Prayer

Mental prayer, Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharist


To pray is our first task, the core of our Carmelite vocation. In our life of prayer, mental prayer (prayer in silence) is central. Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross have written a lot about mental prayer. In fact, it's "just" being with God, being with our True Friend.   


Prayer is not running away from the world. It's not a cozy aside. On the contrary: prayer opens us to all human beings and through it, we are deeply rooted in our earth. Each of us should be able to say: in the heart of humanity, I am silent prayer.






Mental prayer: a short introduction


Imagine that you come to a place of silence: a church or just a quiet place or a place outside, in nature. You know that you have to come here, you want to stay, but you don't know how to proceed. And indeed, it's not a matter of doing something. Sit down or kneel if you prefer, take a deep breath and just try to relax.  
 

It is likely that you are here because you think that God is present in this place. Actually, you seek God, just as so many persons did for centuries, and as they still do. Try not to expect some extraordinary or supernatural effect and above all, don't seek this.



Try to make silence. If this is too difficult, start from the idea that God is present here and, in thoughts, tell Him all what you would like to say to a true friend. Both Teresa's (Avila and Lisieux) did this most of the time.



It's good to tell everything to God. Really everything. Maybe shame or anguish will come up in you. Maybe you will try to hide something. This can happen and maybe you will need help from somebody else. God has time. A lot of time. And so much patience! Actually, God knews exactly what is living deep in us but He wants us to notice it and to accept ourself just like we are, with kindness and love.  



Here we enter a deep mystery: there where it's most difficult to acceed, in the most shaded nooks deeply in ourselves, precisely there God waits for us. Not for a judgement, not for punishment, not for uncovering our most interior being against us. God waits for us, as long as necessary. There is just one thing that God mostly desires: to offer us His infinite love.

Maybe, when we have "spoken" enough to God, we could just stay silent and listen. We can let us lead by the contemplation of the infinte love of God for all humans, for each of us, for myself.
 

In order to avoid that mental prayer becomes just reverie, it's advised to fix the period of time previously (for example an hour or half an hour). Then it's good not to extend the time because it's so nice or shorten it because it's so difficult. And don't forget something very important: steadiness is very important. God has much time and an infinite patience. He wants to learn us this. Not only for us but for all humans.


Because... mental prayer allways turns us to the other humans.


Video: When you pray...





Liturgy of the Hours



For centuries, women and men pray the Liturgy of the Hours, in monasteries or elsewhere. This prayer gives rythm to the day, through texts which are given to us. The expression "Liturgy of the Hours" is used in the catholic church, but other confessions or communities have this kind of prayer too, for example Taizé and Grandchamp. Sometimes this prayer is wonderfully sung, but it can also just be recited.


There is something very gripping in the liturgy of Hours, because trough this prayer, we are united to the whole community of believers, all over the world. Therefore it's not "our own prayer", not a one on one with God, but it's the prayer of a multitude. Steadiness is absolutely essential.

If there is no prayer of the night, the day starts with the Lauds (morning prayer). At about noon, there is noon prayer and at the end of the working hours, vespers. Before sleeping we can pray the Compline and put trustfully our spirit into the hands of God. Short intermediate prayers and an Office of readings are also part of the Liturgy of the Hours.


The whole day is coloured by this prayer and it doesn't matter if we feel well at this moment or not. The Liturgy of the Hours doesn't depend on our good mood or bad mood. We don't have to make particular efforts and it's not necessary to always understand all the texts. There is just one thing we have to do: making the decision to pray regularly.   


Eucharistie


"Do this for a commemoration of me". These are the words Jesus has spoken to his disciples during the last supper and this is why Eucharist is still celebrated now in community.


Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them, saying: "This is my body, which is given for you". After he had supped, he gave them the chalice, saying: "This is the chalice, the new testament in my blood, which shall be shed for you".



Here we enter into a very deep mystery: body and blood which are given for us. "Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2, 20). Through Eucharist, God lives in us and it is almost tangible. But there is also another aspect: Eucharist is not celebrated individually, but in community. Through it, there is a bound with all those attending the celebration, but even more: we are deeply united to all humans.


Elisabeth of the Trinity, a French Carmelite nun who is declared Blessed, writes: "It seems to me that nothing tells more the love which is in the heart of God than the Eucharist... It's He in us and we in Him".





... You did enlarge my heart... (Psalm 119, 32)


A prayer with Jesus suffering: Way of the Cross