Sunday, April 26, 2020

Divine Liturgy and Prayer, True Light Podcast Episode 4

The Eucharist as a Sacrifice - Metropolitan Kallistos Ware and Bishop Irenei

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware on Prayer

Public Orthodoxy: What Is Prayer? by Kallistos Ware, Metropolitan of Diokleia

On the contrary, before bringing before Christ the suffering and pain of the world, and before looking downward at our own ugliness and failings, we should look upwards at the beauty and glory of God. All too often our prayer can take the form of grumbling before God, of complaining and expressing regret. But that, so Climacus assures us, is not true prayer.
It is significant that in the Divine Liturgy we do not commence with an act of penitence but with a proclamation of the kingly rule of the Holy Trinity: “Blessed is the Kingdom of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Only after receiving a glimpse of this heavenly Kingdom can we then begin to repent as we should. In prayer we should start not with our own neediness but with the divine plenitude. The same priority is to be found in the daily prayers that we say at home each morning and evening. After the opening invocation “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,” it is customary to continue: “Glory to You, O God, glory to You.” Thanksgiving, doxology, are where we start. As St John of Kronsdtadt used to say, “Prayer is a state of continual gratitude.”

This pattern of prayer, with thanksgiving and doxology in the first place, is to be found also in the cycle of liturgical prayer throughout the twenty-four hours of the day. According to the ancient Hebrew understanding of time, which is still followed by the Church, the new day commences not at midnight and not at dawn but in the evening. That is why in the Genesis account of creation it is said, “There was evening and there was morning, the first day” (Gen. 1:5): the evening comes before the morning. In this way Vespers is not the concluding but the opening service of the day, not an epilogue but a prologue. How, then, does the daily cycle of liturgical prayer commence?

Throughout the year, except in the week after Pascha, it begins in precisely the same way, with the reading or singing of Psalm 103 [104]. This is a hymn of praise for the variety and wonder of the created order: “Blessed the Lord, O my soul! Blessed are You, O God …. O Lord, how marvellous are Your works! In wisdom have You made them all.” In the words of Fr Alexander Schmemann, Vespers “begins at the beginning, and this means in the ‘rediscovery,’ in adoration and thanksgiving, of the world as God’s creation. The Church takes us, as it were, to that first evening on which man, called to life by God, opened his eyes and saw what God in His love was giving to him, saw all the beauty, all the glory of the temple in which he was standing, and rendered thanks to God. And in this thanksgiving he became himself … And if the Church is in Christ, its initial act is always this act of thanksgiving, of returning the world to God.”

Latins who have been well-catechized may know these 4 types of prayer: Adoration, Contrition, Petition, Thanksgiving.

This list is repeated in the following essays:
What are the four types of prayer in Christian tradition? Sr. Maria Veritas Marks, OP
Adoration by Paul Grutsch, Ph.D.
Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication by R.C. Sproul (not Catholic, but a Western Christian)

The last part of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, written by Fr. Jean Corbon, O.P., lists five purposes of prayer: Blessing and Adoration, Petition, Intercession, Thanksgiving, and Praise. (Scott Richert gives a summary of the CCC.)

So with regards to these different lists, I'd ask some questions.

1. Is adoration an act of the intellect or of the will? If of the will, how is it distinct from agape?

Aquinas holds that adoration is an act of the virtue of religion, and it is twofold: the devotion of the mind (moved by the will)  and a devotion shown through bodily gestures. Aquinas notes that the bodily gestures are signs of humility which can prepare us for internal devotion. The link between adoration and the virtue of humility, which is of the will, should seem obvious, and a point with which the author of the part of the CCC on prayer agrees (2628). But whether "infused" humility is really distinct from the virtue of charity or only notionally so, I'll have to consider some other time.

I also note that for Aquinas adoration is a distinct act of religion from prayer. Is it possible under Aquinas' schema for adoration to motivate prayer? Or is it only possible for it to be simultaneous with prayer?

2. Praise and blessing don't really seem to me to be distinct. For that matter, it is not clear to me that thanksgiving is really that distinct from praise and blessing in traditional prayer formulae, whether of the pre-Christian Jews or of the early Christians. How do we know God? Through His wonderous deeds, which we acknowledge both to praise and bless Him but also for which we must render thanks for the good things He has done for us. In mental prayer it might be easy to miss one of these elements; I wouldn't assume that they are implicitly present. But in traditional vocal prayers meant for use by the individual and the community ?

Similarly, can one remember and acknowledge the deeds of God without humility, or being humbled as a result? It may be possible to pray mechanically but if one is striving for authentic prayer?

3. One could ask whether the element of thanksgiving is missing from the Lord's Prayer, or if it is implicit as it is in other blessings. (Is there a bountiful record of pre-Christian Jewish prayer formulae? I can only think of the blessings that Fr. Bouyer examined in his book Eucharist, and iirc, those prayers were not pre-Christian.)

The Jesus Prayer, whether in its simple form or one of the longer forms, doesn't seem to have the element of thanksgiving, but maybe thanksgiving can be an implicit part of the prayer.

4. I am not sure if I would say that these should be 4 types of prayer; rather I might make the claim that they are 4 elements of prayer, especially if the prayer is to be complete, and even if they are not verbally explicit, they should be manifest in how we order ourselves to God in prayer. Do we train ourselves first through spoken words, which shape our minds and souls? Isn't that one of the purposes of reciting the Psalter, so that we can assimilate the mind of Christ?

While it might seem that humility may be more linked to our being servants of God than sons of God, as we are both, I think that it is possible for humility to encompass both aspects of our relationship to God, just as our participation in the Divine Agape has both aspects as well.

Edit. 5 I was reminded later today that another way the 4 types of prayer are differentiated is according to motive, which is another way of saying that they differ according to the purpose or term of the act. So it's not really a different way of differentiating the 4 (or 5 types) of prayer as it is usually done, but a more "technical" way, that is, a more theologically developed way.