What is prayer? How do we pray? How do we pray for an intention or for a person? What do we have to say or do? How much time do we need to spend on it? What is the relationship between our prayer and public prayers, especially the Mass? What is the relationship between silent prayer and all other forms of prayer? In one word: what is the core of prayer, of any prayer? These are questions we often ask.
What is about to be discussed is very important because it offers specific advantages concerning prayer:
1- it allows us an in-depth penetration of our very hearts when we pray, that “inner liturgy” of our heart, its elements and how it operates.
2- It shows the intimate relationship and connection between the inner worship in our heart and the outer one, especially in the Mass. They feed on each other, they never exclude each other.
3- it explains how we can pray for others (intercessory prayer).
4- it shows the perfect embodiment of prayer in Jesus and Mary, and finally and most importantly
5- it shows how Mary’s prayer, She who is the perfect disciple of Jesus, can become our prayer.
The last point summarises in fact the goal of this text: there is no denying the fact that it is necessary to understand the correct place of Mary in our prayer life, and furthermore we need to accept Mary’s prayer in us, so when we pray, we pray perfectly, using the Fire of the Prayer of Mary.
While reading this text for the first time it is important to bear in mind that there is a deliberate intention to go through the different elements of prayer, and combine them with each other at each stage, in order to reach the final point: accept and receive the perfect worship occurring in Mary, how to allow it to be ours, the method to use, the conditions…
To start with, however, we will explore various vital texts or prayers from St Therese of the Child Jesus, Doctor of the Church. Each text offers a powerful light for our prayer life. We will start with the Act of Oblation to the Merciful Love of God. We will learn about the core of any prayer right from this first text. Then we will see the three stages of simplification which Jesus will operate in St Therese’s prayer exemplified in the three following texts. We will then reach the core of prayer. They are all fiery texts, deserving of meditation.
This will lead us on to the main way of praying by the Church, a Trinitarian way, in operation for the last 2000 years: to the Father, in the Son and through the Holy Spirit. Then we will see how this form of prayer is embodied in the Mass. This in turn will lead each one of us to discover that he or she also has an personal Altar and not only can worship but should worship using it. We will notice how this form of understanding prayer/worship is very much one on one with Therese’s way of explaining prayer, that is, with the use of a fulcrum and lever, i.e. Altar and Fire of the Holy Spirit.
Next the relationship between the subject and object as two aspects of the same one worship will be considered and how all this is realised in Jesus and Mary. Finally, we will see how we can assimilate Mary’s Fiery Prayer and make it ours. Perfect worship occurs certainly in Jesus. But Jesus lives in a perfect way in Mary. She is the model of the believer, the faithful of Christ, the model of the disciple. It is in her that discipleship is realised in its perfection.
In sum, this text is a great light for Prayer and Spiritual Life and, indeed, should be read various times and meditated upon.
1- The ‘Act of Oblation’ as Prayer
2- Explanation and Simplification of Prayer by Therese
2.1- First Stage of the Explanation
2.2- Second Stage of the Explanation
2.3- Third and Final Stage of the Explanation
3- Our Prayer and the Trinity
4- External Worship: Altar and Fire
5- Internal Worship: Altar and Fire
6- “Baptismal Priesthood” and Participation into Mass
7- Object and Subject of Faith
8- Old Man vs New Man in Prayer
9- Mary’s Prayer
10- Making Mary’s Prayer Ours: ‘Pray for us Sinners’
11- Comparing the Two Ways of Praying
12- “I call to you, Lord, every day”
13- Jesus’ Arms: Mary’s Fiery Prayer
14- Jesus’ Name: Invoking the Fire
15- Is our Weakness a Hindrance to the Fire?
Conclusion: Perfection or Purity of Prayer
1- The ‘Act of Oblation’ as Prayer
Our aim now is to examine the nature of prayer as seen from the highest perspective, from God’s perspective. Therefore we start our journey here with the unique grace that St Therese received for the entire Church on 9thJune 1895: the discovery of how God wants to be loved: “I received the grace to understand more than ever before how much Jesus desires to be loved”(Story of the Soul, Manuscript A 84r°) Despite the fact that she was already very advanced in holiness this grace was still accorded her. We are here face to face with a unique Church experience.
Therese explains the grace she received as follows:
“On every side this love is unknown, rejected; those hearts upon whom You would lavish it turn to creatures, seeking happiness from them with their miserable affection; they do this instead of throwing themselves into Your arms and of accepting Your Infinite Love. O my God! Is Your disdained Love going to remain closed up within Your Heart? It seems to me that if You were to find souls offering themselves as victims of holocaust* to Your Love, You would consume them rapidly; it seems to me, too, that You would be happy not to hold back the waves of infinite tenderness within You. If Your Justice loves to release itself, this Justice which extends only over the earth, how much more does Your Merciful Love desire to set souls on fire, since Your Mercy reaches to the heavens. O my Jesus, let me be this happy victim; consume Your holocaust with the fire of Your Divine Love.’”” (Story of the Soul, Manuscript A 84r°)
With these words the basic movement of prayer seems to be clarified: instead of being an initiative coming from us, or being mere words we say, it becomes first and foremost the earnest divine desire of God to Give himself, so prayer now becomes the equivalent of “receiving God’s Love”.
God gives us through Therese the grace to understand that He is “holding back the waves of infinite tenderness within Himself”. He wants to give Himself to us, to give His love to us. Prayer will be to answer this desire and give ourselves to Him (“throwing themselves into Your arms”) in order to receive His Love.
*Note: Holocaust here is an expression coming from the Old Testament and alludes to the fact that the entire offering is given to God: the animal offered in the Temple of Jerusalem is entirely burnt on the Altar, no remains, nothing left for the priests. We can translate this expression by: entire, complete and unconditional offering.
We are not usually aware that the “Act of Oblation of St Therese to the Merciful Love of God” is in fact a method of prayer, a description of the deepest core of prayer in us. It is even the best method of prayer because it is revealed to us through St Therese.
Here follow some important points to remember about the text of the Act of Oblation to the Merciful Love of God:
– We should consider the “Merciful Love of God” as being the Holy Spirit.
– The last two paragraphs are in fact the description of the Act of Oblation; they are the core of the act and there are indulgences for this part of the Act, even when prayed without the preceding parts. We can consider that all that comes before is in fact a preparation, a necessary first explanation of the context – the theology of the Act – but not the Act itself which is embodied in the last two paragraphs.
– We should pay attention to the last two paragraphs of the Oblation of herself, the actual act, where she underlines the fact that she would like to repeat this act at each beat of her heart, until she dies! This is incessant prayer, but it is the best incessant prayer because it is a fiery prayer, a prayer filled with the Fire of love for God.
– We should notice also the fact that her oblation is entrusted to Our Lady. Even if there is only a brief allusion to it in her text, the dimensions and ramifications of this are far greater at first appears. This is apparent in the implicit dimension of the text which is very deep and wide as will become manifest below. Her life in fact is extremely Marian. The weight of the implicit dimension of her daily Marian life is not always obvious, however, and has been often neglected by the commentators. Therefore, where there are so many Marian indications from her, we should give these the weight of due consideration in our efforts to understand her.
Another question can be raised at this point: does this prayer include others or is it just for Therese herself? Can it be used in various ways as an intercessory prayer, or should we change prayers? and use a different method? The answer is given in the following section.
Let us first start with the last two paragraphs of the Act of Oblation, i.e. the oblation itself:
“In order to live in one single act of perfect Love, I OFFER MYSELF AS A VICTIM OF HOLOCAUST TO YOUR MERCIFUL LOVE, asking You to consume me incessantly, allowing the waves of infinite tenderness shut up within You to overflow into my soul, and that thus I may become a martyr of Your Love, O my God!
May this martyrdom, after having prepared me to appear before You, finally cause me to die and may my soul take its flight without any delay into the eternal embrace of Your Merciful Love.
I want, O my Beloved, at each beat of my heart to renew this offeringto You an infinite number of times, until the shadows having disappeared I may be able to tell You of my Love in an Eternal Face to Face!“
After having made this discovery of God’s Desire to give us himself, after having considered the Act of Oblation itself (see text above), after having discovered the core of Prayer, of any Prayer, let us now attempt to see if this can be simplified even further. In fact, the Act of Oblation (the text above) is the long version of what prayer should be, a “short and direct way” to reach God Himself – or better said: to be reached by God’s Love. But in order to pray, how can we combine the “tension” between: 1- on the one hand the desire to repeat this entire prayer “an infinite number of times” and 2- on the other hand the length of the paragraphs?
The following section will show us how Jesus himself simplified her prayer without taking anything from it.
2- Explanation and Simplification of Prayer by Therese
On the one hand Therese wants to repeat this Act incessantly, but of course repeating two entire paragraphs is long-winded. So, she explains to us that Jesus taught her how to simplify her prayer. She presents a quote from the Song of Songs where the text says: “draw me and we will run”.
The interesting thing is that this shorter version, which is more of an ejaculatory prayer, contains two dimensions as she will explain: first, to pray to God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and ask Him to draw her closer to Him. Secondly, to pray to God for all her brothers and sisters. In sum then, this one short prayer (“draw me and we will run”) is in fact two prayers in one, a straightforward prayer and an intercessory prayer.
Therese will explain this shorter version of her prayer in three different places toward the end of her autobiography. She will start first by introducing us to it. Then, she will return to it, after a diversion, and develop the explanation further. And finally, she will add even more precision and clarity to it by taking the example of the lever and fulcrum, in order to lift the world.
