Contemplata aliis Tradere

A meagre contribution to the mission and work of the Order of Preachers: my reflections, thoughts, ideas and the occasional rant on matters mainly theological, philosophical and ecclesiastical, drawn primarily from my reading and experience of life and the world. Striving to be always Catholic, firmly Christian and essentially Dominican, flavoured with dashes of Von Balthasar.

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A son of the English Province of the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans); born in Malaysia but have lived in the USA, Singapore, the UK & the Philippines for varying durations. A pilgrim and way-farer, a searcher for Truth on the journey of Life... "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino!" - Hilaire Belloc

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Prayer of the Prodigal Son

Station at Saints Marcellinus and Peter

The Station today is in the church founded by St Helena on the Via Labicana near the catacombs, where were buried the bodies of St Marcellinus, priest and St Peter, exorcist, martyred at Rome during the Diocletian persecution. Their names are mentioned in the Roman Canon and this church was one of the twenty-five parish churches of Rome in the 5th century. From the earliest days a hospice was established at this church and days for the sick are still celebrated here with special solemnity.

Today's parable of the Prodigal Son is unique in the Gospels and much has been written about it. Henri Nouwen's book, The Return of the Prodigal Son is a beautiful extended meditation on the depiction of the Father embracing the son by Rembrandt (below). What I would like to offer for our reflection today is a passage by fr Conrad Pepler, O.P. commenting on this Gospel story:

"The example of the prodigal son teaches us how to pray in such a manner as to prepare ourselves for the joys of Easter. Now we are to see more precisely how any prayer effects remission of sin...

Our Lord shows the folly of pride in this parable. Now it is precisely the loving mercy of the Father toward the sinner that makes the latter initial prayer effective. God grants to the sinner the power of asking for what is wholly beyond his powers to attain; and by an even greater condescension of His mercy toward the sinner, He hears that prayer when it is uttered. God hears the sinner's prayer if it proceeds from a good desire according to his nature, not as though from justice, for the sinner cannot merit, but from pure mercy. So that, if the sinner who has no life in him asks sincerely and perseveringly for divine aid, although the prayer is not supernaturally virtuous, he will receive the gift of true repentance and conversion of heart...

The wiping out of our sins flows from the infinite treasure of God's mercy occasioned by the sincerity of our prayer. But there are also other aspects of the purification of prayer. The very fact of raising our minds to God, struggling for communion with Him, has a purifying effect on the soul. As Origen, who was the first to write a treatise on prayer, has told us ('De oratione', 8), by the very fact of composing ourselves in the right frame of mind, training our thoughts on almighty God who is before us, and attentively listening, we remove the thought and the desire for sin, so that the soul is prepared for the purifying influx of divine grace.

Once we have trained our minds to recognize the presence of God, we shall begin to purge the senses from their attachment to sinful actions...

There is still another means of purging out sin, the central and most powerful of all, without which the others would be of no avail. Pere Lagrange has shown that the elder brother of the prodigal, the one who had laboured so faithfully in his father's fields and with whom we are inclined to sympathise was in reality unresponsive to his father's love. He had worked all that time as a servant rather than as a son... Now the prayer that we have been considering belongs to worship, which is religious service. Should we devote all our energies to those external ceremonies, even when they flow from the right spirit, we should be concentrating only upon service and thus falling short of our high vocation. For our Lord has said that He shall no longer call us his servants but his friends, whose love is mutual. The Father tells us that we are His sons, co-heirs with our Lord Himself, so that we are united to the Father and His Son by the bonds of the most intimate love. Hence we cannot remain only in service; our Lenten prayer that purges our sins must well up from the love of charity. Love of God is a burning fire that consumes all and leaves no room for sin, for it draws ever nearer to the being of the Sun of all goodness."

May the holy martyrs, Marcellinus and Peter, pray for us that we may receive the grace and humility of conversion and repentance this Lent.

2 Comments:

Blogger Tzemach Atlas said...

Please do not link to images on my blog. This is against my policy.

3:51 am  
Blogger Br Lawrence, O.P. said...

I do apologise but I was not aware you had rights to a public domain image by Rembrandt. Are you perhaps an ancestor of his? Or a claimant to estate rights?

As to a 'policy', I was unable to find any at your site. Due notice ought to be given of such purported policies and in a manner easily viewed by others. Otherwise, they have no binding status whatsoever.

Anyway, I have removed the link and used my own image.

6:11 pm  

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