Pope Benedict on Prayer – The Liturgy: “participation in Christ’s own prayer addressed to the Father in the Holy Spirit”

Below a Vatican Radio translation of the Holy Father’s catechesis from original text in Italian.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In the last catechesis I began speaking about one of the privileged sources of Christian prayer: the sacred liturgy, which – as the Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms – is “participation in Christ’s own prayer addressed to the Father in the Holy Spirit” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1073). In the liturgy, all Christian prayer finds its source and goal.”(n. 1073). Today I would like us to ask ourselves: in my life, do I reserve enough space for prayer and, above all, what place does liturgical prayer have in my relationship with God, especially the Mass, as participation in the common prayer of the Body of Christ which is the Church ?

In answering this question we must first remember that prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father who is good beyond measure, with his Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit (cf. ibid., 2565). Therefore, the life of prayer lies in habitually being in the presence of God and being conscious of it, in living our relationship with God just as we live the usual relationships of our lives, those with close family members, and with real friends; indeed our relationship with the Lord gives light to all of our other relationships. This communion of life with God, One and Triune, is possible because, through Baptism we have been inserted into Christ, we have begun to be one with Him (cf. Rom 6:5).

In fact, only in Christ we can talk to God the Father as children, otherwise it is not possible, but in communion with the Son, we too can say, as he said “Abba”, because only in communion with Christ, can we know God as our true Father (cf. Mt 11:27). For this Christian prayer lies in constantly looking, in an ever new way, at Christ, talking with Him, being in silence with Him, listening to Him, acting and suffering with Him. The Christian rediscovers his true identity in Christ, “the firstborn of every creature », in whom all things were created (cf. Col 1:15 ff). By identifying with Him, being one with Him, I discover my personal identity, that of the true child who sees God as a Father full of love.
But do not forget: we discover Christ, we know him as a living Person, in the Church. It is “his Body.” This embodiment can be understood from the biblical words on man and woman: the two shall become one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24, Ephesians 5.30 ff. 1 Cor 6.16 s). The unbreakable bond between Christ and the Church, through the unifying power of love, does not negate the ‘you’ or ‘I’, but raises them to their most profound unity. Finding one’s true identity in Christ means achieving communion with him, that does not cancel me out, but raises me to the highest dignity, that of a child of God in Christ, “the love-story between God and man consists in the very fact that this communion of will increases in a communion of thought and sentiment, and thus our will and God’s will increasingly coincide “(Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, 17). To pray means to rising towards the heights of God through a necessary gradual transformation of our being.
Thus, participating in the liturgy, we make ours the language of the Mother Church, we learn to speak it and for it. Of course, as I have already said, this takes place in a gradual manner, little by little. I have to progressively immerge myself in the words of the Church, with my prayer, my life, my suffering, my joy, my thoughts. It is a journey that transforms us.

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Pope Benedict on Prayer – The Liturgy: “Where God Himself teaches us to pray”

Liturgy(Vatican Radio) – The Liturgy is the school of prayer where God Himself teaches us to pray. But in order to celebrate the Liturgy well, to really experience the re-enactment of Christ’s Paschal Mystery we must make our hearts God’s Altar and understand that the Liturgy is the action of God and of man, as the Second Vatican Council teaches us. In his latest instalment in his cycle on the School of Prayer, Pope Benedict XVI dedicated his Wednesday audience to prayer and the liturgy. Emer McCarthy reports:

Below a Vatican Radio translation of the Holy Father’s catechesis:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
in recent months we have made a journey in the light of the Word of God, to learn to pray in a more authentic way by looking at some great figures in the Old Testament, the Psalms, the Letters of St. Paul and the Book of Revelation, but also looking at unique and fundamental experience of Jesus in his relationship with the Heavenly Father. In fact, only in Christ, is man enabled to unite himself to God with the depth and intimacy of a child before a father who loves him, only in Him can we turn in all truth to God and lovingly call Him “Abba! ! Father. ” Like the Apostles, we too have repeated and we still repeat to Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Lk 11:1).

In addition, in order to live our personal relationship with God more intensely, we have learned to invoke the Holy Spirit, the first gift of the Risen Christ to believers, because it is he who “comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought,”(Romans 8:26).