Thus, from the first two explanations of “draw me and we will run”, we learn that God attaches souls to her (and to all of us). It is not she who acts but God, and she doesn’t pay attention to who has been attached by God to her, or how and when. She understands that these mysterious people (her spiritual children) are attached to her and in a way are part of her being when she prays. The result is that she doesn’t have to pay attention to them, but only to God. In brief what Therese learned was that: there was no need to pay attention, watch, stare, dwell over these facts, but the real need was in fact to focus on Jesus, to love Him, to be transformed by the Fire of His love. Furthermore, she understood that in this case, if she is drawn closer and more intimately into the Fire of the Love of Jesus, all the souls attached (by God) to her will automatically be attracted, will benefit, and will receive the graces through her.
2.1- First Stage of the Explanation
As mentioned above the following is the first explanation she gives of how Jesus taught her how to pray for others:
“Since I have two brothers and my little Sisters, the novices, if I wanted to ask for each soul what each one needed and go into detail about it, the days would not be long enough and I fear I would forget something important. For simple souls there must be no complicated ways; as I am of their number, one morning during my thanksgiving, Jesus gave me a simple means of accomplishing my mission.
He made me [34r°] understand these words of the Canticle of Canticles: “DRAW ME, WE SHALL RUN after you in the odour of your ointments.” O Jesus, it is not even necessary to say: “When drawing me, draw the souls whom I love!” This simplestatement: “Draw me” suffices; I understand, Lord, that when a soul allows herself to be captivated by the odour of your ointments, she cannot run alone, all the souls whom she loves follow in her train; this is done without constraint, without effort, it is a natural consequence of her attraction for You. Just as a torrent, throwing itself with impetuosity into the ocean, drags after it everything it encounters in its passage, in the same way, O Jesus, the soul who plunges into the shoreless ocean of Your Love, draws with her all the treasures she possesses. Lord, You know it, I have no other treasures than the souls it has pleased You to unite to mine;
Now Therese enters deeper into her intercessory prayer that results from her drawing closer to Jesus: “we shall run”.
it is You who entrusted these treasures to me, and so I dare to borrow the words You addressed to the heavenly Father, the last night which saw You on our earth as a traveller and a mortal. Jesus, I do not know when my exile will be ended; more than one night will still see me singing Your Mercies in this exile, but for me will finally come the last night, and then I want to be able to say to You, O my God: “I have glorified you on earth; I have finished the work you gave me to do. And now do you, Father, glorify me with yourself, with the glory I had with you before the world existed.“ I have manifested your name to those whom you have given me out of the world. They were yours, and you have given them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they have learned that whatever you have given me is from you; because the words you have given me, I have given to them. And they have received them, and have known of a truth that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me. “I pray for them, not for the world do I pray, but for those whom you have given me, because they are yours; and all things that are mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep in your name those whom you have given to me.
“But now I am coming to you; and these things I speak in the world, in order that they may have joy made full in themselves. I have given them your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not pray that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
“Yet not for these only do I pray, but for those who through their word are to believe in me.
“Father, I will that where I am, these also whom you have given me may be with me, that they may see my glory which you have given me, because you loved me from the foundation of the world. And I have made known your name to them, and will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and I in them.”” (Story of a Soul, Manuscript C)
“Draw me” in fact is the summary of the Act of Oblation. This is the lesson we need to glean from this explanation! This is new and liberating! Jesus Himself taught her how to simplify, to concentrate, to intensify her prayer. Therefore, the contents of the entire Act of Oblation and not only, but most importantly, this final part (which is solely given above) is included in this expression, request or prayer: “draw me”.
2.2- Second Stage of the Explanation
A few paragraphs afterwards St. Therese comes back to the explanation because she feels she needs to offer more detail:
“Mother, I think it is necessary to give a few more explanations on the passage in the Canticle of Canticles: “Draw me, we shall run,” for what I wanted to say appears to me little understood. “No man can come after me, unless the FATHER who sent me draw him,” Jesus has said. Again, through beautiful parables, and often even without using this means so well known to the people, He teaches us that it is enough to knock and it will be opened, to seek in order to find, and to hold out one’s hand humbly to receive what is asked for. He also says that everything we ask the Father in His name, He will grant it. No doubt, it is because of this teaching that the Holy Spirit, before Jesus’ birth, dictated this prophetic prayer: “Draw me, we shall run”.
What is it then to ask to be “Drawn” if not to be united in an intimate way to the object which captivates our heart? If fire and iron had the use of reason, and if the latter said to the other: “Draw me,” would it not prove that it desires to be identified with the fire in such a way that the fire penetrate [36r°] and drink it up with its burning substance and seem to become one with it? Dear Mother, this is my prayer. I ask Jesus to draw me into the flames of His love, to unite me so closely to Him that He live and act in me. I feel that the more the fire of love burns within my heart, the more I shall say: “Draw me,” the more also the souls who will approach me(poor little piece of iron, useless if I withdraw from the divine furnace), the more these souls will run swiftly in the odour of the ointments of their Beloved, for a soul that is burning with love cannot remain inactive. No doubt, she will remain at Jesus’ feet as did Mary Magdalene, and she will listen to His sweet and burning words. Appearing to do nothing, she will give much more than Martha who torments herself with many things and wants her sister to imitate her.” (Story of a Soul, Manuscript C)
2.3- Third and Final Stage of the Explanation
A few lines after the above enhanced explanation she comes back to it but, this time, in a different form:
“All the saints have understood this, and more especially those who filled the world with the light of the Gospel teachings. Was it not in prayer that St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. John of the Cross, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis, St. Dominic, and so many other famous Friends of God have drawn out this divine science which delights the greatest geniuses? A scholar has said: “Give me a lever and a fulcrum and I will lift the world.” What Archimedes was not able to obtain, for his request was not directed by God and was only made from a material viewpoint, the saints have obtained in all its fullness. The Almighty has given them as fulcrum: HIMSELF ALONE; as lever: PRAYER which burns with a fire of love. And it is in this way that they have lifted the world; it is in this way that the saints still militant lift it, and that, until the end of time, the saints to come will lift it.”(Story of a Soul, Manuscript C)
Elsewhere St Therese says that if somebody asks her to pray for him, she stops, says a “Hail Mary” for the person, entrusting the person to God, to Mary, and that is that. She doesn’t worry anymore.
It is important, consequently, to understand that prayer is not separable from intercessory prayer and vice-versa. They are not two types of prayer, but one. The more we are transformed by the Love of God, the more we love God and the more we can love our brothers. We can say that in a way Love makes us like a “mystical body”. This is truly the development of our Baptismal Priesthood. It is so in the sense that all the people that God “attaches” to us, i.e. all those who will benefit from our growth and our relationship with God, are like our personal mystical body. We are usually unaware of who these people are. It can be 100.000 people living in China. We don’t know. What we do know, by contrast, is that the more the Love of God enters into us, makes us grow, transforms us in God, the more our “spiritual shoulders” become larger and we can carry more people. We still don’t know them. But anything we do, has a direct mystical impact on them. Hence the great significance of St Therese’s words, when toward the end of her life, when she was very ill and was enduring much suffering yet was ordered by the doctors to walk in order to help her ailments, she said: “I walk for a missionary”. She saw and lived this unity between her and another person, in the Communion of saints, and saw how the grace of God flows. She underlines it in her discovery of the real engine of the Church: “I understood it was Love alone that made the Church’s members act, that if Love ever became extinct, apostles would not preach the Gospel and martyrs would not shed their blood.” (MsB 3v°)
This presentation of the core of prayer, of how to “lift the world” bears in it a “mechanism” which is summarised by the image of the lever. This needs the following: 1- something to lift, 2- a lever, 3- a solid fulcrum that can bear the weight and the power, 4- the power to exercise over the lever. Is this image viable theologically? The answer is a definite “Yes”. Let us see this step by step. First let us understand the traditional way of understanding prayer (the Trinitarian way), then see in the Mass how the Trinitarian way is enacted, and finally come back to the lever and see how it sheds a beautiful and useful light for our personal spiritual life – the inner Altar in our heart.
Important note: it is important to see that by St Therese’s last explanation, we were able in a way to transcend words and perform an inner act of love, namely, “To love [God] is to give oneself” to God says St Therese elsewhere! We may express this gift of ourselves by saying “draw me” and we may simply make the silent inner act of giving ourselves! Some people make the silent act, others just continue to say: “draw me!” Or just: “I love you Jesus” or similar words that embody “draw me”. Let us also remember how St Therese understands an act of love: she says and even underlines in many of her writings how a sigh expressed to God, to Jesus, a sigh of longing, earnest longing or love, pleases God. So yes, this is a real act – a sigh!
This brings us very close to the finest explanations of prayer offered by St Augustine commenting on the Psalms, where he says that “desire” and the increase of desire is the highest level and simplest form of prayer. When prayer becomes Fire, “real fire” as St Therese says, this fire is in fact a thirst, an act of thirst expressed to God – God in us – our thirsting and loving God.
3- Our Prayer and the Trinity
The Living Tradition of the Church is more particularly embodied in the Fathers of the Church; they laid down the foundations of the Liturgy and public prayers. The living Tradition of the Church says clearly that baptism inserts us in Christ, and therefore in the Trinity. Therefore, when we pray we are in Christ – as adoptive sons in Him – facing the Father, praying in the Holy Spirit. We can easily say that the Fathers of the Church clearly understood how real prayer works: it can only exist in the Trinity, when being grafted onto the Son, we are therefore enabled to access the Father, “appear” in His Presence, through the Holy Spirit whose Divine Life flows through us, elevating us, and uniting us with the Father.
True worship of the Father, thus, happens in “spirit and in truth”, i.e. in the Truth, that is in Christ who is the truth, and in the Holy Spirit. This is what Jesus says to the Samaritan woman: “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24)
The human nature of Christ is in fact our dwelling place: His body is the dwelling place of our body, His soul of our soul, His spirit of our spirit. As shown below, we are invited to dwell in Christ in order to pray, to enter into the presence of the Father, in the Holy Spirit.
