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Prayer and Intelligence
Selected Essays

Jacques and Raïssa Maritain

Translations by
Algar Thorold, Joseph W . Evans, and Julie Kernan



Cluny Media Edition, 2016

This Cluny Edition includes minor editorial revisions to the original texts including deletion of obsolete references.

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ISBN: 9781944418090

Cover design by Clarke & Clarke

Cover image: Virgilio Monti, Mosaic of St. Thomas Aquinas,
San Gioacchino in Prati, Rome, Italy
Photograph and permission by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P.

Publisher’s Preface

Prayer and Intelligence

Part I: On Sacred Doctrine

Part II: On the Spiritual Life
Part III: Notes

Liturgy and Contemplation

Part I: On Liturgy
Part II: On Contemplation
Part III: Against Some Misconceptions about Contemplation

Notes on the Lord’s Prayer

Chapter 1: The Lord’s Prayer
Chapter 2: The First Three Petitions
Chapter 3: The Last Four Petitions
Chapter 4: The Prayer of Jesus

Publisher’s Preface

In honor of the 800th Jubilee of the Dominican Order, Cluny Media has
collaborated with the Thomistic Institute at the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate
Conception to select and re-publish titles that flow from the Dominican charism. This
volume in hand, Prayer and Intelligence & Selected Essays, is the work of two people
whose lives were transformed by grace through the writings of that Great Doctor of the
Order, Thomas Aquinas.
Shortly after their marriage in 1904, Jacques and Raïssa Maritain made a pact to
commit suicide if they were unable to discover the meaning of life and the identity of that
which makes life worth living. Through encounters with such figures as Léon Bloy and
Humbert Clerissac, O.P., they were brought back from the abyss and converted to
Catholicism in 1906. It was Clerissac who introduced Raïssa to the writings of Thomas
Aquinas, and she in turn shared them with Jacques.
Thomism gave the Maritains a way to view reality, to understand the nature of
things, and to approach the very throne of God.
Perhaps most significantly, they committed themselves, in keeping with the
Dominican spirit that animated St. Thomas’s writings, to the ideal that their
contemplation of truth was of little value unless they shared the fruits of their
contemplation with the world. The three essays which make up this book—Prayer and
Intelligence, Liturgy and Contemplation, and Notes on the Lord’s Prayer—are examples
of their commitment, focusing not only on prayer itself, but also on prayer with and for
others, prayer and the ascent to knowing God, as well as prayer and the limitations of the
mind’s powers to approach the light of the Beatific Vision.
The first essay, Prayer and Intelligence, was written by Jacques and Raïssa
Maritain for those who participated in the original Thomistic Circles in France. It is a
treatise of Thomistic spiritual doctrine including advice about prayer and its connection to
study. In true Thomistic fashion, the Maritains synthesize teachings from a multiplicity of
sources to explain the nature of the interior life and prayer as an intellective power. In
addition to its explications of the writings of St. Thomas, there are references to and
commentaries on Aristotle and St. Augustine, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of
Avila, St. Bernard and John of St. Thomas, as well as a constant undercurrent of
Scripture. Heady stuff, perhaps, but the Maritains do maintain their characteristic clarity
in sharing insights on how to pray, how to study, and how to expand the fruits of prayer
into the apostolate, common life of the Church.
The second essay, Liturgy and Contemplation, describes how these two types of
prayer—the public prayer of the Church and the internal, private prayer of the believer—
should be unified. At the beginning of the essay, the Maritains quote Pope Pius XII’s
remark that “no conflict exists…between the ascetical life and devotion to the Liturgy.”

Liturgy and contemplation—these two central modes of prayer—share a common goal:
to bring the charity of the faithful to perfection.
The third essay, Notes on the Lord’s Prayer, is Raïssa’s personal reflections on
prayer, and on that perfect prayer, the Our Father, in particular. “We have no other guide
to eternal life, divine life, beatitude, than the Life of Christ, the Teaching of Christ, the
Passion of Christ, and the Prayer of Christ,” she writes. “The imitation of Christ is the
way of love and of holiness.” The essay is a fitting conclusion to this volume, as it brings
together all the many reflections and insights on the nature of prayer in the first two
essays, to their true Head, Jesus Christ our Lord, by whose goodness we have been
taught to pray and through whose Church we find our prayer sustained.
It is the sincere hope of Cluny Media and the Thomistic Institute that this volume
brings all who read it to prayer, to a greater appreciation of the wealth of opportunities
and modes of prayer in the Church’s tradition, the centrality of the Liturgy in the life of
the Church, and of the great gift that is the prayer Christ taught us.



Part I

Of Sacred Doctrine

Verbum Spirans Amorem

In us as well as in God, love must proceed from the Word—that is, from the
spiritual possession of the truth, in Faith.
And just as everything which is in the Word is found once more in the Holy Spirit,
so must all that we know pass into our power of affection by love, there only finding its
resting place.
Love must proceed from Truth, and Knowledge must bear fruit in love.
Our prayer is not what it ought to be, if either of these conditions is wanting.
And by prayer we understand no other thing than that supreme prayer which is
made in the secret depth of the heart—in so far as it is directed to contemplation and
union with God.