At this point we can ask: how can I allow myself to be formed by the Holy Spirit? What is the school in which he teaches me to pray and helps me in my difficulties to turn to God in the right way? The first school of prayer which we have covered in the last few weeks is the Word of God, Sacred Scripture, Sacred Scripture in permanent dialogue between God and man, an ongoing dialogue in which God reveals Himself ever closer to us. We can better familiarize ourselves with his face, his voice, his being and the man learns to accept and to know God, to talk to God. So in recent weeks, reading Sacred Scripture, we looked for this ongoing dialogue in Scripture to learn how we can enter into contact with God.

There is another precious “space”, another valuable “source” to grow in prayer, a source of living water in close relation with the previous one. I refer to the liturgy, which is a privileged area in which God speaks to each of us, here and now, and awaits our response.

What is the liturgy? If we open the Catechism of the Catholic Church – an always valuable and indispensable aid especially in the Year of Faith, which is about to begin – we read that originally the word “liturgy” means ” service in the name of/on behalf of the people” (No. 1069) . If Christian theology took this word from the Greek world, it did so obviously thinking of the new People of God born from Christ opened his arms on the Cross to unite people in the peace of the one God. “service on behalf of the people ” a people that does not exist by itself, but that has been formed through the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ. In fact, the People of God does not exist through ties of blood, territory or nation, but is always born from the work of the Son of God and communion with the Father that He obtains for us.

The Catechism also states that “in Christian tradition (the word” liturgy “) means the participation of the People of God in “the work of God.” Because the people of God as such exists only through the action of God.

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Pope Benedict on Prayer – Prayer in the Book of Revelation: ” God is not indifferent to our prayers”

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 12, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today in Paul VI Hall at the general audience. The Holy Father today continued his reflection on prayer in the book of Revelation.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

Last Wednesday I spoke about prayer in the first part of Revelation. Today we move on to the second part of the book; and whereas in the first part, prayer is oriented toward the Church’s inner life, in the second, attention is given to the entire world; the Church, in fact, journeys through history; she is part of it, in accordance with God’s plan.

The assembly that listened to John’s message presented by the reader rediscovered its duty to cooperate in the expansion of the Kingdom of God, as “priests of God and of Christ” (Revelation 20:6; cf. 1:5; 5:10) and it opens out to the world of men. And here, in the dialectical relationship that exists between them, two ways of living emerge: the first we may define as the “system of Christ,” to which the assembly is happy to belong; and the second, the “worldly systems opposed to the kingdom and the covenant and activated through the influence of the Evil One,” who by deceiving men wills to establish a world opposed to the one willed by Christ and by God (cf. Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Bible and Morality, Biblical Roots of Christian Conduct, 70).

The assembly must therefore know how to interpret in depth the history it is living, by learning to discern events with faith in order to cooperate by its action in the growth of the Kingdom of God. And this work of interpretation and discernment, as well as action, is linked to prayer.

First, after the insistent appeal of Christ, who in the first part of Revelation said seven times: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Church” (cf. Revelation 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22), the assembly is invited to ascend to Heaven, to look upon reality through God’s eyes; and here we discover three symbols, reference points from which we may begin to interpret history: the throne of God, the Lamb and the book (cf. Revelation4:1 – 5:14).

The first symbol is the throne, upon which there is seated a person John does not describe, for he surpasses every human representation. He is only able to note the sense of beauty and joy he experiences in His presence. This mysterious figure is God, God Almighty who did not remain enclosed within His heaven but who drew close to man, entering into a covenant with him; God who makes his voice — symbolized by thunder and lightning — heard in history, in a mysterious but real way. There are various elements that appear around the throne of God, such as the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures that unceasingly render praise to the one Lord of history.

The first symbol, then, is the throne. The second symbol is the book, which contains the plan of God for events and for men. It is hermetically sealed with seven seals, and no one is able to read it. Faced with man’s inability to scrutinize the plan of God, John experiences a deep sadness, which causes him to weep. But there is a remedy for man’s dismay before the mystery of history: there is one who is able to open the book and shed light on it.

And here the third symbol appears: Christ, the Lamb immolated in the sacrifice of the Cross, but who stands as a sign of his Resurrection. And it is the Lamb, Christ who died and rose, who gradually opens the seals and unveils the plan of God, the deep meaning of history.

