Thursday, December 1, 2016

Of Reverence at Prayer

From Vultus Christi:
Grace seeps into what is inward through what is outward. For this reason Tertullian says Caro salutis est cardo, that is, “the flesh is the hinge of salvation”. Scholastic philosophy frames it this way: Nihil est in intellectu quod non sit prius in sensu, “Nothing is in the intellect that was not first in the senses”. Outwardly, then, the monk will take great care to do all things with attention and dignity: standing, sitting, walking, bowing, signs of the cross, prostrations, raising one’s eyes heavenward, the way one holds one’s hands, the way one holds one’s book and turns its pages. In the carrying out of the Opus Dei there must be nothing rushed, nothing small or cramped, nothing routine and formalistic. The sign of the cross, for example, must be generous, majestic, and grand; no furtive flapping of the hands about one’s face and shoulders. The profound bow from the waist, holding the torso and head straight, is part of the sacred choreography of the Opus Dei; it signifies a man’s complete submission to the adorable mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. It is more than a mere lowering of chin to chest. Every bodily attitude and every gesture is significant; the smallest details are sacramental. For this very reason, I put Romano Guardini’s classic, Sacred Signs, on the reading list for postulants. Another book, Maurice Zundel’s The Splendour of the Liturgy, complete’s Guardini’s little book.

It is recounted that when Saint Basil served the Divine Liturgy in the presence of the Arian emperor Valens in 372, the recollection and majesty of the saint at the altar, left the emperor as if stricken by terror. Saint Gregory Nazianzen recounts:
He [Valens] entered the Church attended by the whole of his train; it was the festival of the Epiphany, and the Church was crowded, and, by taking his place among the people, he made a profession of unity. The occurrence is not to be lightly passed over. Upon his entrance he was struck by the thundering roll of the Psalms, by the sea of heads of the congregation, and by the angelic rather than human order which pervaded the sanctuary and its precincts: while Basil presided over his people, standing erect, as the Scripture says of Samuel, with body and eyes and mind undisturbed, as if nothing new had happened, but fixed upon God and the sanctuary, as if, so to say, he had been a statue, while his ministers stood around him in fear and reverence. At this sight, and it was indeed a sight unparalleled, overcome by human weakness, his eyes were affected with dimness and giddiness, his mind with dread. (Oration 43)
The same observation was made of Blessed Ildephonsus Schuster. Whenever Blessed Schuster celebrated Holy Mass, his entire being was absorbed in the Divine Mysteries. There are many eyewitness accounts of the impact of his priestly devotion on the faithful. Benedictine to the core, Blessed Schuster was a humble master of the prayer of the Church, manifesting in his body and in all of daily life the spirit drawn from the celebration of the sacred liturgy. Cardinal Giacomo Biffi says: “The simple folk ran to contemplate this slight and frail man who, in his liturgical vestments, became a giant”. Seeing him at the altar people recognized a man in communication with the invisible power of God. For us who would normally spend more or less four hours a day in liturgical prayer, the example of the saints is a mighty stimulus to the profound reverence that ought to be characteristic of the sons of Saint Benedict. (Read more.)

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