Et Pax Dei, Quae Exsuperat Omnem Sensum, Custodiat

Intelligentias Vestras

The soul, in order to arrive at her last end, must act, whether she make use of her
own activity aided by Grace, or whether God reserve to himself the initiative of moving
her, of placing her in the state which we call passive because the activity of the soul
when placed in it, although in reality raised above itself,1 is characterized by its complete
dependence on the Divine Action, and the suspension of its human method of
production. Until God shall introduce us into his repose, we should ourselves make use
of all our faculties with a view to our sanctification and that of our neighbor. “O Love, O
God!” cries St. Gertrude, “He who is courageous and alert in the labor of thy love, will
keep himself continually before thy Royal Face.”
We must therefore consecrate the whole effort of our intelligence, as of our will, to
know and love God, to make him known and loved.
But the intelligence itself can only develop its highest powers in so far as it is
protected and fortified by the peace given by prayer. The closer a soul approaches God
by love, the simpler grows the gaze of her intelligence and the clearer her vision.
“None,” says Tauler, “understand better the nature of real distinction than those

who have entered into Unity.” But no one enters into Unity save by Love.
There is, further, a special relation between the intellectual life and the life of
prayer in this sense, that prayer demands of the soul that she should leave the region of
sensory images for the sphere of the Pure Intelligible and what lies beyond, while the
operation of the intelligence grows more perfect in proportion to its emancipation from
sensory images.2
The life of prayer, also, alone enables us to unite to a never-waning, never-failing,
absolute fidelity to truth, a great charity—in particular a great intellectual charity—
towards our neighbor. Finally, the life of prayer alone, by supernaturally rectifying our
faculties of desire, enables us to convert the truth into practice.

Sint Lucernae Ardentes In Manibus Vestris

Prayer, particularly in the case of intellectuals, can preserve a perfectly right

direction and escape the dangers which threaten it only on condition of being supported
and fed by Theology.
Knowledge of the Sacred Doctrine has a peculiar tendency of its own to shorten
and render safer the spiritual journey. It saves the soul from a number of errors, illusions,
and blind alleys. In relation to the purgative life, it possesses an ascetic virtue which
succeeds in detaching the soul from the degradations and trivialities of self-love. As for
those living the illuminative life, the purification that it brings simplifies the gaze of the
soul and turns it from the human self to God alone. And finally, in relation to the unitive
life, a knowledge of Theology plants the roots of the soul deep in Faith and the divine
Truth, a predisposition essentially required for the life of union with God.
No doubt, Charity comes before everything. It is better, here below, to love God
than to know him. It is his pleasure sometimes to raise the most ignorant to the most
sublime contemplation, and on account of our perversity and vanity, knowledge is often
an obstacle to the Holy Spirit. It would, however, be imprudent and rash to expect a
gratuitous infusion of the doctrinal light which it is in our power to acquire by study—
apart from the fact that the intellectually vitiated atmosphere of the modern world needs
a general recourse to theological science. In conclusion, we may say that the normal
method for those who have the grace to lead these two lives together is to unite the life
of the intelligence to that of Charity on a basis of mutual inter-aid—on condition,
however, that they thoroughly understand that the latter is worth infinitely more than the
former, and that they always hold themselves ready to abandon all for the sake of divine

1. Cf. ST I-II, q. 68, a. 3, obj. 2 and ad 2. St. Thomas—having laid down that “the gifts of the Holy Spirit
perfect man, to the extent to which he is moved by the Spirit of God,” and that “man in so far as he is
moved to act by the Spirit of God, becomes in a certain sense, an instrument of God”—remarks that
“non-intellectual substances considered as instruments have not the faculty of action but only of being
moved,” and adds: “But man is not an instrument of this kind; for he is moved by the Holy Spirit in the

same manner as that in which he acts as a creature endowed with free will, sicut agitur a Spiritu Sancto
quod etiam agit, in quantum est liberi arbitrii.”

2. St. Thomas Aquinas, ST II-II, q. 15, a. 3. Cf. in Boet. de Trinitate, 9, 6, a. 2.

Part II

Of the Spiritual Life

Estote Perfecti

This is the call of love, to which nothing but love can reply. It is the Lord’s call to
the greatest possible conformity to the divine pattern. “What is sweeter, dear brethren,
than the voice of the Lord calling us? Behold, the Lord in his goodness, himself shows us
the path of life” (Prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict).
If we would make progress in this path we must decide, whatever our vocation, to
give ourselves to God without reserve. “All that is necessary is the renunciation once for
all of all our interests and satisfactions, all our designs and projects so as to depend
henceforth solely on the good pleasure of God.” This is what Père Lallemant calls
“crossing the ditch” (Spiritual Doctrine).
At this cost we shall taste and see how sweet the Lord is and how light is his yoke.
“All is light for thee who hast submitted with a willing heart” (Gerlac Peters, The
Burning Soliloquy).
At this cost the faithful soul has the right to hope that after her purification in the
Night of the Senses and the Night of the Spirit, when she shall have “died the death of
angels” (St. Bernard, In Cantic, serm. 82), she shall be led from brightness to brightness
up to perfect union with God. Transformed in him, she will then be able to say with St.
Paul: “I no longer live, it is Christ who lives in me.”