The pure Act of Love happens when we are in the Circulation (Circumincession in Latin – Perichoresis in Greek) of the life of the Trinity.
4- External Worship: Altar and Fire
There is another way to understand prayer that is related to External Worship. If we take the essential elements of the Sacrifice of the Altar, we find the same Trinitarian elements that we found above displayed, offered, and introducing us into real prayer and worship. Thus, we have:
1- the Altar, the stone of the Altar that symbolises Christ himself.
2- the Fire of the Holy Spirit.
3- the Offerings: ourselves in Christ: in the Mass. After the Consecration the real Trinitarian prayer starts when the Priest, who represents Christ, mentions the three dimensions of the existing Church in order to introduce them in Christ now present as the Lamb, namely: “May he [the Holy Spirit] make us an everlasting gift to you”, that is, a- People who are victorious, the saints, starting with Our Lady, b- The Pilgrim Church, the Church militant here on earth, living people who are named, from the Pope to the humblest Christian, incorporating even all God’s children scattered around the world: “unite all your children wherever they may be.”, c- and finally people who are dead but are still being purified in purgatory. By mentioning them, the Priest in fact is showing that the Jesus who is present here, in the appearances of Bread and Wine, the Lamb, is in fact absorbing all these persons into Himself, in His act of Offering of himself to the Father: “Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God” (He 9:14).
4- the Eternal Father to whom we pray, whom we worship.
5- the Priest who represents Christ himself performing the Offering of Himself.
6- Finally we have the most perfect Act of Offering realised by Christ, the lifting operation: all the persons mentioned above, being now in Christ are offered by Christ and in Christ to the Father in the Holy Spirit. It is an Act of Worship, an Act of Love: “Through Him, with Him and in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour are yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever.” This is the embodiment of the most complete, most perfect and pure Act of Love. This is the summit of Worship, when all the persons in Christ become agreeable to God the Father and are received by Him, seeing in them His Son.
– It is important to notice that the real Altar is the Altar of the Cross, where we find Jesus Himself as Priest who offers, as Offering (or Victim) who is offered, in the Holy Spirit, being the hidden Fire in which Christ offered Himself, and of course the Eternal Father. On the Cross, by the love of the Holy Spirit in Him, Christ gathered all human beings into Himself, united Himself with each one of us and offered Himself to the Father, reuniting each one of us with the Father. A fully Trinitarian movement. Redemption.
– It is also important to study the liturgy of the first Covenant, in the Old Testament, and see how all the elements of worship are prefigured, how God prepared humanity to understand and live the true and only Sacrifice, – Jesus’ Redemption on the Cross.
– The Mass is not a repetition of the Sacrifice. It is the only Sacrifice of the Cross made present to us.
– St Teresa of Avila teaching contemplative prayer at a certain point summarises prayer in the most synthetic and deep way, that its depths almost escapes us: “For, hidden there within itself, it can think about the Passion, and picture the Son, and offer Him to the Father, without wearying the mind by going to seek Him on Mount Calvary, or in the Garden, or at the Column.” (Way of Perfection, 28,4) The indication is there, in the middle of a sentence that is meant to explain the “Prayer of Quiet”. Be with the Son, and offer Him to the Father! This is in fact what is happening in the Mass.
5- Internal Worship: Altar and Fire
When we reflect on worship in the Mass is what is visible, its external aspect, the only consideration. What about our personal prayer during the Mass and outside of the Mass? How does it relate to the perfect Worship that we find in the Mass?
If we look carefully at the different elements of external worship and look into the anthropological aspect of prayer, in our heart, we will find in it a true reflection of the exterior worship. In fact, the external reality of worship that we saw about the Mass (Altar, Fire, Offering,…) offers us all the elements of internal true worship and the essence of prayer “in Spirit and in Truth”.
In addition, it is important to know that, as baptised persons, not only do we have the main elements of this worship present in our heart, but another demand is also made of us. We are called to exercise our Baptismal Priesthood (see texts below), by offering – in Christ and with Him – ourselves on the Altar of Christ in our heart, through the power of offering and elevation of the Holy Spirit to God the Father.
This is the cornerstone of Worship, of the true Worship, “in Spirit and in Truth”.
Our Baptism inserts into our heart Jesus Himself who is the Altar, gives us the Holy Spirit, and the lifting power of Jesus the Priest and the Holy Spirit together. Our Baptism offers us the possibility to enter not only in Jesus, but also into Communion with the Father in the Holy Spirit. Whoever is “in Christ”, is obviously granted direct access to the Father for the “embrace of the Father” is given to the Baptised.
Worship in Our Heart
Discovering or acknowledging this complex Gift, the entire “mechanism” of Worship, very similar to the one we have in the Mass is the cornerstone of any Christian prayer life. Knowing that not only we can, but that we are invited to, offer ourselves in Christ to the Father in the Communion of the Holy Spirit is absolutely vital. We are empowered, by the pure goodness and mercy of God to enter into the Trinity, but also to exercise this Divine Act of Love, of giving ourselves in Christ to the Father in the embrace of the Holy Spirit. This IS prayer, this IS Divine Life in us, this is to love God and be loved by Him.
Here below we can find some texts from the teaching of the Church, taken from Council Vatican II documents. They will help strengthen our faith and understanding of what the Gift of God is to us, what it means to be Baptised, what we are enabled to do.
6- “Baptismal Priesthood” and Participation into Mass
Let us see first how “Baptismal Priesthood” enables us: a- to take part in the liturgy and worship and b- as Priests in Christ, to offer ourselves to God.
‘‘Christ the Lord, High Priest taken from among men, made the new people “a kingdom and priests to God the Father”. The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated as a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, in order that through all those works which are those of the Christian man they may offer spiritual sacrifices and proclaim the power of Him who has called them out of darkness into His marvellous light. Therefore all the disciples of Christ, persevering in prayer and praising God, should present [offer] themselves as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. Everywhere on earth they must bear witness to Christ and give an answer to those who seek an account of that hope of eternal life which is in them.
Though they differ from one another in essence and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are nonetheless interrelated: each of them in its own special way is a participation in the one priesthood of Christ. The ministerial priest, by the sacred power he enjoys, teaches and rules the priestly people; acting in the person of Christ, he makes present the Eucharistic sacrifice, and offers it to God in the name of all the people. But the faithful, in virtue of their royal priesthood, join in the offering of the Eucharist. They likewise exercise that priesthood in receiving the sacraments, in prayer and thanksgiving, in the witness of a holy life, and by self-denial and active charity.” (Council Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 10)
“It is through the sacraments and the exercise of the virtues that the sacred nature and organic structure of the priestly community is brought into operation. Incorporated in the Church through baptism, the faithful are destinedby the baptismal character for the worship of the Christian religion; reborn as sons of God they must confess before men the faith which they have received from God through the Church. They are more perfectly bound to the Church by the sacrament of Confirmation, and the Holy Spirit endows them with special strength so that they are more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith, both by word and by deed, as true witnesses of Christ. Taking part in the Eucharistic sacrifice, which is the fount and apex of the whole Christian life, they offer the Divine Victim to God, and offer themselves along with It. Thus both by reason of the offering and through Holy Communion all take part in this liturgical service, not indeed, all in the same way but each in that way which is proper to himself. Strengthened in Holy Communion by the Body of Christ, they then manifest in a concrete way that unity of the people of God which is suitably signified and wondrously brought about by this most august sacrament. […] Fortified by so many and such powerful means of salvation, all the faithful, whatever their condition or state, are called by the Lord, each in his own way, to that perfect holiness whereby the Father Himself is perfect.” (Council Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 11)
As a consequence of having received from God our Baptismal Priesthood, being grafted onto Christ The Priest, let us now see a text that mentions the need for us to participate (take part) in the Mass in a fruitful and deep way, by exercising our Priesthood:
“The Church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christ’s faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators; on the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part [participate] in the sacred action conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration. They should be instructed by God’s word and be nourished at the table of the Lord’s body; they should give thanks to God; by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn also to offer themselves; through Christ the Mediator, they should be drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and with each other, so that finally God may be all in all.” (Council Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium 48; see as well 10-11, 13, 21)
The allusion made above is to the following beautiful text of St Paul: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.” (Rm 12:1)
The important question now is the following: is this movement of Worship, this lifting movement of ourselves to the Father, happening in our heart perfectly and with purity? Can any person handle Jesus’ Priesthood with purity? When we take on board Jesus’ movement of offering of himself to the Father, aren’t we sometimes using the means of the Old Man?
7- Object and Subject of Faith
A superficial and naïve way of understanding external and internal worship might lead us to forget a very important reality: the way we receive Christ and His Worship in us. Here we also need the help of the teaching of the great Masters in Spiritual Life, especially St John of the Cross. A very deep truth impregnates the writings of this great Master: it is not enough to have Jesus as our goal and object of our spiritual life! We need to pay attention as well to the degree of our transformation in Him, we need to pay attention to the way (or modality) we receive Him and the Action of the Holy Spirit in us: the subject of faith.