What do these symbols tell us? They remind us of the path to knowing how to interpret the facts of history and of our own lives. By raising our gaze to God’s heaven in a constant relationship with Christ, by opening our hearts and our minds to him in personal and communal prayer, we learn to see things in a new way and to grasp their truest meaning. Prayer is like an open window that allows us to keep our gaze turned toward God, not only for the purpose of reminding us of the goal toward which we are directed, but also to allow the will of God to illumine our earthly journey and to help us to live it with intensity and commitment.

How does the Lord guide the Christian community to a deeper reading of history? First and foremost, by inviting it to consider with realism the present moment we are living. Therefore, the Lamb opens the four first seals of the book, and the Church sees the world in which it is inserted, a world in which various negative elements exist. There the evils that man commits, such as violence, which comes from the desire to possess, to prevail against one another to the point of killing one another (second seal); or injustice, as men fail to respect the laws that are given them (third seal). To these are added the evils that man must undergo, such as death, hunger and sickness (fourth seal). Faced with these oftentimes dramatic realities, the ecclesial community is invited to never lose hope, to believe firmly that the apparent omnipotence of the Evil One collides with the true omnipotence, which is God’s.

And the first seal the Lamb opens contains precisely this message. John narrates: “And I saw, and behold, a white horse, and its rider had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer” (Revelation 6:2). The power of God has entered into the history of man, [a power] which is not only capable of offsetting evil, but even of conquering it. The color white recalls the Resurrection: God drew so near to us that he descended into the darkness of death in order to illumine it with the splendor of his divine life: he took the world’s evil upon himself in order to purify it with the fire of his love.

How do we grow in this Christian understanding of reality? Revelation tells us that prayer nourishes this vision of light and profound hope in each one of us and in our communities: it invites us to not allow ourselves to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good, to look to the Crucified and Risen Christ, who associates us in his victory. The Church lives in history, she is not closed in on herself; but rather, she courageously faces her journey amid difficulties and suffering, by forcefully affirming that ultimately, evil does not conquer the good, darkness does not dim the splendor of God.

This is an important point for us; as Christians we can never be pessimists; we know well that along life’s journey we often encounter violence, falsehood, hate and persecution, but this does not discourage us. Above all, prayer teaches us to see the signs of God, of his presence and action; indeed, to be lights of goodness that spread hope and point out that the victory is God’s.

Read morePope Benedict on Prayer – Prayer in the Book of Revelation: ” God is not indifferent to our prayers”

Pope Benedict on Prayer – Prayer in the Book of Revelation: “prayer is, above all, a listening to God Who speaks.

Vatican City, 5 September 2012 (VIS)

 – Benedict XVI today resumed his general audiences in the Vatican, having held them at Castelgandolfo during the month of August. Meeting with faithful in the Paul VI Hall he turned his attention to prayer in the Book of Revelation which, he explained, “presents us with the living breathing prayer of the Christian assembly, gathered together ‘on the Lord’s day'”.
Revelation, Pope Benedict went on, “is a difficult book, but one of great richness. … In it a reader presents the assembly with a message entrusted by God to John the Evangelist. … From the dialogue between them a symphony of prayer arises which is then developed in many different forms up until the conclusion”.
The first part of Revelation presents us with the assembly in prayer in three successive phases. The first of these highlights how “prayer is, above all, a listening to God Who speaks. Engulfed as we are by so many words we are little used to listening, and especially to adopting an interior and exterior attitude of silence so as to attend to what the Lord wishes to say to us. These verses also teach us that our prayers, often merely prayers of request, must in fact be first and foremost prayers of praise to God for His love, for the gift of Jesus Christ which brought us strength, hope and salvation. … God, Who reveals Himself as the beginning and the end of the story, welcomes and takes to heart the assembly’s request”.
This first phase also includes another important element. “Constant prayer revives in us a sense of the Lord’s presence in our life and history. His presence supports us, guides us and gives us great hope. … Prayer, even that pronounced in the most extreme solitude, is never a form of isolation and it is never sterile, it is a vital lymph which nourishes an increasingly committed and coherent Christian existence”.
In the second phase of the prayer of the assembly “the relationship with Jesus Christ is developed further. The Lord makes Himself visible, He speaks and acts, and the community, increasingly close to Him, listens, reacts and accepts”.
In the third phase “the Church in prayer, accepting the word of the Lord, is transformed. … The assembly listens to the message, and receives a stimulus for repentance, conversion, perseverance, growth in love and guidance for the journey”.