Caritas Vinculum Perfectionis

Christian perfection consists essentially in charity (ST II-II, q. 184, a. 3). A thing,
indeed, is called perfect in so far as it attains its proper end—for the proper end of a
thing is its ultimate perfection. Now it is charity that unites us to God who is the last end
of the human soul: “Qui manet in caritate, in Deo manet, et Deus in eo” (ST II-II, q.
184, a. 1).
It follows that perfection falls under the divine precept, for it is with charity, with
the double Love of God and our neighbor—in the first place of God, in the second, of
our neighbor—that the two precepts of the divine Law are concerned. “Now the love of
God and of the neighbor does not fall under the precept in a certain, definite measure or

up to a certain extent only, so that any excess of the virtue would belong to the counsel
(of perfection): this is evident from the very form of the precept which implies perfection
and totality: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart.…Thou shalt love thy
neighbor as thyself. This is why the Apostle says (1 Tim. 1): ‘The end of the precept is
charity, finis praecepticaritas est.’ The end admits of no measure which is concerned
with the means only. The physician does not measure the degree up to which he will cure
the patient, but he does measure the remedies and the diet he prescribes in order to
accomplish the cure” (ST 184, a. 3). Thus the measure with which God should be loved
is to love him without measure, modus diligendi sine modo diligere (St. Bernard, De
diligendo Deo).
But there are various degrees in charity or perfection—that is to say, more or less
perfect ways in which the precept may be fulfilled. “And since what falls under the
precept may be accomplished in different ways, it is not necessary to fulfil it in the best
way in order not to sin against it; to avoid its transgression it is sufficient that it be
accomplished in one way or other” (ST II-II, q. 184, a. 3, ad 2).
Therefore “Christian perfection, that is all degrees of charity—even that supreme
degree that is only realized in Patria—falls under the precept,” although the degrees
higher than the lowest are concerned not with the substance of the precept but with the
manner of its accomplishment, and are commanded not as something to be immediately
realized but as the end towards which we must advance, si non ut materia saltem ut
“The lowest degree of divine love is to love nothing more than God, nothing
contrary to God, nothing as much as God. He who does not reach this degree of
Christian perfection in no way accomplishes the precept” (ST II-II, q. 184, a. 3, ad 2).
He who does not in his practice surpass it accomplishes the precept imperfectly. It is only
in Heaven, where the soul, set free from the conditions of the present life, sees God face
to face, that the precept is accomplished quite perfectly. As for the degree of the
perfection compatible with the present life, it demands “the exclusion of everything
repugnant to the movement of love towards God.” This is realized when “a man
excludes from his affection not only everything incompatible with the existence of charity
such as mortal sin, but also everything which prevents the affection of the soul being
directed wholly upon God, quod impedit ne affectus mentis totaliter dirigatur ad
Deum” (ST II-II, q. 184, a. 2). In this degree of charity, man loves himself only in and
for God; all servile fear has been driven out, and there remains in his heart filial fear
alone, which is the first effect produced by Wisdom (ST II-II, q. 19, a. 6–8). That is the
goal to which Love calls us here below.
The evangelical counsels are concerned with the means, but with nothing but the
means, of attaining this goal. “They are systematically determined precisely with a view
to the elimination of what without being incompatible with the existence of charity is
nevertheless a hindrance to its characteristic exercise.” They are not themselves
perfection, but its instruments; for perfection consisting essentially in charity and in the
precepts, it “is only in a secondary and instrumental way that it consists in the counsels”

(ST II-II, q. 184, a. 3). Nevertheless, the pursuit of the end implies the use of means
suitable to the diverse circumstances in which Divine Providence may have placed us. It
thus becomes evident that while perfection in the accomplishment of the precept of
charity does not require, necessarily and for all, the religious state, yet it supposes at least
a spiritual practice, adapted to each man’s state of life, of the evangelical counsels and
their corresponding preparation of soul.
Whatever be the vocation of each of us, we are all concerned with that word of St.
John of the Cross: “When the evening of this life comes, you will be judged on love.”

Mihi Autem Adhaerere Deo Bonum Est

The supreme means of attaining the perfection of charity and its exercise—a
means indeed not disjoined from that end—is divine contemplation, or union with God
through an experimental, loving and ineffable knowledge of him, which we may all desire
to receive from his Grace, and particularly through the assiduous practice of prayer.
“Vacate et videte quoniam ego sum Deus” (Ps. 45).
How shall a man attain to the perfection of Charity, if he does not keep himself
habitually in the presence of God, and has not the attention of his whole soul fixed on
him and primarily on Jesus Crucified in such a way as to “pass through the wounds of
his Humanity into the intimacy of the Divinity”? (De adhaerendo Deo, chapter 2.) This
is just the right way to practice prayer and to pray without ceasing. Semper orate.
Those who are engaged in the active life should not renounce contemplation on the
ground that they are not contemplatives. On the contrary, they have a further reason for
being attached to contemplation, a more pressing need of prayer. If it should happen that
the conditions of their life render access to the highest forms of contemplation more
difficult, the substance of contemplation will not be denied them on that account; and
they should ask of the divine mercy the grace of a sufficient intensity of interior life for
their very activity, at least in its mode of production, to proceed from the
superabundance of their contemplation, ex superabundantia contemplationis.
“It is true that the occupations of the active life sometimes turn us away from
contemplation,” but they certainly do not do so completely. “The love of the truth,”
writes St. Augustine, “seeks a holy repose, the necessity which love imposes accepts
justified toil, otium sanctum quaerit caritas veritatis, negotium justum suscipit
necessitas caritatis. If no duty be imposed on us, let us be busy with the study and
contemplation of truth; and if labors are laid on us, charity itself obliges us to accept
them. Even so, however, the sweet contemplation of truth should not be abandoned, for
fear that with the disappearance of that sweetness, we should be overwhelmed by our
necessities.” From which it clearly results that when a man is called from a contemplative
to an active life, his vocation does not come by way of subtraction, but rather by that of
addition: “Non hoc fit per modum subtractionis, sed per modum additionis” (ST II-II, q.
182, a. 1 and 3).

