23 September 2010

Praising God

All prayer is praise. Even that of the publican beating his breast (cf. Luke 18:13) is a hymn to the greatness of God. His prayer proclaimed God’s merciful goodness, which is the very summit of that greatness. The Love Who raised up mankind after the Fall is the same Love rewarding the soul in the evening of its struggles. To ask God for His help is to proclaim His power. Nevertheless it would appear to be the custom to reserve this title of praise to the hymn of those for whom the combat has ceased, either because they have retired from the fray and have entered into their eternal rest, or because they are joined to the Master in such a way that they have found in Him their place of repose: ‘But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit’ (1 Corinthians 6:17). Haying nothing further to fear or to ask for and their transformation being complete, they have now only to live according to that new form which is a participation in the divine life: ‘Giving thanks to God, the Father, Who has made us worthy to be partakers in the lot of the saints in light’ (1 Corinthians 1:12). Their only activity henceforth is to rest in the indescribable joy which is having their being from Him, for Him, by Him and in Him. This joy is their prayer.

‘And everlasting joy shall be upon their heads’ (Isaiah 35:10). They are radiant, and their radiance constitutes their hymn to the One Who is the cause of it. It is the ‘candor lucis æternæ’, the brightness of eternal light (Wisdom 7:26). Blessed are they that dwell in Your house, O Lord; they shall praise You forever and ever (Psalm 83:5), in that place of eternal praise. The Church, the Bride of Christ and the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, Mother of souls and Foster-mother of Christians, has filled its Offices with praise, and the prayer of joy before God is the form it normally takes.

All praise of God not commencing with an avowal of our impotence is less pure and certain. We must say to God: ‘My God, You are beyond anything I can imagine, and beyond anything I can express. Between what I say to You and Your Being there is and always will be an infinite abyss. For to praise is to know, and I only truly know one thing about You, and that is that I know You not. For that reason, I gather up all the power of my being in order to cry to You from the depths of my wretchedness: You are the greatness that exceeds all greatness.’ Such language alone is not altogether unworthy of God.

Our impotence need not, therefore, reduce us to silence. It forces us to express ourselves in two ways, which we can and must adopt according to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We can either make use of that speech which is beyond words, by endeavoring to reproduce the simplicity of the Word in the Bosom of the Father Who remains there in Him and completely One with Him, or we can have recourse to an endless multiplicity of ideas, of images and expressions of every kind, that try to reach the Infinite by means of the indefinite, calling on all creation to come to our aid and to join our poor hymn of praise to theirs (cf. Daniel 3:52 ff.).

~ Dom Augustin Guillerand ~