In fact, a very deep truth that we also find in the Gospel is underlined here by St John of the Cross: my modality, or the way I receive and deal with Christ and the Holy Spirit can be human, i.e. following the Old Man’s ways and means. Think for instance of Peter in the Gospel: Jesus says where He is heading for, His Passion, and Peter insists that he will give his life for Jesus. The Old Man is still very much alive in Peter. And the Old Man, even if he has very good intentions, doesn’t have the means to reach the Divine Passion. This is why the Lord says repeatedly that the New Wine (the Divine Life that God wants to give us) can only be handled by New Skins! No discussion! This is why the Lord takes great care to initiate us into the depths of spiritual life, the depths of how to follow Him, by offering us a series of Parables that are vital for any progress in Spiritual Life! The foundation of these parables is the Parable of the Sower where this divine Teaching is given to us: attention brought to the divine Seed, i.e. the Word of God, is not enough, attention should also be brought to the soil! The reasons for this are two-fold: a- without the soil the Seed cannot possibly develop! Divine life in us will not exist without our collaboration. b- it is not any soil that will work! Good will is not enough, we need “The Good Soil”!
In sum, to become Jesus’ disciple encompasses a second step: how am I exercising discipleship? Is the Old Man still alive in me? Acting in me? Jeopardising my Spiritual Life? What is it to be a perfect disciple? How is it possible to let the New Man in us grow, develop and work in a secure and guaranteed way?
8- Old Man vs New Man in Prayer
Prayer life incorporates the same issue. The object of our prayer is certainly Jesus! But how do we pray to Him? On which modality do we lean in order to reach Him or God the Father? It is very important to remember that the journey of growth in Spiritual Life is in fact the journey of purification and transformation of the modality we use when we pray. The purer we become, the more freely Jesus and the Holy Spirit can operate in us.
Do we ever reach the perfect modality? Is there a way to reach the perfect modality? This is the next fundamental question we need to ask of ourselves.
The Gospel already mentions “the new skin” and “the good soil”. The living tradition, dogmatic and liturgical, recognises in Mary the good soil and the new skin! She is the immaculate, the pure, the holy, who was capable of receiving Christ, the Divine Seed, the New Wine.
Mary is the perfect disciple for Jesus, but she is also the perfect embodiment of the prayer of the perfect disciple. In fact, she is the only one who is prayer, fire from fire! She is the burning bush, that burns and who is not consumed. Prayer to Jesus, in Her is the most perfect and the purest!
Significantly only certain saints have been given understanding of this divine teaching and have been able to develop it. From amongst these St Grignon de Montfort is one of the greatest saints who understood this issue.
9- Mary’s Prayer
An important truth about worship should be underlined here. This worship takes place perfectly in Christ’s human nature. But when it comes to introducing this worship to Christ’s disciples, that is, to the faithful, the question changes. Is it being enacted perfectly? Who is totally holy and transformed in Christ? This is the condition. The worship at the Altar is perfect – even independently of the celebrant’s holiness. We are not talking about this worship. We are talking about the inner worship, about the degree of our participation in the external one. Various times Council Vatican II mentions the notion of participation, fruitful participation in the Mass. In addition, we also have our personal prayer, where we need to ask ourselves: is our personal worship taking place perfectly? Are we really giving perfect praise to God?
Amongst Jesus’ disciples only one was totally pure, totally perfect: Mary. She is immaculate. She is greeted by the angel as “full of grace”. Only the Holy Spirit operates in her says St John of the Cross. In this sense, participating in Jesus’ Worship of the Father in the Holy Spirit is taking place perfectly in Mary. The lifting power of the Fire of the Holy Spirit is working perfectly in Mary without any obstacle. Mary’s prayer, is totally and perfectly moved by the Holy Spirit, to the point that, her being is so united and transformed in the Holy Spirit, that her prayer is the Fire itself of the Holy Spirit. The lifting power of the Holy Spirit remains as it is, intact, working in Mary. Consequently we can say that Jesus’ Prayer, i.e. the Holy Spirit, is perfectly alive in Mary. She is the embodiment of the perfect disciple of Jesus.
The power of Mary’s prayer is simply God’s power! There is no obstacle in Mary that offers resistance to the action of Jesus and the Holy Spirit which is taking place in her.
In her we find Jesus the Altar, the stone, the fulcrum of any prayer. In her we find the lifting power of the Holy Spirit, working perfectly with no resistance, with all its lifting power!
In this sense, in Mary the entire world is lifted up to the Father, because the Son and the Holy Spirit are perfectly working in her. In sum, the perfect worship of the Son is enacted in her perfectly.
Can such prayer take place in our heart? Can we reach that level of purity and holiness? How can we enter into prayer of such purity? Can we do this as St Therese says in her Act of Oblation: “in order to live in a perfect act of love…”? Can we have that perfect and pure love? That perfect and pure offering of ourselves leaning only on Christ, being lifted by the pure Power of the Holy Spirit? Do we have that perfect love in us? Can we hope for this perfect love? If so, how? Aren’t we sinners? We are not the Immaculate Conception – we are not immaculate.
10- Making Mary’s Prayer Ours: ‘Pray for us Sinners’
Now the amazing gift of God is that He is offering to graft Mary’s Prayer onto us. Thus, the perfect worship of Jesus, in the fire of the Holy Spirit, occurring in Mary is being offered to us. Mary’s Fire, Mary’s lifting power is being given to us.
Let us explore how this can be brought about.
To start with in the “Hail Mary” we greet Mary by saying “Full-of-Grace”, as the Angel did, recognising that only God works in her! She is “full”, namely, there is no space in her that can hold anything else but God! Only God dwells in her, only the Holy Spirit works in Her and moves her.
Next, we acknowledge that Jesus, “the Lord”, the true Altar and only fulcrum of any prayer is “with her”, followed by our recognition that She is “blessed” by being the only Immaculate amongst all the disciples. We are all sinners, we are all non-fruitful soils, She is the only “Good Soil” (see the Parable of the Sower, Matthew 13). We acknowledge that Jesus is the “fruit” of her Faith, that Jesus is dwelling in the fullness of his Holiness, in the fullness of His height, depths, length, width, in Her.
She is Holy, the worship She offers to God is perfect.
We then add that we would like to take on board that Worship, that we are “sinners”, incapable of offering any acceptable worship but that since she is our personal mother, we rely, count, have recourse to her Fiery Prayer. We say: pray for us, pray in us, realise your perfect worship in us. Thereby the perfect reality of Worship can be said to be transported into us and received by us. Thus, any prayer can be perfect in us as long as we allow Mary’s prayer (Jesus praying to the Father in the Fire of the Holy Spirit) to be in us, namely, “Pray for us”, really says: come in us, dwell in us, and pray in us. All our intentions, all our offerings, ourselves, our life, the entire world we place into your Hands.
Therefore, when we say “Pray for us”, Mary is invited into our hearts with all that she embodies (see image of the blue oval below – Mary Herself), which is then enacted, activated and becomes alive and works in us. We, thereby, offer Mary space in us so that her prayer can be realised in us. The amazing thing is that the perfection, purity and mostly the Power of the pure Fire of Mary’s prayer (“crowned flame” as Dante called Our Lady) can be ours!
It is simply incredible to be able to access perfection by just acknowledging who Mary is, what is happening in her, and who we are and just conclude with: “Pray for us”. The power of Her Fire is then immediately integrated into us, has the opportunity to work for us and for the world, for the persons who are attached to us, as St Therese says above. This is the pure power that lifts the world.
This reality in the blue oval form can be in us. Simply if we say: “pray for us”.
The following drawing has all the elements of perfect worship in Mary: the Son (the stone of the Altar); the Fire for the oblation (in red on the Altar), i.e. the Holy Spirit; the Oblation in green (ourselves, the world;, the Father, and the Oval Form, Mary’s heart or womb or being.
The Altar is the stone, the strong stone that is Christ that no one can crush. He is the Fulcrum, the point on which the lever leans. The fire of the Holy Spirit is the Lever. The lifting Power!
Let us now re-read Therese’s words with this great light added:
“What Archimedes was not able to obtain, for his request was not directed by God and was only made from a material viewpoint, the saints have obtained in all its fullness. The Almighty has given them as fulcrum: HIMSELF ALONE; as lever: PRAYER which burns with a fire of love. And it is in this way that they have lifted the world; it is in this way that the saints still militant lift it, and that, until the end of time, the saints to come will lift it.” (Story of a Soul, Manuscript C)
This can only happen perfectly in Mary, the Mother of all saints, the Mother of holiness in us. She has in her the pure fulcrum: Jesus the Stone, alone. She does not lean on any virtuous or meritorious act coming from us! She does not lean on our holiness! Notice, in fact, what Therese says in the long presentation of her Act of Oblation: “All our justice is stained in Your eyes”, “I desire, in a word, to be a saint, but I feel my helplessness and I beg You, O my God! to be Yourself my Sanctity!“, “I offer You, O Blessed Trinity! the Love and merits of the Blessed Virgin, my dear Mother. It is to her I abandon my offering, begging her to present it to You.”
The lever is the “prayer which burns with a fire of love”! This is Jesus’ Prayer in Mary, Mary united to the Fire of the Holy Spirit, the Lifting power of God himself!
11- Comparing the Two Ways of Praying
By comparing the two ways of praying, the one without Mary and the one with Mary’s Fire, we can see the difference. Below the two diagrams, side by side, express the two ways of praying: the first one (to the left) shows us the case where we lean on our capacity/modality of receiving Jesus and the Holy Spirit in us. This way, the outcome of our prayer depends on our degree of transformation in Jesus, on our degree of purity, i.e. the degree in which we do not oppose the action of the Holy Spirit in us, by our weakness, our sinful condition, our lack of full transformation. The second diagram (to the right) describes our prayer when we lean on Mary’s capacity/modality of receiving Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Without a doubt Mary’s way is pure, perfect, full and wholesome.
Although in both cases it is we who pray, it is our prayer in one case however where we lean on our own capacity – often unknowingly, and yet on the contrary we think we are doing well. However, in the second diagram we really succeed when we pray and have recourse to Mary’s Prayer, and in fact we lean on Mary’s capacity. Her capacity is immaculate, Jesus in her works perfectly, fully, without finding any obstacle.