Qui Spiritu Dei Aguntur Ii Sunt Filii Dei

Contemplation, in the same way as what is called more in general the mystical life,
depends essentially on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and on the divine mode of action
which they communicate to man.2 Theologians tell us that the spiritual man is he who
lives habitually under the rule of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. And although, in one case
or another, this or that gift may be manifested in a predominant fashion, the gift of
Wisdom, which is the highest of all—itself being properly speaking the gift of
contemplation—must always in some way rule the contemplative, whether by completely
dominating and drawing to itself everything in his nature (and in that case causing the
soul to live in accordance with the pure and typical forms of the contemplative States), or
by at least spreading its superior influence over the whole activity of the soul, thus giving
him a more or less advanced participation in mystical contemplation. Contemplation is
thus the domain of the liberty of the Spirit who breathes where he wills and no man
knows whence he comes or whither he goes. And it implies that the soul advancing in
renunciation and detachment submits with docility to the Spirit’s guidance.
Contemplation is the fruit of the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity in the soul and of
the invisible mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit.3 Si quis diligit me, ad eum
veniemus, et mansionem apud eum faciemus. It raises man to a knowledge and love of
God which are all spiritual, in spiritu et veritate, stripped of the sensible and the human,
transcending the order of images and ideas and therefore incomprehensible and ineffable,
and introduces the soul into the luminous cloud of divine things: nubes lucida
obumbravit eos.
Contemplation may be dry and painful. Serious advance is indeed impossible
without passing one way or another through the purification of the Nights.
It is to Jesus Crucified, our Head, that contemplation tends to conform us; the fruit
of Wisdom is gathered on the tree of the Cross. The Sanctifying Spirit is also the
Sacrificing Spirit.
Finally, contemplation should not be loved for its own sake but for God’s. Not the
joys of contemplation, but union with God through love—that is our end.
Unless we abstain entirely from seeking extraordinary graces and lights—which in
themselves are foreign to the essence of contemplation—and unless we direct very
purely to God alone our desire of contemplation itself and its joys, which St. Bernard
called “the paradise of interior delights,” we shall not truly advance in the way of the
It is important at this point that we should thoroughly understand how Christian
contemplation is situated, with a far better right than the contemplation of philosophers,
at the height of the spirit, and how nevertheless it only attains this supremacy because,
contrariwise to the contemplation of philosophers, it is above all the work of love.
Christian contemplation is the fruit of the gift of Wisdom; and this gift, although a
habitus of the intelligence (thus maintaining its intellectual character in the order of being,

attributed by St. Thomas to the contemplative life), depends essentially on charity, and
consequently on sanctifying grace, and causes us to know God by a sort of connaturality
—in an affective, experimental and obscure manner, because superior to every concept
and image.5 It is in virtue of the gift which God makes us of himself and of the
experimental union of love that mystical wisdom attains the knowledge of divine things,
which are united more closely to us, more immediately felt and tasted by us by means of
love, and make us perceive that what is thus felt in the affection is higher and more
excellent than all considerations based on the knowing faculties alone.”6 Thus mystical
contemplation penetrates and secretly tastes divine things in Faith, by the very virtue of
the love which makes us one spirit with God. Qui adhaeret Deo, unus spiritus est (1
Cor. 6:17). And contemplation is always ordained towards love, for love is more
unifying than knowledge (ST I-II, q. 28, a. 1, ad 3), at least than any knowledge outside
the Beatific Vision.
Once more it will not be useless to note that while theology, by its teaching
concerning the gift of Wisdom, enables us to know the spiritual organism of
contemplation in an ontological manner, it leaves to the mystics the description of the
corresponding psychological signs (phenomena); it would in fact be incorrect that the
truths established by a superior science like Theology should serve by themselves as
utilizable criteria of the art of the Spirit in practice. From this point of view it would seem
that what usually happens, and above all at the beginning of the mystical way, is that the
“superhuman mode of action” proper to the Gifts is translated in our experience in terms
of the death and darkness which overwhelm our faculties—in other words, of the
cessation of our human mode of action.7
In any case the cessation of all intellectual operations noted by St. John of the
Cross (following St. Denys), which appears to characterize mystical contemplation,
should be understood of the human mode only of those operations, for infused
contemplation gives the intelligence, passive under the action of God, an increase of
divine life which may transcend the experience of our senses. Nevertheless, this increase
plants the truth deep in the intelligence, and “in virtue of union” leads finally through
ignorance to a knowledge more perfect than any distinct intellectual operation (Denys,
Divine Names, VII, 3)—a knowledge, indeed, entirely out of proportion with what we
call knowledge on the plane of our senses and reason (see Note III).

