The Child Who Falls Asleep Saying His Prayers

 

guardianangelandchild
Art source unknown

 

The title of this reflection is taken from “The Mystery of the Holy Innocents” by Charles Péguy (1873-1914):

Nothing so beautiful as a child who falls asleep
while saying his prayers, God says.
I have seen the dark, deep sea, and the dark, deep forest,
and the dark, deep heart of man.
I have seen hearts devoured by love
throughout a lifetime.
And I have seen faces of prayer, faces of tenderness
Lost in charity.
Which will shine eternally through endless nights.
Yet, I tell you, God says, I know nothing so beautiful
in all the world 
As a little child who falls asleep while saying his prayers
Under the wing of his Guardian Angel
And who laughs to the angels as he goes to sleep.
And who is already confusing everything and
understanding nothing more
And who stuffs the words of the Our Father all awry,
pell-mell into the words of the Hail Mary
while a veil is already dropping on his eyelids
the veil of night on his face and his voice.

 

In this famous poem, in the form of a hymn rising from the child’s dreams, Péguy (“the theologian of hope”) effectively evokes the “prayer without words”. There is a distinction between active and non-active prayer. In a strange way, admittedly, the image of a child who falls asleep while saying his prayers is the epitome of the concept of non-active prayer.

There was a time, during traditional devotions in the Marian months of May and October, when families could often contemplate the charming sight of toddlers who, wishing to imitate their parents and older brothers and sisters, had fallen asleep clutching rosaries in their tiny hands. To Péguy, this child whose words at prayer fall away into a murmur, and who finally dozes off, is a perfect image of prayer.

Indeed, the value of prayer is not measured by the number of words we say (Mt 6:7). If praying means “remaining silent before God” or, better still, “remaining silent in God rather than conversing with God,” then the image of the innocent child who goes to sleep while praying corresponds, in a sense, to that fundamental attitude of prayer. And since “awake or sleep, we may live with him” (1 Thess 5:10), can’t we say that even sleep becomes prayer?

There is an old Japanese saying about “siesta in the capital.” “Capital” evidently referred to present-day Kyoto, the ancient capital. The expression points to the appreciation of a Kyoto siesta as different from a siesta enjoyed anywhere else. It’s the same with sleep: falling asleep during prayer, nestled in God’s arms, is very different from nodding off during class or in a train or some other place.

If prayer were merely a matter of sleeping, it would be easy for everybody. Sleep can come from fatigue, discouragement, or perhaps lack of fervor in prayer. Some people have even develop the marvelous habit of sleeping when it is time for mental prayer.
This is not the essence of the child who goes to sleep while praying, the sight that Péguy found so touching. The appearance of joy and security in being united to Christ, “whether awake or sleep,” is what makes the slumber beautiful when one is overcome by occasional bodily fatigue, drowsing in prayer, eventually falling asleep before the family altar.

There is a kind of prayer we could call “sleeping in God” because in its depths lies total abandonment to God with complete confidence and peace of heart. Moreover, if faith and love mean to close one’s eyes to the things of this world and to die to self, doesn’t this confident abandonment into God’s loving hands lead to self-forgetfulness? This is what is meant by “sleeping in God” or ” sleep as prayer.” Just as sleep, by nature of its inactivity, restores bodily strength for action, so does prayer generate the strength to wake in God and accomplish God’s will. Prayer is the mysterious union of the two poles, the sleeping and the waking in God. The words of the renowned Zen master Sawaki, that “zazen is to hibernate in order to perceive an entirely new world beyond earthly reality,” may perhaps be pertinent to the matter in question.

This type of prayer can be compared, on the one hand, to Jesus asleep in the boat during the storm (cf. Mk 4:38) and, on the other, to Jesus awake and attentive to others’ needs, even to the obligation to give a cup of water to a poor person, “one of these little ones” (Mt 10:42). If the former type of prayer is to be called non-active or passive prayer (mui-no-inori), the result becomes “prayer that accomplished everything through nonactivity.” Here, then, is a difference: If Zen practice involves “hibernating to perceive a new world,” Christian prayer, by hibernating, receives from God the power to continually re-create the world anew.

 
~ Excerpted and slightly adapted reflection by Augustine Ichiro Okumura, O.C.D.

 

You Are Seen

 

jesus and me art by ricardo colon
Art by Ricardo Colon

 

If we look at God without knowing that God always sees us first, and if we don’t encounter a love-filled gaze, then it is not God we meet. “Videntem videre,” says Augustine: We see the one who sees us. His gaze is prior and encompasses all. We are already known by God before we know him. We do not get to know God by looking at him, but by letting him look at us, and by enduring in his sight. One does not get to know the sun by staring right into its light, but rather by covering one’s eyes and exposing oneself to its rays. It is God’s gaze that makes us what we are. God is always first.