Our Prayer Leaning on Our Modality
Our Prayer Leaning on Mary’s Modality
|Fulcrum: the altar is crushed by the weight of the offering.
Fire: the fire is in ashes and can’t lift.
Priest: we are interfering in Christ’s work. It is we, then, who are the priest!
|Fulcrum: the Altar is Christ as it is bearing the weight.
Fire: the Fire is fully alive and working.
Priest:Christ the Priest works freely in Mary, and therefore in us.
If we lean on our modality, what happens is the altar in our heart is ours! “all our justices have stains” St Therese reminds us, the just do fall seven times! On the drawing we can see that the altar is crushed by the weight of the lifting power, the Holy Spirit. And on top of that the Fire of the Holy Spirit is not well lit, it is rather in the form of ashes.
12- “I call to you, Lord, every day”
Union with Jesus’ Body
Baptism grafts us onto Jesus who is Head and Body. We can’t separate these two dimensions. The more we grow spiritually the more we become aware of this unity between Jesus’ Head and Body. We understand better to which extent we are called to be united to the One Christ, the Total Christ. The more we grow spiritually, the more we are united with Jesus’ Body. In fact, the more we grow spiritually, the more the love of God in us grows and allows us – by its own strength – to be united to more people. We don’t see them, we don’t know them, or better said we might know a tiny proportion of them. The majority will remain unknown, hidden in the mystery of God’s Providence until we die. But it is a solid truth that when we pray, we are never alone. This is why there is no such thing as a “private” prayer ever even if we are totally alone, like a hermit in a wide desert. The Church is at the centre of our heart. “private” could induce us to think that when we pray alone the Church and other people are not present. We might end up living an abstract, selfish, spiritual life. There is no such thing; it would be a deviation to think this or worse to behave like this. The same Jesus we receive in Communion is received by the others around us. We are never alone. We can’t be cut off from the rest of the Church. On the contrary, the more we grow, the more we are led to deeper layers of the great Mystery of the Church, Jesus’ Body.
In the heart of any of the Baptised the Church is to be found, and a growing deep connection is thereby made with the rest of the Church. Therefore, when we pray, we are always in the midst of other people, united to them. Hence the use of the expression “Our Father” and not “My Father”.
In the Living Tradition of the liturgy and prayer of the Church we always find two types of prayers: public prayers and personal ones. In both of them we offer praise, intercession for ourselves and for the entire Church and for the World. Leaning on the Fiery prayer of Mary, then, invoking Her Prayer, leaning on the power of elevation that Her incandescent Prayer has, makes us draw closer to the heart of the Church and join Jesus’ Prayer.
In a way, whenever we pray our prayer is always intercessory since we are united to our brothers and sisters, since the Love of God poured into our hearts and ever-growing, unites us with many others who need our Priestly Prayer derived from our Baptismal Priesthood. When we pray we are like a mother carrying her children in her womb. Whatever she does benefits her children directly. If our entire being is absorbed by Mary’s Perfect Prayer, automatically all our children are absorbed as well and benefit from the Communication of the Love of God we receive.
The more we grow, the greater the number of Children we carry mysteriously. Hence the importance of praying incessantly. This can occur during public prayers (Divine Office) and as well in our personal prayer, throughout the day.
“You have put me in the lowest pit”
For the Divine Office (Lauds, Mid-day, Vespers, Compline, Readings), we essentially use the Psalms of the Old Testament. “Why do we use a prayer used in the Old Covenant?” you may ask. Because we have understood that Jesus prayed the Psalms and gave them their final and irreversible meaning of a mission successfully accomplished. We do not hear David’s prayer only, we are led by the Spirit deeper to find Jesus’ Prayer. Jesus is our true David, and therefore we find Christ in the Psalms and we discover, every time we pray them, marvels of the mysteries of Christ. We find countless lessons on prayer in the Psalms.
Note: Just as an example one can read St Augustin’s famous Commentary on the Psalms or a summarized presentation of it.
The Fathers of the Desert, the Egyptian Monks, teach us a very important lesson about prayer and union with the Mystical Body of Christ. One would think that freed from the World’s concerns they are in a constant, happy and carefree state. In fact, far from that, even if they draw closer to Christ and are united to Him, they are introduced to deeper layers of the Church and of the World and exercise therefore a deeper form of prayer. Often one finds them “in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths” of humanity. Why so? The reason is that, as we have said, the more one grows in Christ the more he or she is introduced to deeper layers of the mystery of the Church and of the World. Out of the abundance of the Holy Spirit, Fire of God, one is united to people who are far from God. One is led to discover and visit, with the work of the Holy Spirit, “the people walking in darkness […] those living in the land of deep darkness” (Isaiah 9:1-2). He or she, united to Mary and Jesus, is called to be their light in their darkness.
So, if any of us, at any time during the day, feel any darkness, any sadness, or we are facing any struggle, we can say with Jesus:
“Lord, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you. May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry. I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like one without strength. I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care. You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths. […] I am confined and cannot escape; my eyes are dim with grief. I call to you, Lord, every day; I spread out my hands to you.” (Ps 88:1…9)
“I call to you, Lord, every day; I spread out my hands to you.”… How do we do this? Holding my rosary, I invoke the Fire of Mary’s Prayer, I direct the sacred Beam of Her powerful Fire onto this darkness, and keep praying, until the Light comes back, until the Communion with Jesus comes back. The Fire of Mary’s Prayer is capable of purifying all the dirt, drying all the water, making us lighter again, burning with God’s Fire. If on one hand I direct the Sacred Beam onto the darkness, on the other hand I rely on the inherent Power of the Sacred Beam to clear it, according to when God will judge the time right: in five minutes, in ten minutes – this is not in our hands. This is God’s work, directly in the hearts of other people… mysteriously. We and our little “mystical body” benefit. It is not up to us to weigh, judge,… We just pray and offer ourselves to God, putting ourselves like little Children in the Hands of Mary. It is important to count and rely on Mary’s Prayer of Fire. Holding our Rosary.
In this sense, anything negative that happens to us during the day can be used and transformed by the Fire of God present in Mary’s Prayer: it dissolves anything that is not God, it makes any darkness vanish. Everything is combustible in the Fire of God.
During any prayer, public or personal, we hold our Rosary, we have recourse to Mary’s Prayer, we lean on the Power of Elevation the Holy Spirit has in her… and we keep “bombarding” or better said: we keep directing the Beam of this Fire, against the darkness, until we can sing with Her, after a few or many minutes: “My Soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour”… Her Prayer becomes our Prayer. Amen.
This can be done and repeated during the day: “Pray incessantly” says the Scriptures.
13- Jesus’ Arms: Mary’s Fiery Prayer
In the following text, again from Saint Therese, the same subject is expressed but in a different way. The only key needed in order to unlock the text and see the unity of all the teaching is that when St Therese mentions the Arms of Jesus, we should understand: Mary. Mary is indeed Jesus’ Arms. More precisely, Jesus’ Arms are Mary’s Fiery Prayer. Let us first read the text which is an extract from her Autobiography, Story of a Soul, Manuscript C. It is a passage written after June 1897, namely, two years after the Act of Oblation. The beginning of the text reminds us of the beginning of the Act of Oblation: St Therese wants to be a saint, but is faced with her weakness and limitations.
“I have always wanted to be a saint. Alas! I have always noticed that when I compared myself to the saints, there is between them and me the same difference that exists between a mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds and the obscure grain of sand trampled underfoot by passers-by. Instead of becoming discouraged, I said to myself: God cannot inspire unrealizable desires. I can then, in spite of my littleness, aspire to holiness. It is impossible for me to grow up, and so I must bear with myself such as I am with all my imperfections.”
Her reasoning is characteristic of Therese: I am little, weak, but I won’t surrender to despair or lose courage. If God inspires such desires in me, there must be a solution that doesn’t wipe out my weakness but instead takes it into consideration and works with it.
“But I want to seek out a means of going to heaven by a little way, a way that is very straight, very short, and totally new.”
She is led by her intuition, a deep certainty. Added to this, she feels how the times she is living in is one of many inventions, is a time of inventions, and she thinks that something similar has to exist as well in the spiritual realm. Her ultimate aim is to reach heaven; she wants to overcome the huge distance that separates her from God, Jesus. There had to be a way.
“We are living now in an age of inventions, and we no longer have to take the trouble of climbing [3 r] stairs, for, in the homes of the rich, an elevator has replaced these very successfully. I wanted to find an elevator which would raise me to Jesus, for I am too small to climb the rough stairway of perfection.”
The driving force of her intuition is quite clear. We need an “invention”, an easier way. The stairway of perfection is too difficult to be used at that moment in time! Of course, she does not say if at other times that would be possible. If we read all her writings, however, we become aware that at all times perfection has been impossible. To continue reading then: continue the reading:
“I searched, then, in the Scriptures for some sign of this elevator, the object of my desire and I read these words coming from the mouth of Eternal Wisdom: Whoever Is a LITTLE ONE, let him come to me [Pr 9.4].”
Once more she has a Eureka moment: “And so I succeeded. I felt I had found what I was looking for.” Yet she does not immediately explain what she has found, but will state it a few lines later: the Elevator is Jesus’ Arms. “The elevator which must raise me to heaven is Your arms, O Jesus!” As we see here, the lifting power comes from God. It is divine. However, the condition for being lifted is to become like a little child, for as Jesus said: if one wants to enter into the kingdom of God, in heaven, one has to become like a little child.
The next thing Therese wants to know is that, once Jesus takes her to Him what would He do; she wants to know what the contents of real prayer would be, what God does once we are in his arms:
“But wanting to know, O my God, what You would do to the very little one who answered Your call, I continued my search and this is what I discovered “As one whom a mother caresses, so will I comfort you; you shall be carried at the breasts, and upon the knees they shall caress you [Is 66.12-13].”
