Catechetical Corner – The Language of Love

Catechetical Corner – The Language of Love.

“This mystery [the mystery of faith], then, requires that the faithful believe in it, that they celebrate it, and that they live from it in a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. This relationship is prayer.”  Catechism of the Catholic Church.

What is prayer? This is the question that the Catechism of the Catholic Church asks in #2558, the beginning of the section devoted totally to Prayer in the Christian Life. Thankfully, it goes on to answer it, in the first instance by quoting St Therese of Lisieux – The Little Flower: “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”

A surge of the hearta cry of recognition and love. What a beautiful way to speak of prayer, speaking of it in very intimate terms. Prayer, as a relationship between two people who know and love each other, the language is almost poetic.

The other definition of prayer, that we may be more familiar with, is from St John Damascene: “Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to GOD or the requesting of good things from GOD”.  Again, it is the language of love: raising the heart to GOD. Indeed, the Scriptures speak of prayer often, occasionally in terms of soul or spirit but in over 1,000 instances it is the heart that prays. (CCC #2562) The same paragraph continues: “If our heart is not engaged, if our heart is far from GOD, the words of prayer are in vain”. It couldn’t be any clearer, prayer is an action of the heart, the words and/or gestures are secondary to the disposition of the heart.

The Catechism begins the section on prayer by acknowledging that Prayer is GOD’s gift. Indeed the preface of the mass says: “You have no need of our praise, yet our desire to thank You is itself Your gift”. (Preface IV for Weekdays in Ordinary Time). Quoting from John’s Gospel the CCC goes on: “if you knew what GOD was offering…” And what is GOD offering? “living water…that will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (Jn. 4.) But even in this, GOD has not left us to our own devices, for when we cannot pray or do not know how, so long as we have that “surge of the heart…” or we turn our “mind and heart to GOD…” then the Spirit personally makes our petitions for us…” Rom. 8:26.

Prayer is the language of love between us and the Father whom we know loves us because HE gave HIS only Son to die for us while we were still sinners. Rom. 5:8.