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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

Prayer and Truth, Theology and Contemplation

There are some who attain with strenuous effort a sophisticated understanding of their faith without ever having learned to truly pray. It is not that they do not pray at all. They go to Mass. They murmur the psalms in the Liturgy of the Hours. They may even rattle off a chaplet of the Rosary. Yet, they have not taken up that deeper heart to heart with the Living God. Instead of an understanding of the faith that opens to the mystery of the Fire of Love, they have insulated themselves against its igniting sparks. They cleave to the formulas that bear the articles of our Faith more than they do to the One who the articles bear. Though they may feel self-satisfied in their intellectual mastery of many beautiful truths, their neglected hearts remain parched for Living Waters. Unless they allow the Lord to address the misery that haunts them by learning how to pray, the intellectual artifice that they have created will crash down around them in ruin.

There are others who are given an awareness of the Divine Presence but presume that sacred doctrine is an obstacle rather than a pathway. They are dazzled by Divine Splendor or else confounded in its shadow. Yet, because they do not know the teachings of the Church, they easily misunderstand and misconstrue the heart-piercing reality that has dawned upon them in an unmerited and unanticipated moment of prayer. Their hearts are bathed in jubilation, heart-break and silence all at once, but for lack of having heard Him preached, they do not recognize or know how to respond to the Bridegroom who contemplates them in His Bride. Their loving surrender into His love is impeded for lack sound teaching and the winds of myth and error threaten their very integrity. Blessed the soul humble enough to submit every thought to Christ and simple enough to confidently surrender to the Father's will made known in the life of the Church. The one who will baptize his whole manner of life into the mystery of Christ allows the Holy Spirit to question his secret judgments and his deepest desires while the Church, as a good mother, accompanies him along the way. Rooted in the language of the Church, the Holy Bible, he is not afraid when the Holy Spirit scrutinizes his every action and shines the light of truth into darkened motives. Instead, tears of contrition and the water from the side of Christ bath this disciple with hope until body and soul, word and action, desire and decision align with the most beautiful mysteries in the depths of God. New presences of the Trinity so much more subtle, more meaningful, and more transforming await those awake to such an embodied spiritual devotion, the living devotion of the Bride of Christ. The mind without the heart is lifeless, and the heart without the mind is lost. Faith that does not spring from the Heart of the Bride cannot know the Bridegroom. Theological wisdom without mystical wisdom cannot draw from the wellsprings of worship, and mystical wisdom without sound teaching is vulnerable to shipwreck. Prayer bereft of God's Word lacks soul, and study not carried out on one's knees is dis-embodied. Silence without the Word of the Father is empty, and so are words that do not flow from the fullness that resounds in the Silence of the Word. This silent fullness fills the heart of the Church and her true teachings allow it to fill our hearts.

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