Clearly seen is her acknowledgement of the tenderness and beauty of God’s action once we are in his arms: He offers us “caresses”, He “comforts us”, “carries us at the breasts”. She finishes up with these ecstatic expressions of admiration and gratitude: “Ah! never did words more tender and more melodious come to give joy to my soul.”
Now, she finally concludes: “The elevator which must raise me to heaven is Your arms, O Jesus! And for this I had no need to grow up, but rather I had to remain little and become this more and more.”
In this sentence she summarizes the entire movement of prayer. The lifting power is the Jesus’ Arms! And the condition of lifting is not to try to do it with our own strength. She has already explained that this was impossible in her image of the high mountain and the tiny grain of sand. The question, though, is this: Is she only a hill? Trying to overstretch herself in order to become a mountain? No, she is an “obscure grain of sand”. The images used here are too extreme, and this is done deliberately to show us how she perceives the distance that separates her from Jesus, God. Wanting to interfere, to try, to overstretch oneself is impossible. This point is central in St Therese’s teaching. It is as if she is trying to say to us: prayer is about being in Jesus’ arms, on his knees, carried at the breasts of God. But the distance between us and Jesus’ arms is so big that nobody can cross it. The answer then is this: it is better not to try, it is better to find the right elevator, the lifting power! Of course, she does not directly say that Mary is “Jesus’ arms”. This is a highly significant interpretation. Mary is given by the Lord to us on the Cross. Her prayer is pure and perfect. She is the only high Mountain, whose summit is lost in the clouds. But since she is a mother, she comes, and takes us – if we are light and small like children – and places us in Jesus’ arms.
Thus, we can only reach a conclusion of the utmost importance: in order to use Mary’s Fiery Prayer we don’t need to “grow up”, rather we need to “remain little and become this [little] more and more”!
As we can see, in this text Therese develops her main intuition, the one found in different places in her writings, especially in her Act of Oblation, namely, that we would like to reach God, to be in his arms, dandled on his knee, carried at his breasts, to receive the tenderness of His Love. Acknowledging our poverty, our nothingness, the distance that separates us from God, we discover that God himself is the one who comes to us, and He is the one who gives us the lifting power. The only thing we need to do is to live by the truth of our being: accept and love our littleness, and even become smaller and smaller, living the true “poverty in spirit” (Mt 5).
The same core elements are used in other passages. This is how prayer in its fundamental form emerged from Therese’s research and experience. She searched in the Scriptures and found the answer from the Scriptures.
As we have said above, there are implicit dimensions in the writings of St Therese that do not appear on each page, but we still need to take them into consideration in order to arrive at a correct interpretation or reading of her doctrine. One of them is her Marian dimension. One has to study Mary extensively in Therese’s life and in her writings in order to understand the density of the dimension of Mary in her life, and to understand that to say that Jesus’ arms is Mary’s Fiery Prayer is totally coherent with the findings of such a study.
14- Jesus’ Name: Invoking the Fire
Often the Masters of Spiritual Life when they prayed and taught prayer, invited us to repeat Jesus’ Name as a real prayer, the shortest but the most complex and intense one, namely, to say “Jesus”, “Jesus”, “Jesus”, as if breathing in his very Essence. Why so? Jesus’ name is a verb, an active power of salvation. In fact, Jesus means: “God saves” us. To “save” means to take us from where we are to where He is. It means to take us from where we are, from the actions we are capable of performing and to immerse us in the Fire of His Love. It is the lifting Power of Jesus the Priest.
Having discovered that “Jesus” is a prayer, that it is as if we are saying: “God save us”, wouldn’t we all want to pronounce Jesus’ Name properly, i.e. to pray and invoke upon ourselves the power of His Salvation, to be immersed in the Fire of His Love? His name is the very essence of Fire. But who is capable of pronouncing it properly, with purity?
Who is the first person to name Jesus: Mary. Who called Him and invoked Him perfectly? Mary did. Since Mary is our Mother, since her being is Jesus’ Presence to us on the Cross, having Mary with us allows us to receive Jesus’ Name in Her. We receive the capacity to pronounce the name of Jesus perfectly when we are dwelling in the Pure and Immaculate Mary. In her only the Holy Spirit acts. No other creature is present in her or moves her.
St. Paul says that nobody can say “Jesus is Lord” without having first received the Holy Spirit in him. We should go even further by saying: nobody can just say: “Jesus”, nobody can invoke his salvific power, his lifting power, without having the Holy Spirit. But where does the Holy Spirit work purely and perfectly, in the fullness of his power? In Mary.
This is why it is “in Mary” that the Name of Jesus is pronounced with purity. When we say the Hail Mary, we are in fact placed in Mary, and thus enabled in Her to pray Jesus’ Name: “and blessed is the fruit of your womb: Jesus”.
Indeed, it is in the pure Mary, that we are enabled to say the name of “Jesus”, to pronounce this powerful verb: “God Saves”, or “God come and save us”, “God come and lift us”.
Jesus is Mary’s fruit, the fruit of her Faith, not our fruit! Since Mary dwells in us, Jesus is her fruit.
Let us receive Mary into us like St John at the foot of the Cross (see John 19:27); let us receive the divine capacity (i.e. Mary) to deal directly with Jesus and receive his powerful lifting power. Let us, in Mary, say slowly: “Jesus”, “Jesus”, invoking upon ourselves and upon the world the Power of His Salvation that works invisibly and in truth when we pray. Now let us examine closely how we are enabled in Mary to pray when saying, “Jesus”.
The “Our Father”
To begin with we will examine the central structure of Prayer – the “Our Father” – the general and the outer framework of Prayer. How it is made up with reference to the name of Jesus, and finally how the Hail Mary enables us to pronounce Jesus’ Name and prepares us for a proper way of praying the Our Father.
We will first see how the “Our Father” presupposes two things: a) Having a closed circle of divine Life (circulation in the Trinity) b)- Our being allowed (by Baptism) into this closed Divine Circle. Otherwise, it is impossible to say the “Our Father”. Thereafter we will ask ourselves why Jesus’ Name is not invoked in the Our Father and will try to see where it is invoked (i.e. in the “Hail Mary”) and the reasons for this.
To begin with the Gospels endorse that there is a circulation, i.e. a reciprocal exchange of love which constitutes the Divine Life of the Trinity, namely, “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matthew 11:27, see also John 1:18) The Son is in the constant embrace of the Father, turned toward Him (see John 1:18). This Circulation of Divine Life is closed on itself except if it opens and we human beings are accepted into it, that is, “except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” It is by a call, and by baptism that we are introduced into the intimacy of the Trinity’s Life.
The “Our Father” prayer, embodies this Circulation of the Trinity. Baptism introduces us into the Trinity and enables us to Pray in the circulation of the Trinity. When we pray the “Our Father”, we are in the Son, in the Communion of the Holy Spirit, facing the Father. This is why we can say: “Our Father”. Consequently, since we are “in the Son”, we do not pronounce Jesus’ Name in the “Our Father”.
Admittedly it is very audacious to call God “our Father”. This is why before praying the “Our Father” in the Mass we say: “we dare to say”, i.e. we acknowledge we have the courage and the audacity to do so for it is only by grace that we are admitted to God, in the Son, in the Presence of the Father. It is by the grace of Baptism that we are grafted onto Christ and therefore are seen by the Father as his real sons and daughters. We shouldn’t easily take for granted that we can pray the “Our Father”. It is by grace only that we can do it! Any other way is inconceivable!
How is it, then, that we are introduced into the Son and that we receive the grace of Prayer? By Baptism, yes, but the grace is enacted through the “Hail Mary”…. Let us now examine this.
In the “Hail Mary” we Say: “Jesus”
In the “Hail Mary”, after repeating the words of the Angel and Elisabeth addressed to Mary, we pronounce Jesus’ name: “and blessed is the fruit of your womb: Jesus”. Pronouncing Jesus’ Name in itself is a Prayer, the core of Prayer, as we have just said. In a certain sense, however, this is a total breakthrough. How come?
Nobody can pronounce Jesus’ Name, nobody can invoke the Power of Salvation contained in his name without having the Holy Spirit in him. St Paul says it with his words in 1 Co 12:3: “no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.” By contrast, interestingly enough, the “Hail Mary” offers us the conditions that enable us to pronounce Jesus’ Name: we can only pronounce his name while being “in Mary”, when we “enter in Mary”, when we receive Mary within us (John 19:27: Jesus on the Cross said, “to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.”) This is why we start the “Hail Mary” by greeting Mary, the Immaculate, the pure, the “Full of Grace”, full of the Holy Spirit, steeped in Him, having only Him living and acting in her. In this way we enter the second Circulation of Love, the one between Mary, the Holy Spirit and Jesus.
We acknowledge what Mary’s status is, namely that She is “Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee [her], blessed art thou [is she] among women”, and as a result we are introduced into her, or we receive her in us. She is God’s gift to us on the Cross: “here is your mother” i.e. her name, her being: her eyes and her heart. Only Mary is capable of conceiving and giving birth to Jesus, only Mary is capable of invoking Jesus’ name, of saying it, of pronouncing it for she is full of the Holy Spirit: “Full-of-Grace”: she alone can hold “God Saves”. As a consequence, after having mentioned Mary, clarifying who she is and having been admitted into Her, we finally specify her only fruit: Jesus. Here what is at stake is not just a mention of Jesus’ name, but rather something more powerful, reaching the core of prayer, the invocation of Jesus Himself. What is at stake here is: praying the Name of Jesus.