Every human being has a deep longing to be looked upon with love, to be known by another. Is it not part of love to hide nothing  from the beloved? Everyone desires to be lovingly affirmed for being just what one is.

It is a singular joy to let oneself be beheld by God, to consciously give up all resistance against his merciful light, and thus become completely transparent. One could say that holiness is nothing but living every moment in the presence of God’s loving glance. Nothing impure can resist it. If you dare to give yourself over to it, and let God see into your innermost recesses, then you are purified without even knowing how. But it all depends on whether you truly let him see everything.

~ A meditation by Father Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D.

Before The Beauty Of God

Oh, what Beauty, you exceed
every other beauty’s features!
Wounding not, you pained indeed,
without pain destroyed and freed
my love from all worldly creatures.

Oh, knot that so joins forever
two things as unlike as we,
unknown why our bond you sever,
since when tied you strengthen ever
and draw good from injury.

Bind that without being to
Being of eternity;
without finishing, now do,
not having to love, love too,
exalt our nonentity.

~ A poem by Saint Teresa of Ávila, O.C.D.

 

 

 

On Behalf of Love

“God is humanity’s universal teacher and guardian, but his teaching to humanity is mediated by angels.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas

 

angel art by victor nizovtsev 3
Art by Victor Nizovtsev (1965)

 

On Behalf of Love

Every truth without exception—no matter
who makes it—is from God.
If a bird got accused of singing too early
in the morning,
if a lute began to magically play on its own
in the square
and the enchanting sounds it made drove a pair of young lovers
into a wild, public display of
passion,
if this lute and bird then got called before the inquisition
and their lives were literally at stake,
could not God walk up and say before the court,
“All acts of beauty are mine, all happen on the behalf of love”?
And while God was there, testifying for our heart’s desires,
hopefully the judge would be astute enough
to brave a question,
that could go,
“Dear God, you say all acts of beauty are yours,
surely we can believe that. But what of all actions
we see in this world,
for is there any force in existence greater than the power
of your omnipresent hand?”
And God might have responded, “I like that question,”
adding, “May I ask you one as well?”
And then God would say,
“Have you ever been in a conversation when children entered
the room, and you then ceased speaking because your
wisdom knew they were not old enough to benefit—to understand?
As exquisite is your world, most everyone in it
is spiritually young.
Spirituality is love, and love never wars with the minute, the day,
one’s self and others. Love would rather die
than maim a limb,
a wing.
Dear, anything that divides man from man,
earth from sky, light and dark, one religion from another. . .
O, I best keep silent, I see a child
just entered the
room.”

~ Saint Thomas Aquinas

A Blessed Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas to You All!

For Well I Know The Spring

 

spring of mist
Art source unknown

 

For well I know the spring that flows so free,
although it is night.

That fountain is eternal and concealed,
though well I know from where it is revealed,
although it is night.

Its origin, unknown, nor has it one,
yet from her have all origins begun,
although it is night.

I know there can’t be any thing so fair,
and that the heavens and earth both drink from there,
although it is night.

I know no one its bottom e’er could sound,
no way to cross it ever could be found,
although it is night.

Its clarity ne’er is made to be obscure,
I know each ray of light has come from her,
although it is night.

I know that it’s so full its currents swell,
and water all the people, heaven and hell,
although it is night.

 

~ A poem by Saint John of the Cross, O.C.D.

 

 

Sum Of Perfection

Forgetting all things creaturely,
remembering the Creator,
attending to the interior,
and loving the One loving thee.

~ Saint John of the Cross, O.C.D.

 

jesus praising god the father

 

 

 

The Life of Prayer

 

O Lord, grant that I may seek You, not only at certain moments during the day, but also at every instant of my life.
~ Divine Intimacy

 

jesus sacred heart20
Art source unknown

 

A soul who longs for a life of intimacy with God is not satisfied to limit its relations with Him to the time of prayer, but tries to extend them throughout the whole day. This is a rightful desire, for one who loves tries to prolong continuously his relations with the beloved. This is true, therefore, of a soul who loves God; and its desire is the more easily realized, since God Himself is always with us; He is always present and working in us. We are treating, it is true, of a presence which is spiritual and invisible; it is, however, real and not merely affective and moral, as is the presence of a loved one in the heart and mind of a lover.

If God is always with us, why can we not be always in continual contact with him? This contact is realized by thought and love, but much more by the latter than by the former. In fact, it is impossible to be always thinking of God, partly because the mind becomes tired and partly because our many occupations demand all the application of our intellect, which cannot pay attention to two different things at the same time. The heart, on the other hand, can always love, even when the mind is busy elsewhere; and it never grows weary of tending toward the object of its love. Since supernatural love does not consist in sentiment, but in an intimate orientation of the will toward God, we know that this turning is possible, even during the performance of duties which absorb all our attention. The will can strengthen this orientation of itself toward God precisely by the desire to fulfill each duty for love of Him, to please Him and give glory to Him. St. Thomas says that the heart can always tend Godward by “the desire of charity,” that is, by the desire to love Him, to serve Him, and to be united to Him in every action. “Prayer is nothing but a desire of the heart; if your desire is continuous, your prayer is continuous. Do you wish never to cease praying? Then never cease desiring” (St. Augustine).

