A NOTE ON CHRISTIAN PRAYER
(A biblical refection on THE HOLY TRINITY SUNDAY [YEAR C], 16 June 2019)
Gospel Reading: John 16:12-15
First Reading: Proverbs 8:22-31; Psalms: Psalm 8:4-9; Second Reading: Romans 5:1-5
The Scripture Text
“I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that He will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:12-15 RSV)
Today’s Gospel reading is taken from the last supper discourse when Jesus spoke of His impending return to the Father. His physical departure would not leave the disciples orphaned or bereft of his presence: rather, it would open up a new mode of divine presence. The Holy Spirit would come into the minds and hearts of the disciples in what can best be called a new creation.
Trinity Sunday is an opportunity to consider the vital movement of all Christian prayer and of the liturgy in particular. We cannot appreciate what liturgy is about without some understanding of the inner movements of divine life. Jesus described His mission as a journey down into our world and then back up in a return to the Father. “I came from the Father and have come into the world and now I leave the world to go to the Father” (John 16:28). There is no other way to the Father but through the Son’s return. We are privileged to share in that return by the power of the Holy Spirit given to us. “When the Spirit of truth comes He will lead you to the complete truth” (John 16:13). The essence of Christian prayer is our sharing in the return of glory to the Father, through His Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
In particular, the Eucharistic liturgy is the living remembrance of Jesus Christ, who was the Word of God touching the lowest areas of human life, even death in disgrace, out of which He rose and returned to the Father. At Mass, the mind listens to the word of God in the readings. In the light of the word, the needs of the community are gathered together in the petitions of the faithful. Bread and wine are prepared as gifts to symbolize the return of our lives and of all creation to the Father. Then in the solemn words and actions of the Eucharistic prayer the journey of the Word down into our world and back to the Father is remembered. And in the biblical sense, to remember God’s actions is to make them present again. The ceremony reaches a climax of intimacy in holy communion.
Our arms would never be long enough to stretch across the infinite space to heaven. Nor would we ever be worthy to show our faces before the all holy face of God. But the Son has reached down in mercy to us: and the Spirit of uniting love has raised us up. And so, in the light of the Son’s teaching and in the power of the Spirit we have the courage to utter the essential word of Christian prayer: “Father” “The Spirit Himself and our spirit bear united witness that we are children of God … and it makes us cry out, “Abba, Father!” (Romans 8:15).
Christian prayer is unto the glory of the Father: it is a movement undertaken in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son: and it is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that it is given to us that we are raised up in mind and heart to share in this movement. This movement of prayer is seen in its purity in the liturgical remembrance of Jesus Christ. Glory be the Father, through the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
[Adapted from Silvester O’Flynn, OFMCap., The Good News of Luke’s Year, Dublin, Ireland: Cathedral Books, 1991 (Reprinted 1994), pages 107-108).
Prayer: Heavenly Father, You revealed the great mystery of Your godhead to men when You sent into the world the Word who is Truth and the Spirit who makes us holy as witnesses to the Truth. Help us to believe in You and worship You, as the true faith teaches; three Persons, eternal in glory, one God, infinite in majesty. We make our prayer in the most holy name of Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen.
Jakarta, 14 June 2019
A Christian Pilgrim