There is a quote in Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet,” in which he explains that words are inadequate instruments in attempting to describe events and experiences. Although I love words, I agree with Rilke in the impossibility of using language to define love, forgiveness or passion. However, every once in awhile a great mind is able to harness an interpretation of a moment or an experience that dazzles the reader. The other day at morning mass,the Deacon at my parish quoted Saint John Chrysostom (fourth century preacher and Bishop of Constantinople) on the meaning and dynamics of prayer. Here is the quote – you might want to sit down for this is as good as it gets!
“Prayer is an all-efficient panoply, a treasure undiminished, a mind never exhausted, a sky unobstructed by clouds, a haven unruffled by storm. It is the root, the fountain and the mother of a thousand blessings. It exceeds a monarch’s power….I speak not of the prayer which is cold and feeble and devoid of zeal. I speak of that which proceeds from a mind outstretched, the child of a contrite spirit, the offspring of a soul converted – this is the prayer which mounts to heaven….The power of prayer has subdued the strength of fire, bridled the rage of lions, silenced anarchy, extinguished wars, appeased the elements, expelled demons, burst the chains of death, enlarged the gates of heaven, relieved diseases, averted frauds, rescued cities from destruction, stayed the sun in its course and arrested the progress of the thunderbolt. In sum, prayer has power to destroy whatever is at enmity with the good.”