Averte Ocvlos Meos Ne Videant Vanitatem

It is absolutely necessary to shun as the most pernicious of vices the reflex action
of the mind, the tendency to come back on ourselves. This evil is very frequent among
moderns who are born with a taste for analysis and psychological curiosity. If we look at
ourselves instead of looking at God, if we tighten our heart in order to scrutinize the state
of our soul and take stock of our petty progress, if we leave our prayer in order to find

out if it is good, or abandon our “quietude to see if it is really quiet,” as St. Francis de
Sales says (Amour de Dieu, VI, 10), and agreeing with the descriptions of spiritual
writers we lose the whole fruit of our spiritual life, we wander disquieted instead of
entering into peace, we take the risk of numberless illusions. We must indeed examine
ourselves, but under the eye of God and in order to bewail our faults before him, not to
give ourselves the fallacious pleasure of thinking that we securely possess all the ranges
of our being and are building by ourselves the edifice of our own perfection. Here if ever
is where we should say: he who loses his soul—i.e., who commits it wholly into the
hands of God—shall save it. What is demanded of us is, as St. Catherine of Siena taught
us, to act manfully, to hate ourselves and to desire God without measure.
Spiritual books do us good because they show us the end to pursue and the means
of attaining it, but we should be misusing them if we employed them for the purpose of
satisfying our curiosity to know precisely what floor or staircase we have reached in the
castle of the Soul. That is for God to judge. And if it is true that the knowledge of what
the Lord deigns to perform in us may be a most useful encouragement for our weakness,
it is no less true that such knowledge will only profit us if we receive it with a great
detachment and a complete absence of self-centered curiosity. “The prayer is not perfect
if the monk knows he is praying,” said St. Anthony Abbat.
And St. Hildegarde: “I ignore myself completely in body and soul, I count myself
for nothing; I turn to the living God and leave all these things to him so that he who has
neither beginning nor end may condescend in all things to keep me from evil.”
St. Gertrude, when the Lord offers her illness in one hand and health in the other,
does not pause to choose between them, and goes straight to the heart of Jesus.
“What do my tastes matter, O Lord,” cries St. Teresa, “for me there is nothing
more than thyself.”
“Naught but thyself,” replies St. Thomas to Christ, who asks him what reward he
would have.
This absence of any return on oneself, this very pure desire of God alone, is the
essential condition of contemplation.

In Omnibus Requiem Quaesivi,

Et In Haereditate Domini Morabor

In order to understand the fundamental role which contemplation should play in

our life, let us read once more what St. Thomas says of the contemplative life. He
speaks of it in a purely formal way which would apply as well to philosophical
contemplation as to Christian or mystical contemplation. That he is primarily dealing with
the latter is shown by his constant anxiety to rise from the thought of Aristotle to the
witness of the Gospels and the Saints.
“The contemplative life,” says St. Thomas, “consists in a sort of leisure, a repose”
(ST II-II, q. 182, a. 1, ad 3), “a liberty of spirit” in which man “burns with a desire of

seeing the beauty of God,” and offers to him “his soul in sacrifice,” “it has its beginning
and end in love, it is “directly and immediately concerned with the love of God himself,”
it is “ordained not to any kind of love of God, but to the perfect love of Him” and
constitutes in a certain sense a commencement of beatitude, “quaedam in choatio
beatitudinis, quae hic incipit, ut in futuro continuetur” (ST II-II, q. 180, a. 4; 182, a.
“Absolutely speaking and in itself, the contemplative life is better than the active.
The Philosopher proves this by eight reasons” (Ethic. X, 7 and 8).
(1) The contemplative life is suitable to man in regard to his most perfect
possession, the intellect, and in relation to the proper objects of that faculty, namely the
intelligibles, while the active life is concerned with exterior things. Where-fore the name
of Rachel, who represents the contemplative life, means the vision of the principle, the
active life being represented by Leah, who suffered from weak eyes. Thus St. Gregory.
(Mor. VI, 18).
(2) The contemplative life can be more continuous (though this continuity cannot
be referred to the supreme act of contemplation); this is why Mary, who symbolizes
contemplative life, is shown to us as always at the feet of the Lord.
(3) The delectation of the contemplative life is greater than that of the active; this
is the meaning of St. Augustine’s saying that “Martha was worried while Mary was
(4) In the contemplative life man is more self-sufficient, for he depends in this
exercise less on external things; where-fore it is said in Luke IV, “Martha, Martha, thou
art troubled and worried about many things.”
(5) The contemplative life is loved for its own sake, while the active is ordained to
something beyond itself; wherefore it is said in Ps. 26, Unam petii a Domino, hanc
requiram, ut inhabitem in domo Domini omnibus diebus vitae meae, ut videam
voluptatem Domini.
(6) The contemplative life consists in a sort of holy leisure and repose (in quadam
vacatione et quiete), which is why we read in the 45th Psalm: Vacate et videte quia Ego
sum Deus.
(7) The contemplative life is related to divine things, and the active to human
things; which is why St. Augustine says in the book De Verbis Domini: “In the beginning
was the Word, this is he to whom Mary listened; and the Word was made Flesh, this is
he whom Martha served.”
(8) The contemplative life is related to what is specifically proper to man, that is,
the intellect, while the lower forces common to human and to animal life take part in the
operations of the active life. Which is why the Psalmist after having said: “Homines et
jumenta salvabis Domine,” adds with special reference to men: “in lumine tuo
videbimus lumen” (Ps. 25).
(9) The ninth reason is given by the Lord when he says (Luke 10:42): “Mary has
chosen the better part, which shall not be taken away from her.” St. Augustine explains
this in the book De Verbis Domini by saying: “It is not that your part is bad, but that