~ A Meditation by Father Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, O.C.D.

Prayer Time

The traffic goes on and on.
Talk about rush hour!

Lord,
I don’t want it to be this way,
I long for stillness for both of us,
for us to meet and embrace in a holy emptiness
filled with your Spirit. I don’t want
these endless, trivial interruptions,
these mundane comments, this sheer nonsense—
like confetti thrown all over us
as we walk away from the consecration
of our nuptials, into the world and our work there.

You are very patient. You take no notice
of my repetitive slogans. My captive mind
that reiterates so boringly these matters of no moment
and dallies down side roads
looking at silly signposts and place names,
seeming to disregard you.

I say “seeming”
for all the time I am so deeply and intricately
intertwined with you, so absolutely yours,
(as you are mine) that there’s no separation now
for all eternity.

Amen, and Alleluia.

~ A poem by Barbara Dent, O.C.D.S 

We Need Silence

 

winter north
(Photo source unknown)

 

Silence will heal the wounds inflicted by the endless words that swarm around us, exhaust us, tire us beyond all tiredness. We need silence in our noisy, work–filled life, as a child needs its mother’s milk. We need to be alone with God.
We need to have a desert, be it only a corner of some apartment, some house, where we can go and rest with God. We need to follow him to some hill, to some garden where he himself was also wont to pray when he was tired and weary and distressed.
We need silence in order to be able to listen to our brothers, to listen with the heart. We need silence to open our souls to our brothers, making an inn for the thousands who may be living in palatial homes but have no place to lay their burdens of loneliness.
We need that silence to be able to speak a few words charged with our love, charged with Christ.

~ A Meditation by Catherine de Hueck Doherty

 

Silent God

This is my prayer —
That, though I may not see,
I be aware
Of the Silent God
Who stands by me.
That, though I may not feel,
I be aware
Of the Mighty Love
Which doggedly follows me.
That, though I may not respond,
I be aware
That God—my Silent, Mighty God,
Waits each day.
Quietly, hopefully, persistently,
Waits each day and through each night
For me,
For me—alone.

~ A poem by Edwina Gateley, ‘Psalms of a Laywoman’

 

 

 

The First Miracle of Jesus


O Jesus, I beg You to transform my soul as You once transformed the water for the bride and bridegroom at Cana.
~ Divine Intimacy

 

wedding at cana
The Wedding at Cana, art by Bradi Barth

 

“And the third day, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the Mother of Jesus was there. And Jesus also was invited . . . to the marriage.” (John 2,I-II).  For the first time, we see the Blessed Virgin in her maternal function as mediatrix of all graces. The Cana miracle, Jesus’ first, was worked precisely because of her intercession which was so powerful that it made Jesus anticipate His hour. “My hour is not yet come,” the Savior had answered His Mother, and Mary was neither dismayed by this apparent refusal nor did she insist on her request. Secure in the knowledge of her Son and full of loving confidence in Him, she says to the servants, “Whatsoever He shall say to you, do ye.” Her humility, consideration for others, faith, and trustful abandonment win Jesus, and to show us the greatness of her power over His divine heart, He grants her wish; the miracle takes place.

Mary’s faith is admirable; and also worthy of admiration is the faith and prompt obedience of the servants who, following Mary’s advice, immediately carry out the orders of Jesus; they fill the waterpots with water and then pour from them. Not a moment of doubt, not a protest—they simply obey. May we not learn from them how to believe, how to obey? Shall we not have recourse to Mary’s powerful intercession?

 

How encouraging it is, O Lord, for me to find Your sweet Mother beside You today! Everything becomes simple and easy near Mary, beneath her maternal eye, under the protection of her powerful intercession. How good You, were, O Jesus, to give us Your dear Mother to be the Mother of our spiritual life! I will follow Mary’s precious advice and do everything You tell me, everything You wish me to do.

O Lord, with a like confidence and trust, I lay my needs before You today. Do You see them? My soul is like the waterpots at the feast: full of water, the cold, insipid water of my frailty and weakness, which I never seem to overcome completely. I can say with the Psalmist: “The waters have come even unto my soul” (Psalm 60,I), and they submerge me and I am as one drowned in incompetence and weakness. O Lord, I believe that, if You will, You can change all this water into the precious wine of Your love, Your grace, and Your life.

 

~ A Meditation by Father Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, O.C.D. ~ Divine Intimacy