“The Revelation”, Benedict XVI concluded, “presents us with a community gathered in prayer, because it is in prayer that we gain an increasing awareness of Jesus’ presence with us and within us. The more and the better we prayer with constancy and intensity, the more we are assimilated to Him, and the more He enters into our lives to guide them and give them joy and peace. And the more we know, love and follow Jesus, the more we feel the need to dwell in prayer with Him, receiving serenity, hope and strength for our lives”.

Pope Benedict on Prayer 28 – Meditating upon Sacred Scripture helps us to understand the present

Vatican City, 2 May 2012 (VIS) –

The prayer of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was the theme of the Holy Father’s catechesis during his general audience this morning.

Addressing more than 20,000 faithful filling St. Peter’s Square, the Pope explained how, according to the narrative of the Acts of the Apostles, Stephen was taken before the Sanhedrin accused of having declared that Jesus would destroy the Temple and change the customs handed down by Moses. In his address before the council Stephen explained that, in saying these things, Jesus had been referring to His body, which was the new temple. In this way, Christ “inaugurated the new worship and, with the offer of Himself on the cross, replaced the ancient sacrifices”, Benedict XVI said.

Stephen wished to show that the accusation of subverting the Law of Moses was unfounded, to which end he outlined his view of the history of salvation, of the covenant between God and man. “Thus”, the Holy Father explained, “he reread the entire biblical narrative to show that it led to the ‘place’ of God’s definitive presence, which is Jesus Christ and in particular His passion, death and resurrection. Stephen interpreted his status as a disciple of Jesus in the same light, … following Him to martyrdom. Thus, meditation upon Sacred Scripture helped him to understand … the present”.

“In his meditation upon God’s action in the history of salvation” the proto-martyr “highlighted the perennial temptation to reject God and His acts, and affirmed that Jesus is the Just One announced by the prophets. In Him, God made Himself definitively and uniquely present: Jesus is the ‘place’ of true worship”.

Stephen’s explanations and his life were interrupted by his stoning, yet “martyrdom was the culmination of his life and message, because he became one with Christ. Thus his meditation upon the action of God in history, on the divine Word which was entirely fulfilled in Jesus, became a form of participation in Christ’s prayer on the cross”.

The moment of Stephen’s martyrdom “again revealed the fruitful relationship between the Word of God and prayer”, the Pope said. Yet “where did this first Christian martyr find the strength to face his persecutors and to make the ultimate gift of self? The answer is simple: in his relationship with God, in his communion with Christ, in meditating upon the history of salvation, in witnessing the action of God which reached its apex in Jesus Christ”.

St. Stephen believed that Jesus was “the Temple, ‘not made by human hands’, in which the presence of God the Father came so close as to enter our human flesh, bringing us to God and opening the doors of heaven for us. Our prayer must, then, be contemplation of Jesus sitting at the right hand of God, of Jesus as Lord of our daily life. In Him, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we too can address God … with the trust and abandonment of children who turn to a Father Who loves them with an infinite love”.

Pope Benedict on Prayer 27 – “Prayer is the breath of the soul and of life”.

Vatican City, 25 April 2012 (VIS) – If prayer and the Word of God do not nourish our spiritual life, we run the risk being suffocated by the many cares and concerns of daily existence. Prayer makes us see reality with new eyes and helps us to find our way in the midst of adversity. These words were pronounced by Benedict XVI in his catechesis during this morning’s general audience, held in St. Peter’s Square in the presence of more than 20,000 faithful.

The Pope explained how prayer encouraged the early Church, though beset by difficulties, and how it can help man to live a better life today. “Ever since the beginning of her journey the Church has had to face unexpected situations, new questions and emergencies, to which she has sought to respond in the light of the faith, allowing herself to be guided by the Holy Spirit”, he said.

This was already evident at the time of the Apostles. In the Acts, Luke the Evangelist recounts “a serious problem which the first Christian community in Jerusalem had to face and resolve, … concerning the pastoral care of charity towards the isolated and the needy. It was not an unimportant issue and risked creating divisions within the Church. … What stands out is that, at that moment of pastoral emergency, the Apostles made a distinction. Their primary duty was to announce the Word of God according to the Lord’s mandate, but they considered as equally serious the task of … making loving provision for their brothers and sisters in situations of need, in order to respond to Jesus’ command: love one another as I have loved you”.

