Saturday, December 31, 2016

"draw[ing] near to God on the same path that he opened in order to draw near to us."

     "When we said that prayer is a path, we wanted to draw attention to the fact that it makes us draw near to God on the same path that he opened in order to draw near to us.  The Father approached us by sending his Son and his Spirit.  It is, then, in the Holy Spirit and through the mediation of the Son that we can make our way toward him.  In this regard, it would contradict the very logic of communion with God if our prayer ended in the Spirit or the Son:  its final goal is always the Father.
     "Nevertheless, this fact was obscured in the history of the Church by the shock waves resulting from the struggle with Arianism.  The Arians, who denied the divinity of the Son and the Spirit, first obliged the Church to formulate dogmatically the consubstantiality of the Son with the Father in the first Council of Nicea (325), and the divinity of the Spirit in the first Council of Constantinople (381).  But these necessary dogmatic formulations could not but affect Christian practices that had been peaceably observed until then, and that suddenly became suspect in the eyes of the defenders of Nicene orthodoxy as a result of the use to which the Arians had put them.  A good example of this evolution is the progressive disappearance of the ancient doxology of the Psalms, 'Glory to the Father through the Son and in the Holy Spirit,' which ended up being substituted by the formula, 'Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.'  [(Footnote:  'For more ample developments, see J. A. Jungmann, Tradition liturgique et problèmes actuels de pastorale (Le Puy, 1962), 51-57 ("Fides Trinitas").'  This came from the original German (Liturgisches Erbe und pastorale Gegenwart) into English as Pastoral liturgy.)]  It is clear that the first formula is no less orthodox than the second, but ever since the Arians used it to corroborate their claim of a difference in nature between the Father and the two other Persons, the second became doctrinally preferable.  Unfortunately, this allowed us to lose sight of the dynamism proper to the glorification of the Father that passes through the Son and is realized in the Spirit, just as we risk losing sight of the dynamism of petition that, always through the mediation of the Son in the Spirit, re-ascends to the Father.
     "It is a sign of this loss that many people have a hard time knowing and articulating to whom they are supposed to pray.  A large number of the faithful admit that they are incapable of clearly distinguishing the worship of God from the cult of Mary or the saints.  But even prayer to God himself (which is the only prayer in the strict sense) is often just as confused in praxis.  Separated from the Son and the Spirit, prayer to the Father becomes absolutely inconceivable, and in spite of appearances, it is often abandoned; [(Footnote:  'The fact that people continue to say the "Our Father" is not enough to prove the contrary:  many of the baptized are convinced that the "Our Father" is addressed to God, but not specifically to the [P]erson of the Father.')] separated from the Father and the Spirit, prayer to Christ risks becoming denatured and sentimental; separated from the Father and the Son, prayer to the Holy Spirit is detached from invocation (the 'come!' that introduces practically all prayers to the Spirit) and degenerates into a potentially Joachimite illuminism.  These serious distortions of Christian prayer have, moreover, been in the history of the Church the epiphenomenon of the degeneration of faith in the Trinity, which is often reduced to an abstract deism in which trinitarian theology, or what remains of it, is viewed as nothing but a technical appendix accessible only to specialists.  [(Footnote:  an appendix 'more scholastic than mystical.')]  The logical result of this had to be the celebrated affirmation of Kant:  'From the doctrine of the Trinity, taken literally, we can draw absolutely nothing for praxis.'  For praxis, and thus for prayer.  Who will be surprised, after this, if the impersonal religiosity of the many contemporary versions of Gnosticism, or of Islam, is seducing the whole world?"

     Jean-Pierre Batut, "Praying to the Father through the Son in the Spirit: reflections on the specificity of Christian prayer," trans. Michelle K. Borras, Communio: the international Catholic review 36, no. 4 (Winter 2009): 637-639 (623-642).

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