Each time Mary pronounced Jesus’ name, with her being full of the Holy Spirit, she prayed it, she invoked the power of His salvation. Every time she pronounced Jesus’ name she invoked upon herself and upon us the power of His salvation.”My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour” (Luke 1:46-47).
Consequently, each and every time we say the “Hail Mary” we are placed in Mary, and with her and through her we are enabled to pronounce Jesus’ Name. In us, she pronounces His Name. This prayer of saying: “Jesus” is done in her and through her, in a pure and holy way. It is like allowing her within our very being to call Jesus, to call upon us the Power of His Salvation, to take us deeper into the Fire of His Love. This is indeed a unique and powerful prayer.
Notice, then, how the sentence is structured: “and blessed is the fruit of your womb: Jesus”. Jesus’ name is mentioned at the very end, as a real fruit of our prayer. This way we enter into the mystery of Prayer, through Mary and in Mary. And as if for the first time we are enabled to properly pronounce Jesus’ Name, the Prayer.
It is as if the “Hail Mary” positions us more favourably within the grace of Baptism, in Jesus, under the influence of the power of his salvation, so that we can pray the “Our Father” more efficaciously. Placed in Mary’s Faith, we can invoke Jesus by His Name, we are better placed in Him, better prepared, and so to speak worthier to say: “Our Father”; not because of any merit on our part but because of Mary’s Merits. She herself acknowledges that she has received all Her being from the Saviour, Jesus: “My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour” (Luke 1:46-47).
In truth it must be said that this is a real, deep and vital mystery: Jesus’ name and the pronunciation of his name are the exclusive fruit of Mary and of her action in us. It is worth repeating here that, St Paul says very clearly: 1 Co 12:3: “no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.” To say: “Jesus” is to invoke his Lordship, his Salvation, to ask for its immediate effect on in our life. To say “Jesus” is to recognise that He is the Author of our own salvation; it is to ask Him to communicate to us the power of His salvation. Implicitly, in fact, it is to recognise that He is Lord, that He is seated at the right hand of the Father and that from there He exercises the power of his salvation. Nobody can do this without the Holy Spirit. But there is a perfect way to be filled with the Holy Spirit with all the effects of the Holy Spirit, and that is through Mary.
Again, let us notice the structure and the dynamism of the following sentence in the “Hail Mary”: “and blessed is the fruit of thy womb: Jesus”. After having said that she is the only one who believed (being immaculate, and full of grace); after repeating what Elisabeth moved by the Holy Spirit said: ‘blessed are you among women”, that is, “blessed” is she amongst the “believers” or the “soils”, we finally say: art thou amongst women” (amongst the “believers” or the “soils”) we do say: “and blessed is the Fruit of your womb: Jesus”. Jesus’ name can be clearly understood as the end result, the fruit of the dynamism of the sentence – the climax of the sentence: enabling us to pronounce the Name, to pray it with purity. This is brought about in us purely because of the Grace of God that reigns in Mary.
In sum, the “Hail Mary” places us in the midst of the Divine Circulation (Mary, Holy Spirit, Jesus) and allows us to recognise that we are enabled to pronounce the fruit of her womb: Jesus’ name. In fact, when we say the “Hail Mary” we are given the capacity that is in Mary to generate, to invoke the power of the Name: Jesus. Like a launching pad, being introduced into and well placed in Mary, we are enabled to “launch” (pray) Jesus’ Name.
15- Is our Weakness a Hindrance to the Fire?
All that we can offer to God is combustible to God. We tend to think that by offering our deeds this is good combustible material for the Fire of God. By contrast, in fact, we forget what St Therese says: “all our righteous acts have stains in your eyes O God”. Indeed, any act needs to be put into the Fire of the Love of God, Fire that will transform it, elevate it, and make it accepted and agreeable to God. Therefore, it is God himself who makes our offering agreeable to Him and worthy of being introduced into his presence. We have to count on God for this: the interaction of Fulcrum and Lever, as mentioned before.
Often we think that our weaknesses are a hindrance for the Divine Fire. We think that our bad deeds are a hindrance to true prayer. We think that God is not capable of purifying our deeds! On the contrary, the fact that we offer ourselves to Him, allows Him to act. St Therese will use not only the image of the Oblation but the far simpler one of “exposing our wet wings” to the Power of the Rays of the Sun, the Sun being Jesus, the Rays being His Love, the Holy Spirit.
Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart, who was St Therese’s biological sister, and her Godmother as well, knew that her sister received powerful graces and wanted a share of them, a share of Therese’s “little Doctrine”. She was in for a surprise, however, because Therese would show her that our human weakness was not a hindrance; she would explain how she behaved every time she was led astray from Jesus, becoming busy with created things. Her teaching is really new and revolutionary, for she dilutes all the obstacles that can rise between us and God. She has such a penetrative understanding of God’s heart that we need to listen to her, to how she sees things and more importantly how she then acts.
But before exposing this very important teaching of Therese, let us see where in the “Hail Mary” there is also a mention about our weakness. In fact in two different places in the “Hail Mary” our weakness is mentioned.
First: in the “Hail Mary” we acknowledge that Mary is “blessed among women”. If we deepened our understanding of this voicing of praise, we will see that here “women” can be replaced by “faithful”, or “soils”, or “ wine skins”.
In fact, in the Gospel the Lord thoroughly explains that our faith has two polarities: the object of our Faith (Jesus himself) and the subject (the disciple). And if Jesus is the new wine, the Divine Seed, we also need to have, in order to deal directly with Him, a “new skin” and a “good soil”.
Let us cast our minds back a moment and look in-depth at the meaning of the Parable of the Sower (Mt 13), where the three first soils represent each one of us, the “good soil” Mary and the Seed, Jesus’ Words or Jesus Himself. The first three soils could not bear any fruits. No fruits at all! This is striking. Despite the fact that there were three different soils, none of them bears fruits. This is clear evidence that, in the eyes of God “all our righteous deeds have stains in them”, and they don’t please God, they are not received by Him. We are all sinners, (“pray for us sinners”), as endorsed by what Therese says when she compares the righteous with God’s Holiness: “all our righteous acts have stains in your eyes O God”.
Second: we clearly say in the ”Hail Mary”: “pray for us sinners”! While we are praying, then, we acknowledge that we are sinners. In fact, we count on Mary, on her and her prayer for us to be acceptable to God, that the lifting power of her Fiery prayer is capable of allowing us to really pray.
It is the Fire of the Love of God, by transforming our being, which makes us agreeable to God, acceptable to God. The more we accept our weakness, the more we love our weakness says Therese, the more we adapt ourselves to the Fire of the Love of God.
Let us see now how Therese presents this aspect of her doctrine, namely, how weakness is not a hindrance, but on the contrary, is a “combustible” for God’s love.
Therese, lives in Mary and dwells beneath Mary’s Veil, and benefits from all Mary’s Virtues and Graces. She believes that since Mary is her mother, these virtues automatically become hers, namely, the treasure of the mother’s virtues belongs and is communicated to her child. Under the influence of Mary’s light and grace, Therese explains to us how she deals with her own weaknesses.
“O luminous Beacon of love, I know how to reach You, I have found the secret of possessing Your flame.  I am only a child, powerless and weak, and yet it is my weakness that gives me the boldness of offering myself as VICTIM of Your Love, O Jesus! In times past, victims, pure and spotless, were the only ones accepted by the Strong and Powerful God. To satisfy Divine Justice, perfect victims were necessary,  but the law of Love has succeeded to the law of fear, and Love has chosen me as a holocaust, me, a weak and imperfect creature. Is not this choice worthy of Love? Yes, in order that Love be fully satisfied, it is necessary that It lower Itself, and that It lower Itself to nothingness  and transform this nothingness into fire.”
What we all normally know is that we need to be “pure and spotless” to be accepted by the Strong and Powerful god. Therese, however, discovers a priceless secret! The secret of the God who is love, the God who is a Fire of Love. The law of attraction that has changed. The fire of Love is not attracted by “perfect” persons but by children, powerless and weak, imperfect. This is new! And after more than a hundred years, this teaching is new! We still struggle to assimilate this vision of things; we struggle to believe that God can be attracted by us if we are weak, imperfect, powerless! Therese writes:
“How can a soul as imperfect as mine aspire to the possession of the plenitude of Love? O Jesus, my first and only Friend, You whom I love UNIQUELY, explain this mystery to me! Why do You not reserve these  great aspirations for great souls, for the Eagles that soar in the heights? I look upon myself as a weak little bird, with only a light down as covering. I am not an eagle, but I have only an eagle’s EYES AND HEART.”
The very important implicit dimension of St Therese’s teaching emerges here when she states in a powerful way that she has the “eagle’s Eyes and Heart”. The presence of Mary in Therese’s life so encompasses every aspect of it, and becomes so natural for her, that she omits the explanation of these words. Without understanding to what extent Mary is present in her life and to which extent Therese lives under Mary’s veil, we cannot understand this teaching.
Here, however, we see how Mary gave Therese her eyes and her heart, so that Therese can contemplate Jesus with Mary’s Eyes, and love Jesus with Mary’s Heart. This is confirmed yet again in Therese’s Poem on Our Lady: “the Virtues of the Mother belong to her child” (Poem 52). In a sense having Mary’s eyes and heart are like having been offered Her Fiery Prayer, having access to Mary’s own divine Fulcrum and Lever, Jesus and the Holy Spirit who live and act in her in their Fullness.
“In spite of my extreme littleness I still dare to gaze upon the Divine Sun, the Sun of Love, and my heart feels within it all [5r°] the aspirations of an Eagle. The little bird wills to fly toward the bright Sun that attracts its eye, imitating its brothers, the eagles [the angels and saints], whom it sees climbing up toward the Divine Furnace of the Holy Trinity.”
