Today, on this First Friday as we venerate the Sacred Heart of our Lord, I can do no better than the words of Saint John Chrysostom. These words from an ancient sermon of his are part of Matins today. As he talks about the spirit, we might think about the human heart. Prayer is all about our heart’s reaching out to God, about our hearts being enlarged–during meditation and during the duties of the heart, named below. As the third paragraph below insists, prayer is a longing in the heart–not just words. Here’s St John Chrysostom on prayer:
Our spirit should be quick to reach out toward God, not only when it is engaged in meditation; at other times also, when it is carrying out its duties, caring for the needy, performing works of charity, giving generously in the service of others, our spirit should long for God and call him to mind, so that these works may be seasoned with the salt of God’s love, and so make a palatable offering to the Lord of the universe. Throughout the whole of our lives we may enjoy the benefit that comes from prayer if we devote a great deal of time to it.
Prayer is the light of the spirit, true knowledge of God, mediating between God and man. The spirit, raised up to heaven by prayer, clings to God with the utmost tenderness; like a child crying tearfully for its mother, it craves the milk that God provides. It seeks the satisfaction of its own desires, and receives gifts outweighing the whole world of nature.
Prayer stands before God as an honored ambassador. It gives joy to the spirit, peace to the heart. I speak of prayer, not words. It is the longing for God, love too deep for words, a gift not given by man but by God’s grace. The apostle Paul says: We do not know how we are to pray but the Spirit himself pleads for us with inexpressible longings.