The Apostles made a clear decision: it was not right for them to neglect prayer and preaching, therefore “seven men of good standing were chosen, the Apostles prayed for the strength of the Holy Spirit, then laid their hands upon them that they might dedicate themselves to the diaconate of charity”.

This decision, the Pope explained, “shows the priority we must give to God and to our relationship with Him in prayer, both as individuals and in the community. If we do not have the capacity to pause and listen to the Lord, to enter into dialogue with Him, we risk becoming ineffectually agitated by problems, difficulties and needs, even those of an ecclesial and pastoral nature”.

Read morePope Benedict on Prayer 27 – “Prayer is the breath of the soul and of life”.

Pope Benedict on Prayer 26 – Fear Not Persecutions But Trust In The Presence of God


Vatican City, 18 April 2012 (VIS) – Returning to a recent series of catecheses on the theme of prayer, Benedict XVI dedicated his general audience this morning to what has been called the “Little Pentecost”, an event which coincided with a difficult moment in the life of the nascent Church.

The Acts of the Apostles tell us how Peter and John were released from prison following their arrest for preaching the Gospel. They returned to their companions who, listening to their account of what had happened, did not reflect on how to react or defend themselves, or on what measures to adopt; rather, “in that moment of trial they all raised their voices together to God”, Who replied by sending the Holy Spirit.

“This was the unanimous and united prayer of the whole community, which was facing persecution because of Jesus”, the Pope explained. It involved the community “because the experiences of the two Apostles did not concern only them, but the entire Church. In suffering persecution for Jesus’ sake, the community not only did not give way to fear and division, but was profoundly united in prayer”.

When believers suffer for the faith, “unity is consolidated rather than undermined, because it is supported by unshakeable prayer. The Church must not fear the persecutions she is forced to suffer in her history, but must trust always, as Jesus did in Gethsemane, in the presence, help and strength of God, invoked in prayer”.

Before trying to understand what had happened the first community sought to interpret events through the faith, using the Word of God. In the Acts of the Apostles St. Luke notes how the community of Jerusalem began by invoking God’s greatness and immensity. Then, using the Psalms, those early Christians recalled how God had acted in history alongside His people, “showing Himself to be a God Who is concerned for human beings, Who does not abandon them”, Benedict XVI said. Subsequently the events were read “in the light of Christ, Who is the key to understanding all things, even persecution. The opposition to Jesus, His passion and death were reread … as the accomplishment of the plan of God the Father for the salvation of the world. … In prayer, meditating on Sacred Scripture in the light of the mystery of Christ helps us to interpret current reality as part of the history of salvation which God enacts in the world”.

Thus the plea the first Christian community of Jerusalem made to God in prayer was not “to be defended, to be spared from trials or to enjoy success, but only to be able to proclaim … the Word of God frankly, freely and courageously”. The community also asked that “their proclamation be accompanied by the hand of God so that healing, signs and wonders could be accomplished. In other words, they wanted to become a force for the transformation of reality, changing the hearts, minds and lives of men and bringing the radical novelty of the Gospel”.

“We too”, the Holy Father concluded his catechesis, “must bring the events of our daily lives into our prayer, in order to seek their most profound significance. And we too, like the first Christian community, allowing ourselves to be illuminated by the Word of God and meditating on Sacred Scripture, may learn to see that God is present in our lives, even at moments of difficulty, and that everything … is part of a plan of love in which the final victory over evil, sin and death is truly is that of goodness, grace, life and God”.

Pope Benedict on Prayer 25 – Venerating the Mother of God Means Learning to Become a Community of Prayer