Remember, the little bird has only a few feathers or down on his wings. The bird cannot fly. The bird cannot offer grand and wonderful things since he is weak and powerless, but the bird can offer himself to the Fire of Love. This audacity which leads him to expose himself to the Rays of the Sun (being in Mary, and through Mary) will trigger true prayer (being elevated, being given the Wings of the Eagle – Jesus), a prayer that takes into consideration our weakness:
“But alas! the only thing it can do is raiseits little wings; to fly is not within its little power! What then will become of it? Will it die of sorrow at seeing itself so weak? Oh no! the little bird will not even be troubled [accepting his state and not being upset by it, knowing that it is not a hindrance]. With bold surrender, it wishes to remain gazingupon its Divine Sun [Jesus]. Nothing will frighten it, neither wind nor rain, and if dark clouds come and hide the Star of Love, the little bird will not change its place because it knows that beyond the clouds its bright Sun still shines on and that its brightness is not eclipsed for a single instant. At times the little bird’s heart is assailed by the storm, and it seems it should believe in the existence of no other thing except the clouds surrounding it; this is the moment of perfect joy for the poor little weak creature. And what joy it experiences when remaining there just the same! and gazing at the Invisible Light which remains hidden from its faith!”
Here in fact Therese explains what happens during the daily business of life, how out of weakness she can be attracted by the created things, go astray from Jesus a little bit. So, how does she come back to the Fiery Prayer?
“O Jesus, up until the present moment I can understand Your love for the little bird because it has not strayed far from You. But I know and so do You that very often the imperfect little creature, while remaining in its place (that is, under the Sun’s rays), allows itself to be somewhat distracted from its sole occupation. It picks up a piece of grain on the right or on the left; it chases after a little worm; then coming upon a little pool of water, it wets its feathers still hardly formed. It sees an attractive flower and its little mind is occupied with this flower. In a word, being unable to soar like the eagles, the poor little bird is taken up with the trifles of earth.”
Does she fear her weakness? Her trust in Jesus’ Love is Mary’s trust as we will see.
“And yet afterall these misdeeds, instead of going and hiding away in a corner, to weep over its misery and to die of sorrow, the little bird turns toward its beloved Sun, presenting its wet wings to its beneficent rays. It cries like a swallow and in its sweet song it recounts in detail all its infidelities, thinking in the boldness of its full trust that it will acquire in even greater fullness the love of Him who came to call not the just but sinners.”
“will acquire in even greater fullness the love of Him”! Yes, just reflect on how deep a knowledge and experience of God this shows. Who could have imagined this! See how she knows that this audacious boldness contained within her – coming from Mary – is a great sign of trust and attracts, therefore, the Fire of Jesus’ Love. Often the Fire will return. But:
“even if the Adorable Star remains deaf to the plaintive chirping of the little creature, even if it remains hidden, well, the little one will remain wet, accepting its numbness from the cold and rejoicing in its suffering which it knows it deserves.”
Now she explains to us what to do with our weakness because we might be tempted to come out of Mary and want to grow by ourselves:
“O Jesus, Your little bird is happy to be weak and little. What would become of it if it were big? Never would it have the boldness to appear in Your presence, to fall asleep in front of You. Yes, this is still one of the weaknesses of the little bird: when it wants to fix its gaze upon the Divine Sun, and when the clouds prevent it from seeing a single ray of that Sun, in spite of itself, its little eyes close, its little head is hidden beneath its wing, and the poor little thing falls asleep, believing all the time that it is fixing its gaze upon its Dear Star. When it awakens, it doesn’t feel desolate; its little heart is at peace and it begins once again its work of love. It calls upon the angels and saints who rise like eagles before the consuming Fire, and since this is the object of the little bird’s desire the eagles take pity on it, protecting and defending it, and putting to flight at the same time the vultures who want to devour it. These vultures are the demons whom the little bird doesn’t fear, for it is not destined to be their prey but the prey of the Eagle whom it contemplates in the centre of the Sun of Love.
“Jesus, I am too little to perform great actions, and my own folly is this: to trust that Your Love will accept me as a victim. My folly consists in begging the eagles, my brothers, to obtain for me the favour of flying toward the Sun of Love with the Divine Eagle’s own wings!”
“As long as You desire it, O my Beloved, Your little bird will remain without strength and without wings and will always stay with its gaze fixed upon You. It wants to be fascinated by Your divine glance. It wants to become the prey of Your Love. One day I hope that You, the Adorable Eagle, will come to fetch me, Your little bird; and ascending with it to the Furnace of Love, You will plunge it for all eternity into the burning Abyss of this Love to which it has offered itself as victim.”
“O Jesus! why can’t I tell all little souls how unspeakable is Your condescension? I feel that if You found a soul weaker and littler than mine, which is impossible, You would be pleased to grant it still greater favours, provided it abandoned itself with total confidence to Your Infinite Mercy.” (Story of a Soul, Manuscript B)
When her sister Marie read these incandescent words, she said she felt some sadness like the young gentleman of the Gospel for he had many possessions. She doubted whether she could love God as Therese loved Him. She found that her sister’s desires were extremely powerful and that she did not have the same. In fact, in a few paragraphs before the ones quoted above, St Therese speaks about her desires for Martyrdom. This impressed her sister who felt that she did not have the same desires, but on the contrary, actually fled from such things feeling that such an undertaking to love Jesus, to the point of martyrdom, was unsuited to her temperament. She asked her sister if she could write to her, even a brief word, to tell her whether she, in her turn, could love Jesus in the same way Therese did. (see LC 170, Letter of Marie of the Sacred Heart, September 1896) Therese replied the as follows:
“Dear Sister, I am not embarrassed in answering you… How can you ask me if it is possible for you to love God as I love Him?… If you had understood the story of my little bird, you would not have asked me this question. My desires of martyrdom are nothing; they are not what give me the unlimited confidence that I feel in my heart. They are, to tell the truth, the spiritual riches that render one unjust, when one rests in them with complacence and when one believes they are something great. … These desires are a consolation that Jesus grants at times to weak souls like mine (and these souls are numerous), but when He does not give this consolation, it is a grace of privilege. Recall those words of Father: “The martyrs suffered with joy, and the King of Martyrs suffered with sadness.” Yes, Jesus said: “Father, let this chalice pass away from me.” Dear Sister, how can you say after this that my desires are the sign of my love?… Ah! I really feel that it is not this at all that pleases God in my little soul; what pleases Him is that He sees me loving my littleness and my poverty, the blind hope that I have in His mercy…. That is my only treasure, dear Godmother, why would this treasure not be yours?…”
And then comes one of the most beautiful texts in all Christianity:
“Oh, dear Sister, I beg you, understand your little girl, understand that to love Jesus, to be His victim of love, the weaker one is, without desires or virtues, the more suited one is for the workings of this consuming and transforming Love. … The desire alone to be a victim suffices, but we must consent to remain always poor and without strength, and this is the difficulty, for: “The truly poor in spirit, where do we find him? You must look for him from afar,” said the psalmist. … He does not say that you must look for him among great souls, but “from afar,” that is to say in lowliness, in nothingness…. Ah! let us remain then very far from all that sparkles, let us love our littleness, let us love to feel nothing, then we shall be poor in spirit, and Jesus will come to look for us, and however far we may be, He will transform us in flames of love….”
“Oh! how I would like to be able to make you understand what I feel!… It is confidence and nothing but confidence that must lead us to Love…. Does not fear lead to Justice*?… Since we see the way, let us run together. Yes, I feel it, Jesus wills to give us the same graces, He wills to give us His heaven gratuitously. “
“Oh, dear little Sister, if you do not understand me, it is because you are too great a soul.. , or rather it is because I am explaining myself poorly, for I am sure that God would not give you the desire to be POSSESSED by Him, by His Merciful Love if He were not reserving this favour for you.. or rather He has already given it to you, since you have given yourself to Him, since you desire to be consumed by Him, and since God never gives desires that He cannot realize. …” (LT 197, From Therese to Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart. 17 September 1896)
* To strict justice such as is portrayed for sinners, but not this Justice that Jesus will have toward those who love Him.
In this teaching, Therese shows a very deep and revolutionary way of understanding God, his love, and what He wants from us, what He wants to give us. Our prayer is truly transformed by this teaching, and we start to see how all our weaknesses, all our being, are combustible in the Fire of the Love of God and all that is needed is to lean on Mary’s Fiery Prayer, on Mary’s trust in God.
Conclusion: Perfection and Purity of Prayer
If we want true prayer, we need to be detached from our own prayer, from possessing our prayer and its outcome! So weak! So insignificant! We need to entrust our prayer to Mary, we need to take on board Mary’s Prayer, Mary’s Fire of Love, Mary’s Lifting Power. It is purely the Holy Spirit acting in her.
If we need to pray for somebody, why not adopt Mary’s prayer? Why not entrust the person to Mary? Her prayer is exceedingly more powerful than any other human prayer. Her prayer is available to us, given to us. Let us use it.
Why not unite ourselves to Mary’s intentions? Though unknown to us, they are purer and more perfect than all our intentions!
When we attend Mass, why not allow the inner reality to correspond to the outer one and be perfect? Why not ask Mary’s prayer to enter into us, why not entrust ourselves into her Hands so our prayer becomes Her Prayer and not ours? This allows us to have a fruitful participation in the Mass!
What is silent prayer…. if not allowing Mary’s Prayer to take over in us? Any prayer should be done this way.
As a parting thought to take away with you, why not re-read, meditate and entirely absorb the substance of this teaching – immerse yourself totally in the furnace of Jesus’ Love through the Fiery Prayer of Mary. It is to be recommended that one should re-read, meditate, absorb entirely the substance of this teaching.
Holy Week March 2018