Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Our Father: Touching the Hem of God

After hearing today's Gospel reading, I was reminded of an article I wrote a few years ago.  I hope you enjoy this "post from the past."

There was a woman in the area who had been afflicted with a hemorrhage for a dozen years. She had received treatment at the hands of doctors of every sort and exhausted her savings in the process,yet she got no relief; on the contrary, she only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and put her hand to his cloak. "If I just touch his clothing, she thought, "I shall get well." Immediately her flow of blood dried up and the feeling that she was cured of her affliction ran through her whole body. Jesus was conscious at once that healing power had gone out from him..."Who touched my clothing?"..."Daughter, it is your faith that has cured you. Go in peace and be free of this illness." (Mark 5:25-34)
We sometimes go to great lengths to find that one special prayer that will touch the heart of God. We pray novena after novena, and other special prayers, and these are all good, but why do we not turn to the prayer that Jesus himself taught us? Just like the woman with the hemorrhage who suffered for twelve years with no relief, finally she touches the hem of God-Jesus-who knows her need and rewards her faith and simplicity.
The apostles saw the union between Jesus and his Father and wanted to experience this union for themselves. "Lord teach us to pray!" The apostles pleaded. He answers by teaching them a simple prayer from the heart. A prayer of a child addressing his loving Father in heaven who knows our needs before we ask:

"Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This is how you are to pray":

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
Your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
give us today our daily bread,
and forgive us the wrong we have done
as we forgive those who wrong us.
Subject us not to the trial
but deliver us from the evil one.
(Matthew 6:8-13)
The Our Father is a very powerful and important prayer in the teachings of St. Teresa of Jesus. In the Way of Perfection, she teaches her nuns the great value of praying the Our Father well. In fact, in this spiritual work she describes how this prayer, if said well, and with the heart, leads to the gift of perfect contemplation.

When St. Teresa describes the Our Father, she flys away in Spirit when speaking of this prayer, and for us her writing becomes a literary ecstasy in which she gives praise to God for a few paragraphs before coming back to the task at hand describing how to pray.

"Our Father, which art in the Heavens." O my Lord, how Thou dost reveal Thyself as the Father of such a Son, while Thy Son reveals Himself as the Son of such a Father! Blessed be Thou for ever and ever...Oh, how appropriate, daughters, would perfect contemplation be here!"

"O Son of God and my Lord! How is it that Thou canst give us so much with Thy first word?...How can it be that, in the name of Thy Father, thou shouldst give us all there is to be given, by willing Him to have us as His children--and Thy Word cannot fail?"
She tells us we can get lost in prayer and contemplation with just meditating on the first words of the prayer: "Our Father." (Way of Perfection, Chap. 27).

Let us pray the Lord's Prayer with great love and devotion-a simple prayer that can lead to the heights of mystical contemplation.

Let us pray this prayer for each other.

Peace be with you!
Rosemarie, ocds


Anonymous said...

"Touching the hem" is such a great metaphor. Thank you. It is difficult for me to pray the Our Father with sufficient reverence. I needed this.

Rosemarie said...

Let's thank the Holy Spirit for inspiring this post. I'm glad it touched your heart.