Vatican City, 14 March 2012 (VIS)– During his general audience this morning the Holy Father began a new cycle of catecheses, dedicated to the subject of prayer in the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of St. Paul. The Pope focused his remarks today on the figure of Mary as she appears in the Acts, when with the Apostles she awaits the coming of the Holy Spirit.Benedict XVI told the more than 10,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square that “it was with Mary that Jesus’ earthly life began, and it was with her that the Church took its first steps. … She discreetly followed her Son’s journey during His public life, even unto the foot of the cross. Then, with silent prayer, she continued to follow the progress of the Church”, he explained.The stages of Mary’s own journey from the house of Nazareth to the Upper Room of Jerusalem “were marked by her capacity to maintain an ongoing state of contemplation, meditating upon each event in the silence of her heart, before God. The Mother of God’s presence with the Eleven after the Ascension … has great significance because with them she shared the most precious of things: the living memory of Jesus in prayer”.After Jesus’ Ascension to heaven, the Apostles met with Mary to await the gift of the Holy Spirit, without which it is not possible to bear witness to Christ. “She, who had already received the Spirit in order to generate the incarnate Word, shared the entire Church’s expectation of the same gift. … If it is true that there could be no Church without Pentecost, it is also true that there could have been no Pentecost without the Mother of Jesus, because she had a unique knowledge of what the Church experiences every day by the action of the Holy Spirit”.

The Pope went on to recall how the Vatican Council II Dogmatic Constitution “Lumen gentium” had emphasised this special relationship between the Virgin and the Church. “We see the Apostles before the day of Pentecost ‘constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women including Mary the mother of Jesus'”, he said. “Mary’s place is in the Church, ‘wherefore she is hailed as a pre-eminent and singular member, … and as its type and excellent exemplar in faith and charity’.

“Venerating the Mother of Jesus in the Church means, then, learning from her how to become a community of prayer“, the Holy Father added. “This is one of the essential aspects of the first description of the Christian community given in the Acts of the Apostles”.

Our prayers “are often dictated by difficult situations, by personal problems which cause us to turn to the Lord in search of light, comfort and aid. But Mary invites us to open prayer to other dimensions, to address God not only in moments of need and not only for ourselves, but unanimously, perseveringly, faithfully and with ‘one heart and soul'”.

Benedict XVI also pointed out that Mary “was placed by the Lord at decisive moments of the history of salvation, and she always responded with complete readiness as a result of her profound bond with God matured through assiduous and intense prayer. … Between the Ascension and Pentecost, she was ‘with’ and ‘in’ the Church, in prayer. Mother of God and Mother of the Church, Mary exercises her maternity until the end of history”.

The Pope concluded by saying that “Mary teaches us the need for prayer and shows us how only through a constant, intimate and complete bond of love with her Son can we courageously leave our homes … to announce the Lord Jesus, Saviour of the world”.

 

Pope Benedict on Prayer 24 – Silence is Indispensable for Prayer


Vatican City, 7 March 2012 (VIS) – During his general audience this morning Benedict XVI concluded a series of catecheses dedicated to the prayer of Jesus. Today he turned his attention to the theme of alternating words and silence which characterised Christ’s earthly life, above all on the Cross, and which is also significant in two aspects of our own lives.

Addressing the 10,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope explained that the first of these aspects “concerns accepting the Word of God. Interior and exterior silence are necessary in order to hear that Word”, he said. Yet, “our age does not, in fact, favour reflection and contemplation; quite the contrary it seems that people are afraid to detach themselves, even for an instant, from the spate of words and images which mark and fill our days”.However, “the Gospels often show us … Jesus withdrawing alone to a place far from the crowds, even from His own disciples, where He can pray in silence”. Moreover, “the great patristic tradition teaches us that the mysteries of Christ are linked to silence, and only in silence can the Word find a place to dwell within us”.

“This principle”, the Holy Father went on, “holds true for individual prayer, but also for our liturgies which, to facilitate authentic listening, must also be rich in moments of silence and of non verbal acceptance. … Silence has the capacity to open a space in our inner being, a space in which God can dwell, which can ensure that His Word remains within us, and that love for Him is rooted in our minds and hearts, and animates our lives”.

The Pope then turned to focus on the second important aspect of the relationship between silence and prayer. “In our prayers”, he said, “we often find ourselves facing the silence of God. We almost experience a sense of abandonment; it seems that God does not listen and does not respond. But this silence, as happened to Jesus, does not signify absence. Christians know that the Lord is present and listens, even in moments of darkness and pain, of rejection and solitude. Jesus assures His disciples and each one of us that God is well aware of our needs at every moment of our lives”.

“For us, who are so frequently concerned with operational effectiveness and with the results … we achieve, the prayer of Jesus is a reminder that we need to stop, to experience moments of intimacy with God, ‘detaching ourselves’ from the turmoil of daily life in order to listen, to return to the ‘root’ which nourishes and sustains our existence. One of the most beautiful moments of Jesus’ prayer is when, faced with the sickness, discomfort and limitations of his interlocutors, He addresses His Father in prayer, thus showing those around him where they must go to seek the source of hope and salvation”.