hers is better. How better? Because it will never be taken from her. For one day this
burden imposed by necessity will be removed from you, but the sweetness of the truth is
eternal. “Aeterna est dulcedo veritatis” (ST II-II, q. 182, a. 1).
The contemplative life is then better than the active and, when it super-abounds
and flows over into the apostolate, is purely and simply the most perfect state of life (ST
II-II, q. 188, a. 6). And the contemplation of God, being at the summit of the Christian
life, is not a means towards the moral virtues and the works of the active life; it is on the
contrary the end towards which they are ordained as means and dispositions.
“The moral virtues are related to the contemplative life as dispositions towards it”
(ST II-II, q. 180, a. 2).
“The moral virtues dispose the soul for the contemplative life by producing peace
and purity” (ST a. 2, ad 2. Cf. a. 1, ad 2, 4).
And St. Thomas says that the virtue of Prudence “is in the service of Wisdom as
the porter in the service of the King” (ST I-II, q. 66, a. 5, ad 1). We cannot do without
the service of this porter. Without the exercise of the moral virtues, without a radical
detachment from created things, and without extreme care to maintain the peace and
purity of the soul so as to follow the impulses of the Holy Spirit, we shall never make
much progress in prayer and contemplation.
Contemplation itself, however, if we are men of good-will, is the most powerful
stimulus of progress in virtue, and without it our growth will be but slow and imperfect.
“Without contemplation, no great advance will be made in virtue and we shall never be
able to help others towards it. Without contemplation we shall never completely abandon
our weaknesses and imperfections! We shall always remain attached to the earth and we
shall never rise much above the sentiments of human nature. Never shall we be able to
give God a perfect service. With contemplation, we shall do more for ourselves and
others in one month, than we shall do without it in ten years” (Père Lallemant. Spiritual
“In my opinion,” says St. Teresa, “we should grow more in virtue (humility) by
contemplating the divine Perfections than by keeping the eyes of our soul fixed on the
vile clay of our origin.…The best method of acquiring self-knowledge is to apply
ourselves to the knowledge of God. His greatness makes us see our lowliness, his purity
reveals our stains, and his humility shows us how far we are from being humble. We
draw two advantages from this practice: one, a clearer vision of our own nothingness in
contrast to the divine grandeur… the other, that our intelligence and our will become
ennobled and capable of every kind of good” (The Interior Castle, 1st Mansion, ch. II).

Quis Volens Turrim Aedificare,

Non Prius Sedens Computat Sumptus

In order to advance in the spiritual life and dispose ourselves to receive the grace
of contemplation, we must use the means proposed to us by the Church. The assiduous

frequentation of the sacraments, the love of the Holy Eucharist and frequent
communion, devotion to the Holy Spirit, a filial and constant recourse to the Divine
Heart of Jesus and to Mary, the Blessed Virgin, through whom all grace comes to us, that
sweet humility which is the dawn of beatitude—incipit beatitudo ab humilitate—
devotion to the Saints and Angels, spiritual and bodily penance, a holy hatred of self,
perseverance in prayer—all these things are necessary; there is no need to insist on such
obvious truths.
We will merely say a few words on the importance of the Liturgy. To unite
ourselves as closely as possible to the Church’s prayer and her hieratic life, abandoning
our soul to her divine influences is a very sure way which purifies the heart, illuminates
the spirit and disposes us to the contemplative life by introducing us into the interior
states of Christ. “The graces of prayer and the mystical states have their type and source
in the hieratic life of the Church, they refract in the members the light of the Image of
Christ which exists perfectly in his Body” (Clerissac, The Mystery of the Church, p. 41).
The study of the Sacred Doctrine and of Holy Scripture is also a normally
necessary means of the attainment of contemplation. This is what the ancients called,
with St. Benedict, lectio divina. “It is no mere cold and abstract speculation, it is not an
affair of simply human curiosity or of superficial reading; it is a serious, profound and
persevering research into Truth itself. It is informed by prayer and tenderness. It is called
lectio, and it is but the first degree of an ascending scale: lectio, cogitatio, studium,
meditatio, oratio, contemplatio; but St. Benedict knew well that in the case of a loyal
and courageous soul the others would in their turn be added…The method of prayer of
the ancients was simple and easy: it consisted in self-forgetfulness and living in habitual
recollection, in assiduously steeping their souls in the beauty of the mysterious, in taking
an interest in all the aspects of the supernatural economy following the inspiration of that
Spirit of God who alone can teach us to pray. For sixteen centuries clerics, religious, and
faithful knew no other method of communication with God than this free pouring forth
of their souls before him and this lectio divina which at once implied and nourished the
life of prayer and in fact was almost identical with it” (Dom Delatte, Commentary on the
Rule of St. Benedict).
This does not mean to say that the ancients did not consecrate to mental prayer as
such (the place of which could not be taken by liturgical prayer and habitual recollection)
hours in which their lectio and psalmody were prolonged in an intimate commerce with
God, But in our day of “dissipation” and feverish activity, it has become indispensable to
reserve in a more definite fashion the time we give to mental prayer, which should be as
largely measured as the duties of our state permit. It is probable that many souls deprive
themselves of the choice graces of higher states of prayer because they are unable to
sacrifice themselves with the requisite generosity to the exigencies of this heart to heart
communion with God.
“Mental prayer should take precedence of every other occupation; it is the force of
the soul.” (St. John of the Cross)
“There is but one road which reaches God, and that is prayer; if anyone shows

