"The idea of waiting is found in many of the psalms. For example, Psalm 39: "I waited, I waited for the Lord till he stooped down to me"; and Psalm 41: "Like the deer that yearns for running streams so my soul is yearning for you, my God". Listening, watching, yearning, longing, thirsting this is what prayer consists of. It does not involve complicated mental activities; it is a simple way of communicating with God. This is the way we communicate with people who are close to us; it is also the way we communicate with God who abides in our hearts. Words are totally inadequate when communicating with God. They are incapable of expressing the deep sentiments of the heart. Only simple but profound expressions of the heart like yearning and watching are able to sustain the depth and intensity of our silent, unspoken prayer.
St. Augustine has expressed this beautifully in the following passage from his Commentary on the Psalms: "All my longing is known to you". Not to men, who cannot see into the heart but to you, my God, is all my desire laid bare. Does your longing lie open to him? Then the Father, who sees in secret, will give you your heart's desire. This very longing is your prayer. Not for nothing did the Apostle tell us 'to pray without ceasing'. Did he mean that we were to be perpetually on our knees, or lying prostrate, or raising our hands? If that is our idea of prayer, I consider that unceasing prayer is beyond our capacity.
There is another kind of prayer, however, interior and continuous: the prayer of desire. Whatever else you are doing, if your desire is for the Sabbath rest, you do not cease to pray. So, then, if you do not wish your prayer to be interrupted, do not let your longing flag. Ceaseless longing will be your ceaseless cry. Let your love fail, and you will fall silent. Who are the people whose cry is silenced? Are they not those of whom it is said: 'Since iniquity has been at large, love has grown cold in the hearts of the majority of men'? Love grown cold means a heart become silent; burning love is the heart's cry. If your love is abiding, your cry will be continuous; a continuous cry is a sign of abiding desire, and abiding desire means that you are ever mindful of your heart's repose" (l9).
St. John Chrysostom teaches the same: "You should not think of prayer as being a matter of words. It is a desire for God, an indescribable devotion, not of human origin, but the gift of God's grace" (20)
Monday, November 29, 2010
Advent: Holy Longing
"Let me seek you in desiring you, Lord,
let me desire you in seeking you"
~ St. Anslem
Fr. Columban Heaney. If you have time, you really should read the whole article here.