With the arrogance of youth, I determined to do no less than to transform the world with Beauty. If I have succeeded in some small way, if only in one small corner of the world, amongst the men and women I love, then I shall count myself blessed, and blessed, and blessed, and the work goes on. -- William Morris

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Prayer of the Spirit

Because the Holy Spirit prays in me (Romans 8:16, 26), there will always be an infinite excess about my prayer. The limits of every utterance, the finite shape of every word, the very boundaries of time that bind as each thought or image comes before me and carries a fraction of my conscious prayer before passing away; all of these aspects (merely) reflect, at an analogical distance, the eternally perfect Prayer of the Spirit in me- that Prayer which is His very relation in the Trinity (His eternally joyous "Alleluia" to Father and Son). Every word or image that necessarily informs and yet limits my prayer is infused with an infinitely greater meaning than it could ever bear on its own as the product of creaturely expression. More is always uttered in the Spirit's groaning; because behind (or rather within) every utterance there is the already overdetermined, already overflowing, already perfected Prayer that the Spirit IS. His Prayer is a gushing well, never exhausted, never exhaustible- and thus always impelling and inspiring more varied and beautiful praises from my lips. It is as though my prayer is never simply my prayer; it is as though my own prayer is unnecessary, a completely excessive, ornamental furnishing; an addendum that is simply a new intonation, a new play on the Spirit's Prayer. And thus it can never really fail: no prayer of the heart can ever fall short due to finitude alone. Because, objectively speaking, it is pure garnish. At the same time it is an excessiveness that is somehow my own- it is my appropriation of the Spirit's eternal Triune merrymaking. In that sense, my very being demands it as destiny and as my highest act.

One can fail to pray only when one has emptied himself or herself of love; for the Holy Spirit is love, and without the Spirit, one's prayer to the Father will be haunted and ultimately crushed by the infinite discrepancy between His Glory and the creature's incapacity to praise it. Our prayer can only do justice to God if it is the prayer of God Himself; and it can only do justice to us if it is somehow our very own.

Pax Christi,


  • At 8/25/2010 9:44 PM, Blogger Brendan Sammon said…

    Wow. At first I thought: "what great doctor of the Church is he quoting" but then I scrolled down and saw that it wasn't an excerpt.

    Thanks for this.

  • At 9/01/2010 9:01 AM, Blogger Pseudonoma said…

    Eloquent and Illuminating. I was reminded of Eliot's Little Gidding:

    "You are here to kneel
    Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
    Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
    Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
    And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
    They can tell you, being dead: the communication
    Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living."

  • At 9/02/2010 2:04 PM, Blogger Garrett said…

    I had a similar experience to Brendan. Very hortatory, I will recall these words the next time I find myself in a sere moment of prayer. Thank you for these words of great exhortation!

  • At 9/14/2010 12:35 PM, Blogger X-Cathedra said…

    Thanks all, for the (in Brendan's case, characteristic) humility-endangering comments.

    Pax christi,


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