Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Learning to flee and implore (and to arrive and receive)

Prayer of the Expectant Mother, by Dmitri Petrov

I have been praying these Memorares (1,245 of them to date), asking to see Christ's face in a particular circumstance, and I'm amazed to see that this prayer works, and how it works.

First of all, in order to even attempt the prayer once (let alone to set out to pray it 10,000 times), one must have desire, must want something. But praying the words of this prayer and meaning them increases desire. It's impossible to say the words, "Never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protections, implored thy help or sought thy intercession..." without becoming aware that in repeating these words, I am fleeing to her and imploring. When, in everyday life, do we ever flee or implore? One thinks of grave danger in order to imagine fleeing for protection, and the word, "imploring" conjures up the image of someone begging for his life. But honestly, when I set out on this adventure, I did not sense any huge danger to flee from, and I only had the faintest sense that what I was asking for called for imploring. As I prayed with intention, I felt a kind of jolt of conscience upon hitting these words. Was I really fleeing? Could I picture that? Was I really imploring? What would it mean? Should I get on my knees and beg? Each time I reached these words, they pricked at my heart, spurred me to want what I was asking for even more than I thought I wanted it, by inviting me to imagine that this is what I was doing.

I find myself living in a culture in which survival means one must suppress desire. What is on offer to appease my longing is so inadequate to the task, that I would have to be half asleep to find any trace of satisfaction in it. And so we train ourselves to fall asleep, to "become adults" and "self sufficient" (and those who can't, turn to all sorts of tranquilizers) Honestly, we avoid, at all costs, ever finding ourselves in a situation where we need to implore or flee. We are out of practice when it comes to imploring. In fact, imploring seems a pitiable activity, one that might even suggest mental illness. In this circumstance, who needs to be saved? What would we possibly need after we have procured the correct stain removers and breath fresheners?

So, what happens when desire begins to increase in a person? Well, if there were nothing to meet my desire and satisfy it, I'd probably have scratched all my skin off by this point. But the full sentence from the prayer is this: "Never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly to thee, O virgin or virgins, my mother. To thee do I come, before thee I stand..." Never was it know. Never.

Repeating this prayer increases desire, but it also increases confidence. Confidence means "with faith," and faith is the certainty of a Presence, here and now. With confidence, I may indeed stand in front of Mary and call her "my mother." To call her "mother" means to acknowledge that she has generated life in me.

And now I stand in front of the particular thing that I began asking for when I began my 10,000 Memorares, and I want it so much more than I did at the beginning. And precisely this increase in wanting changes everything, effects the miracle. If I face the situation with this great yearning desire (and with confidence!), what I am asking for takes shape in front of my eyes.

Go ahead, start!

UPDATE: Found this quote after posting:

“But there is another and interior way of praying without ceasing, and that is the way of desire. Whatever else you are doing, if you long for that Sabbath, you are not ceasing to pray. If you do not want to cease praying, do not cease longing. Your unceasing desire is your unceasing voice.”

- St Augustine


Vicky said...

I am going to NM soon. And from what I could gather, I will be the only CL person in miles. SoC will be down to me and my husband. I ask for your prayers. God and the Holy Spirit will need to guide me in that journey that I don't feel prepared for...

Sara said...

Beautiful! And exactly what I needed to read. Thank you, friend!

Dcn Scott Dodge said...

Hi Suzanne,
I'm giving you the Lemonade Stand Award for a blog showing great attitude, and gratitude. Just go to this link to Καθολικός διάκονος for your award:

God Bless!

Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."