord Waits for Us to Call on Him –

a posting which originally appeared on Dr. Lilles’ “Beginning to Pray” website

Jesus, the Risen Lord, is truly present in this moment. In the midst of difficulty or rest, sorrow or joy, He is with us, fully alive, more real than all the rest of reality combined.  He is present with great humility and respect: asking as if He were a starving beggar, seeking as if He were the one who had lost something and knocking as if He had no right to enter.  He is here, in this moment and in every moment, above all space and time, over all circumstance and trial, waiting for us to open the door.The Victor once and for all, He has been raised and set apart to judge the living and the dead, not in the distant future, but now in the present moment. Only those who are pierced to the heart by love can accept the judgment of His justice and truth, and how I long for my own heart to be pierced so that at last I might know that freedom of love that He alone can give.Spiritual freedom flows from His touch and even now He holds out His hands towards us.  Those who believe in Him find forgiveness. Even as we confess our sins and repent of our rash judgments, He silences the voice of condemnation that cries against us.

He has suffered death and passed through hell to restore peace to our troubled consciences because He did not create us for self torment.  He has come Himself because He alone has the power and authority to liberate us from such a hellish burden.  In Him, we discover that the power of misery is not absolute and that evil does not have the last word.  Darkness vanishes before His light.  He reigns unconquered and invites us to join Him.

Who will separate us from His love?  Who can prevent us from living the life that He has come to give?  Worldly powers could not silence Him. Suffering could not diminish Him.  Death could not contain Him.  Every knee is bent before Him and every head is bowed in His presence.  He rules forever at the right hand of the Father.

Against all falsehood, he shines forth forever true. Though winds of false teachings and all kinds of myths seem to hold sway, He is a sure anchor, a safe-harbor in the storm.  In the midst of a changing sea of confusion, He stands as the sure reference point of life and every decision.  In the midst of rancor and contention, whether within our hearts or in our communities, He is the only true source of peace.

The Word of the Father is the Love that is stronger than death.  He is Truth unvanquiahed.  He is the living waters of the deep dug well of salvation. He calls in whispers that thunder in our hearts. He gazes on us with love though we have done nothing to deserve it. He hopes in us and rejoices when we raise our eyes to Him if only for a moment.  The Lord of Life longs for us to share our hearts with Him freely and to share His heart with us completely in that moment which will have no end.

BTP-LR1 The “Last Retreat” Day 1 – Beginning to Pray with Dr. Anthony Lilles

Beginning to Pray: “The Last Retreat – Day 1 “Nescivi.  I no longer knew anything.”Anthony-Lilles

From “Last Retreat Day 1” found in The Complete Works vol 1:

1. “Nescivi.” 1 “I no longer knew anything.” This is what the “bride of the Canticles ” sings after having been brought into the “inner cellar.” 2 It seems to me that this must also be the refrain of a praise of glory on this first day of retreat in which the Master makes her penetrate the depths of the bottomless abyss so that He may teach her to fulfill the work which will be hers for eternity and which she must already perform in time, which is eternity begun and still in progress. 3 “Nescivi”! I no longer know anything, I do not want to know anything except “to

Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity
Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity

know Him, to share in His sufferings, to become like Him in His death.” 4 “Those whom God has foreknown He has also predestined to become confirmed to the image of His divine Son,” 5 the One crucified by love. When I am wholly identified with this divine Exemplar, 6 when I have wholly passed into Him and He into me, then I will fulfill my eternal vocation: the one for which God has “chosen me in Him ” 7 “in principio,” the one I will continue “in aeternum” when, immersed in the bosom of my Trinity, I will be the unceasing praise of His glory, Laudem gloriae ejus.

For other episodes in the series visit the Discerning Hearts page for Dr. Anthony Lilles

This the text we are using to discuss “Heaven in Faith” you can find it here and order from the Carmelite Sisters

 

We would like to offer heartfelt thanks to
Miriam Gutierrez for providing for us “the voice” of Blessed Elizabeth for this series

 

Anthony Lilles, S.T.D. is an associate professor and the academic dean of Saint John’s Seminary in Camarillo as well as the academic advisor for Juan Diego House of Priestly Formation for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. For over twenty years he served the Church in Northern Colorado where he joined and eventually served as dean of the founding faculty of Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver. Through the years, clergy, seminarians, religious and lay faithful have benefitted from his lectures and retreat conferences on the Carmelite Doctors of the Church and the writings of Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity. After graduating from Franciscan University of Steubenville, he completed licentiate and doctoral studies in spiritual theology at the Angelicum in Rome. In 2012, he published Hidden Mountain, Secret Garden: a theological contemplation of prayer by Discerning Hearts. Married with two young adult children pursuing their careers and a teenager still at home, he has settled in family in Oxnard, California. For other episodes in the series visit the Discerning Hearts page for Dr. Anthony LillesAnthony-cover1

BTP-LR2 The “Last Retreat” Day 2 – Beginning to Pray with Dr. Anthony Lilles

Beginning to Pray: “The Last Retreat – Day 2 ” The “fortress of holy recollection”Anthony-Lilles

From “Last Retreat Day 2” found in The Complete Works vol 1:

5. It is the same for the soul that has entered into the “fortress of holy recollection”:  the eye of its soul, opened in the light of faith, discovers its God present, living within it; in turn it remains so present to Him, in beautiful simplicity,  that He guards it with a jealous care. Then disturbances from without and tempests from within may arise; its self-esteem may be wounded: “Nescivi”! God may hide Himself, withdraw His sensible grace: “Nescivi .” Or, as St. Paul writes: “For love of Him I have forfeited everything.”  Then the Master is free, free to flow into the soul, to give Himself “according to His measure.”  Blessed-Elizabeth-of-the-TrAnd the soul thus simplified, unified, becomes the throne of the Unchanging One, since “unity is the throne of the Holy Trinity.”

For other episodes in the series visit the Discerning Hearts page for Dr. Anthony Lilles

This the text we are using to discuss “Heaven in Faith” you can find it here and order from the Carmelite Sisters

 

We would like to offer heartfelt thanks to
Miriam Gutierrez for providing for us “the voice” of Blessed Elizabeth for this series

 

Anthony Lilles, S.T.D. is an associate professor and the academic dean of Saint John’s Seminary in Camarillo as well as the academic advisor for Juan Diego House of Priestly Formation for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. For over twenty years he served the Church in Northern Colorado where he joined and eventually served as dean of the founding faculty of Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver. Through the years, clergy, seminarians, religious and lay faithful have benefitted from his lectures and retreat conferences on the Carmelite Doctors of the Church and the writings of Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity. After graduating from Franciscan University of Steubenville, he completed licentiate and doctoral studies in spiritual theology at the Angelicum in Rome. In 2012, he published Hidden Mountain, Secret Garden: a theological contemplation of prayer by Discerning Hearts. Married with two young adult children pursuing their careers and a teenager still at home, he has settled in family in Oxnard, California. For other episodes in the series visit the Discerning Hearts page for Dr. Anthony LillesAnthony-cover1