you another, you are being deceived.” (St. Teresa)
Apart from this, we must insist on the very great utility of ejaculatory prayers, the
habitual use of which enables the soul to retain the presence of God, and partly
compensates for the drawbacks of intellectual work, which is absorbing by nature.
According to Cassian, Abbat Isaac held as a very precious secret of the spiritual
life—“received by tradition from the most ancient Fathers and only to be revealed to a
small number of those who desire it with ardor”—the habit of repeating on every
occasion the verse of the psalms, Deus, in adjutorium meum intende, Domine ad
adjuvandum me festina, for the purpose of maintaining the soul in the presence and
thought of God.
For what is necessary above everything is to live habitually in the presence of God.
“Pains beset me on every side, I have battles to sustain and tribulations to bear, if I do
not place myself frequently and most carefully in the presence of God, so as to live
always under his eye; there for me is the supreme good, elsewhere the extreme of
misery” (Gerlac Peters).

Praebe Mihi Cor Tuum

The more difficult conditions in which, other things being equal, people living in
the world are placed with regard to the spiritual life and contemplation, should not
discourage them. If they have not the helps and supports of religious rule or vows—if,
living in the world, they find themselves constantly at their own disposal and in
consequence of that liberty fall into a multitude of venial sins and imperfections, the life
of prayer will give them precisely the grace to compensate by their interior fervor for
what is wanting to them in the way of external support.
In order to redeem the insufficiencies and deficiencies of their life, they should
apply themselves above all—and their very imperfections will frequently suggest to them
this exercise—to the practice of a profound and universal humility, throwing themselves
into their own littleness, in propriam parvitatem. Doing what lies in their power, let them
live a life of confiding abandonment to the mercy of God and his Providence. Let them
constantly give thanks for the benefits they have received, thus practicing the Apostle’s
precept: Gaudete in Domino semper, iterum dico, gaudete; so that inasmuch as every
Christian should manifest in some manner the folly of the Cross, this complete and
boundless confidence in God may be their own special folly.
They should also cultivate kindness towards all creatures and abstain from judging
the souls of others while enlarging their own hearts sufficiently to admire and as far as
possible to understand the freedom, the breadth and the variety of the ways of God.
“Quotidie quoque perdurantes in templo, et frangentes circa domos panem, sumebant
cibum cum exsultatione et simplicitate cordis, collaudantes Deum, et habentes gratiam
ad omnem plebem.” (Acts 2:46-47)

Si Quis Vult Post Me Venire, Abneget Semetipsum, et Tollat
Crucem Suam et Sequatur Me

Those who, remaining in the world, are unable to practice the counsels of
perfection to the letter ought at least to practice them in a spiritual manner in the sense of
“preparation of the soul.” Looked at from this point of view, the life of prayer offers to
those who devote themselves to it in sincerity a certain spiritual participation in the life of
the counsels.
The life of prayer demands principally three things: purity of heart, detachment,
abandonment to Providence. Purity of heart, which cleanses the intelligence and the will
from the imprint of created things, is a sort of spiritual chastity (ST II-II, q. 151, a. 2);
detachment, which causes us to make use of ourselves and created things “as if not using
them,” without claiming anything for ourselves, is a kind of spiritual poverty;
abandonment to Providence, which causes us to cast all our care on God and gives us up
to his good pleasure, is like a spiritual obedience, which penetrates to the most intimate
depth of the soul, and, while it makes us free of the whole created world, obliges us to
depend in everything on the conduct of the Holy Spirit.8
He who arrives at this blessed state of dependence will gaily bear his cross and
faithfully follow the Lord. He will live in his presence, he will always find him in the
depths of himself—tu es intus!—and will adhere with his whole soul “nudato intellectu
et affectu,” to Him who is above all thought and who wishes us to transform us into
himself by love.