Christ touches the most profound point of His prayer to the Father at the moment of His passion and death, Pope Benedict said. And citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church he concluded by noting that “His cry to the Father from the cross encapsulated ‘all the troubles, for all time, of humanity enslaved by sin and death, all the petitions and intercessions of salvation history are summed up in this cry of the incarnate Word. Here the Father accepts them and, beyond all hope, answers them by raising His Son. Thus is fulfilled and brought to completion the drama of prayer in the economy of creation and salvation'”.

Pope Benedict on Prayer 23 – We never fall from God’s embrace

Vatican City, 15 February 2012 Vatican Radio-

In his catechesis in Italian, to a packed Paul VI audience hall, the Holy Father said “In our school of prayer last week I spoke about Christ’s prayer on the Cross, taken from Psalm 22 “My God, my God why have you forsaken me”. Now I would like to continue to meditate on the prayers of Jesus on the cross in the imminence of death and today I would like to focus on the narrative that we encounter in the Gospel of St. Luke. The Evangelist has handed down three words of Jesus on the cross, two of which – the first and third – are explicitly prayers to the Father. The second one consists of the promise made to the so-called good thief crucified with him, answering, in fact, the thief’s prayer, Jesus reassures him: “Truly I tell you today will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23 , 43). The two prayers of the dying Jesus and the acceptance of the repentant sinner’s supplication to Him are suggestively entwined in Luke’s account. Jesus both prays to the Father and hears the prayer of this man who is often called latro poenitens, “the repentant thief.”

Let us dwell on these three prayers of Jesus. The first pronounced immediately after being nailed to the cross, while the soldiers are dividing his garments as sad reward of their service. In a way this gesture closes the process of crucifixion. St. Luke writes: “When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left. [Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”] They divided his garments by casting lots “(23.33 to 34). The first prayer that Jesus addresses to the Father is one of intercession: He asks forgiveness for his executioners. With this, Jesus in person carries out what he had taught in the Sermon on the Mount when he said: ” But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you ” (Lk 6:27) and also promised to those who can forgive, “then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High ” (v. 35). Now, from the cross, He not only forgives his executioners, but speaks directly to the Father interceding on their behalf.

This is attitude of Jesus’ finds a moving ‘imitation’ in the story of the stoning of St. Stephen, the first martyr. Stephen, in fact, coming to an end, “knelt down and cried with a loud voice:” Lord, do not hold this sin against them”. That said, he died “(Acts 7.60). It was his last word. The comparison of the prayer for forgiveness of Jesus and that of the martyr is significant. Stephen turns to the Risen Lord and calls for his murder – a gesture clearly defined by the expression “this sin” – is not imputed against those who stone him. Jesus addresses the Father on the cross and not only asks for forgiveness for his executioners, but also offers a reading of what is happening. In his words, in fact, the men who crucify him “know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). He gives that ignorance, “not knowing” as the reason for the request for forgiveness from the Father, for this ignorance leaves the way open to conversion, as is the case in the words that the centurion spoke at Jesus’ death: ” This man was innocent beyond doubt”(v. 47), he was the Son of God”. It is a consolation for all times and for all men that the Lord, both for those who really did not know – the killers – and those who knew and condemned him, gives ignorance as the reason for asking for forgiveness – he sees it as a door that can open us up to repentance “(Jesus of Nazareth, II, 233).

The second prayer of Jesus on the cross as told by St. Luke is a word of hope, is His answer to the prayer of one of the two men crucified with Him. The good thief before Jesus returned to himself and repents, he feels himself to be before the Son of God, who reveals the Face of God, and prays: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (v. 42). The Lord’s answer to this prayer goes far beyond the supplication, he says: ” Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (v. 43). Jesus is aware of entering directly into communion with the Father and of reopening the path for the man to God’s paradise. So through this response gives the firm hope that the goodness of God can touch us even at the last moment of life and that sincere prayer, even after a life of wrong, meets the open arms of the good Father who awaits the return of his son.

“no matter how hard the trial, difficult the problem, heavy the suffering, we never fall from the hands of God”

Read morePope Benedict on Prayer 23 – We never fall from God’s embrace

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