WDTPRS: 9th Sunday after Pentecost: God, absolutely distant, absolutely near

This week’s Collect, which historically was in the 8th century Liber sacramentorum Gellonensis, was also the prayer over the people, or Super populum, in the 1962MR for Wednesday of the 4th Week of Lent.

It was not, I believe, in the 1970MR or 1975MR (Novus Ordo), but it was reinserted on Saturday of the 2nd  Week of Lent in the third edition of 2002, which revived the ancient Lenten Super populum blessings.

Pateant aures misericoridae tuae, Domine,
precibus supplicantium:
et, ut petentibus desiderata concedas;
fac eos, quae tibi sunt placita, postulare

Open the ears of Your mercy, O Lord,
to the prayers of those humbly beseeching:
and, that You might grant the things desired to those seeking them,
cause them to desire the things which are pleasing to You

We often use anthropomorphic expressions in our prayer, giving God physical, human characteristics.  The image of God opening or inclining His ears is common.  Our Latin liturgical prayer constantly has God harking to us or lending His celestial ear, or inclining toward us so that He can listen more closely, not miss our meaning, our sincerity, our need.  We want to be in His hearing and in His sight.  We want Him to hurry to us and to be near.

This language is normal in the human experience of praying to our mysterious and transcendent God, who is infinitely removed from us, but who is nevertheless closer to us than we are to ourselves.

St. Augustine of Hippo (+430) in his Confessions gives expression to this tension of transcendence and immanence in words unsurpassed by man for over fifteen centuries.

We might linger over the great Doctor of Grace’s words (Conf. 5.2; 6.3):

Thou alone art near even to those that remove far from You.  Let them, then, be converted and seek You; because not as they have forsaken their Creator have You forsaken Your creature. Let them be converted and seek You; and behold, You are there in their hearts, in the hearts of those who confess to You, and cast themselves upon You, and weep on Your bosom after their obdurate ways, even Thou gently wiping away their tears. And they weep the more, and rejoice in weeping, since Thou, O Lord, not man, flesh and blood, but Thou, Lord, who made, remakest and comfortest them. And where was I when I was seeking You? And You were before me, but I had gone away even from myself; nor did I find myself, much less You! …

O crooked ways! Woe to the audacious soul which hoped that by forsaking thee it would find some better thing! It tossed and turned, upon back and side and belly – but the bed is hard, and thou alone givest it rest. And lo, thou art near, and thou deliverest us from our wretched wanderings and establishest us in thy way, and thou comfortest us and sayest,

“Run, I will carry you; yea, I will lead you home and then I will set you free.”



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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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6 Responses to WDTPRS: 9th Sunday after Pentecost: God, absolutely distant, absolutely near

  1. Supertradmum says:

    And, I want the desires of my heart to be only those of God. Thank you, Father, for another great meditation.

  2. acardnal says:

    This reminds me of something St. Therese of Lisieux said, ““God always gives me what I want, because I want everything God gives me.”

  3. Vecchio di Londra says:

    Thank you for this inspiring post, Father. That extract from the beautiful ‘Confessions’ is an illuminating light on the need for prayer to be submissive and ‘in tune’ with God’s Will.
    How in the mid-1960s did we become so trendily tone-deaf to the eternal transcendence of the ancient liturgical prayers? And we thought that by forsaking this submissiveness and penitential obedience, and ‘seeking some better thing’ – we would complacently and so conveniently turn the liturgy into our own image and somehow become relevant to the modern world! The devil must have had a good laugh at the time.

    A hard bed indeed.
    “loquimini in cordibus vestris super cubilia vestra et tacete semper” (Ps. 4)

  4. Chrissin says:

    So beautiful!! “O crooked ways” indeed! That paragraph, methinks, deserves a capital Thee, and four capital Thous following. Just want to make sure I’m reading it correctly. I identify completely as a prodigal. It is a prayer also for those still crookeding that we worry so much for.
    Can anyone identify that stained glass saint? Obviously a bishop with the hat and staff, but holding the heart pierced with an arrow in his right hand?? Who is that and where is the stained glass from?? ANYBODY??

  5. acardnal says:

    Who is that? Augustine, Bishop of Hippo.

    Where is the stained glass from? I do not know.

  6. q7swallows says:

    As I was reading the quote from Augustine, Hoopes’ comments about Britain were pinging about in my mind: “decadence . . . crass . . . nihilism . . . perfectly uncoordinated partiers.” All symptoms with which Augustine was here addressing — a coupla thousand years ago. Nothin’ new under the sun. ‘I [Still] Can’t Get No Satisfaction’ is more like the theme of fallen man.