Friday, December 13, 2013


"I am the Lord's poor servant; to Him alone, the living God, I have offered all in sacrifice; I have
St. Lucy, after her eyes got gouged out during her martyrdom.
nothing else to give; I offer Him myself."
Antiphon for the Canticle of Zechariah from the Divine Office for the feast of St. Lucy.

This morning during my Holy Hour the antiphon above really stuck in my mind. It is fitting for Saint Lucy, since she is both virgin and martyr. She truly did give everything to God, both during her life and at the end of her life. By including this antiphon in Morning Prayer, the Church obviously means me to pray it, but the truth is I cannot honestly apply it to myself. In truth, I doubt anyone ever could strictly apply it to themselves, except for Jesus and the Blessed Mother. No one else can claim truly to have given everything to God. Even the greatest saints have held something back at one time or another. All are conscious of their sinfulness.

If this is true even of the greatest saints, how much more so of myself? I cannot even give him a full hour totally. Even thinking about this during my Holy Hour I noted the trend I have to be extremely distracted for about the first 50 minutes. It is generally only the last ten minutes or so that I really feel like I engage in on any affective level. The first 45-50 minutes are just me trying not to be distracted as I work through the Liturgy of the Hours. I cannot even claim ever to have given Him an undivided hour. Can I really claim to have "offered all in sacrifice?"

In thinking about this another similar experience came to mind. I have been doing a lot of kickboxing lately, working the heavy bag a couple of hours every week. I am right handed but I box left handed because I got into that habit when I first started out. My left hand would not learn to jab very well, so I just jabbed with my right and used my left for power punches. I also liked having that surprise power shot with the right, and I liked messing with right handed sparring partners who aren't used to fighting a southpaw.

In my sessions on the heavy bag I have been having trouble getting my left cross up to scratch. It doesn't have the speed or power that I want at first, it is slow and stiff. It takes about four or five rounds on the bag to get it snapping the way I want it to, and only then does the real practice begin.

I sometimes wonder if my distracted prayer isn't a bit like that. I only really get into the last bit because it takes me the first 45 minutes just to get warmed up. With the boxing the cause is fairly straightforward. A punch flies properly when it is loose. It starts from the feet, legs and hips and translates out from there to the end of the fist, but in order to do that the power must be generated in the large muscles of the lower body and transferred smoothly through the muscles and joints of the lower body. It isn't hard to teach those muscles all to fire. That takes about five minutes to learn. What takes much longer, years and years in fact, is teaching the other muscles not to fire. When I throw that punch, my body wants to tense up and push harder, thinking that will make my strike more powerful; but that simply does not work. Instead, muscles end up fighting each other, competing instead of cooperating. Instead of transferring smoothly back and forth between different groups at different points in the movement, all groups want to be controlling all parts of the punch. I have the strength. I can deadlift 400Lbs quite easily and do multiple sets with it. That is more than enough power to hit as hard as I want, if only I would stop getting in my own way.

This, ironically, is why small, lean fighters often hit with more force than large, muscular ones. They have less muscle to get tangled up with itself, and it is easier to train them to work in cooperation. This is the secret behind Bruce Lee's incredible"one-inch" punch that was reported to be able to knock a sumo-wrestler off his feet (note the guy in the picture is not a sumo-wrestler.)

To apply this to my prayer life, what the antiphon is talking about is a similar kind of totality, where every single part of me, body, mind, emotions, will are all engaged in just one thing. As with boxing, I am beginning to think that perhaps it is less a matter of training myself to do and more a matter of learning not to interfere. The simple decision of the will is there. I get up in the morning. I go to the chapel. I kneel down. I make the decision to pray, which is a response to the call of God to pray. That call is the power. That generates all the power needed to crash through any barrier or overcome any enemy, if only I wouldn't get in the way. But my mind refuses to be still. It wants to think, because when you are a mind that is all you know how to do. My body wants to move, because that is what a body does. My emotions want to feel things, because that is their only experience of life. My will wants to choose things, without knowing that all that is required is not to un-choose.

The truth is that the prayer is not any of these things. All of these things may enter into the prayer at any point, for a specific purpose and then they must be prepared to give their all in that moment, but they are not the prayer. The prayer is that single, downward rushing desire of God to come to me and dwell in me and make His home with me.

The rest is just me learning not to get in the way.

No comments:

Post a Comment