1. Cajetan, in his commentary on ST II-II, q. 184, a. 3, says on this subject: “The perfection of Charity is
commanded as an end (praecipitur ut finis), we must wish to reach the end, the whole end, but precisely
because it is an end, it is sufficient not to transgress the precept that we should be in the state to attain
that perfection one day, even if only in eternity. Whoever possesses even the feeblest degree of charity
and is thus on his road to Heaven, is walking in the way of perfect charity, and consequently avoids the
transgression of the precept, the fulfilment of which is necessary for salvation.”

2. The characteristic of the Gift of Wisdom, wrote St. Maximus in the seventh century, is to procure an
incomprehensible union with God, which in those who are worthy satisfies ardent desire with enjoyment,
makes of man a God by participation, and renders him capable of explaining to those who need it the
mysteries of God and the divine beatitude.

3. See Note I, Part III.

4. See Note II, Part III. 22.

5. “God in the same act communicates at once both light and love: it is a supernatural knowledge of love
which we may compare to a hot light….This light remains, however, confused and obscure, for the
knowledge proper to contemplation is, according to St. Denys, a ray of darkness for the intelligence” (St.
John of the Cross, Living Flame of Love, III, 3).

6. John of St. Thomas, Cursus theologicus, VI, 9, lxx, disp. 18, a. 4. §IX and XV. Cf. ibid, §XIV: “Faith
attains God in obscurity, remaining as it were at a certain distance from him in so far as Faith is belief in
that which is not seen. But charity attains God immediately in Himself, making an intimate union precisely

with that which is concealed in Faith, And thus, although Faith regulates love and union with God in so
far as it proposes the object to the will; nevertheless, in virtue of the union by which love adheres
immediately to God, the intelligence is moved by the affective experience of the soul to judge of divine
things in a higher fashion than belongs to the obscurity of Faith as such, because it penetrates the things
of Faith and knows that there is more hidden there than Faith itself can manifest. It finds more to love
and savor in love, and it is precisely by means of this hidden plus-value discovered by love that it judges
divine things in a higher manner, under a special influence of the Holy Spirit.”

7. What St. Thomas says of the limping of Jacob may have a certain application here (ST II-II, q. 180, a. 7,
ad 4).

8. “The duties of each moment, under their baffling appearances, conceal the truth of the Divine Will.”
“They are, as it were, the sacrament of the present moment.” (De Caussade, Abandonment to Divine

Part III


Note I

The Blessed Trinity inhabits the soul by sanctifying grace, which renders us
conformed to God and gives us the power to enjoy the Divine Persons themselves,
potestatem fruendi divina Persona (ST I, q. 43, a. 3). The Father thus present in the
soul sends her the Son and they both send her the Holy Spirit. An invisible mission,
which takes place whenever the soul grows in grace, and above all when she enters a
new order of the life of grace (ST I, q. 43, a. 6, ad 2). Since the Holy Spirit is love, the
soul is more specially assimilated to Him through the Gift of charity. And it is by means
of this Gift that the Spirit goes on His invisible mission (ST I, q. 43, a. 5).
The soul is more specially conformed to the Son by the Gift of Knowledge—a
Knowledge which bursts into love. For the Son is the Word, not any Word, but the Word
which exhales Love. Filius autem est Verbum, non qualecunque, sed spirans amorem.
Non igitur secundum quam libet perfectionem intellectus mittitur Filius, sed secundum
talem instructionem intellectus, qua prorumpat in affectionem amoris, ut dicitur. Joan.
6: Omnis qui audivit a Patre, et didicit venit ad me. Et in Ps. 38: In meditatione mea
exardescet ignis. This is why, as St. Augustine expressly teaches, the Son is sent on an
invisible mission, “when He is known and perceived”—that is, “known in a manner in
some way experimental, a grace belonging properly to Wisdom, which is a tasting
knowledge” (ST I, q. 43, a. 5, ad 2). Thus contemplation, insofar as it is the act of
Wisdom, is, as it were, the proper fruit of the mission of the Son, and insofar as it
essentially depends on charity is the fruit of the mission of the Spirit. It is, in fact, an
object of knowledge and love—not any sort of knowledge and love, but a knowledge and
love of experience and fruition—that the Divine Persons inhabit the souls of the just, an
experience and fruition that can only occur here below in the trans-luminous obscurity of
living faith, thanks to the Gift of Wisdom and the Charity which it presupposes (Cf. John
of St. Thomas, Cursus Theologicus, t. IV, q. XI, 3, disp. 17).

Note II

It may be useful to reproduce here the text of St. John of the Cross, describing the

symptoms which indicate the soul’s entrance into the contemplative way.
“These symptoms, which are verified in personal experience, and mark the
moment when discursive meditation may be abandoned, are three in number.
“First Symptom: Meditation becomes impracticable, the imagination remains inert,
the taste for meditation has disappeared, and the zest produced in the past by the object
on which the imagination worked is changed into dryness. As long as zest persists and we
can pass in meditation from one thought to another, meditation must not be abandoned
until the moment when the soul experiences the peace and quietude which will be
discussed when we are treating of the third symptom.
“Second Symptom: We no longer feel any desire to fix our imagination or our
senses on any particular object internal or external. I do not say that the imagination will
not manifest itself by the restless movement proper to it—this may occur in the course of
profound recollection—but the soul will have no desire to fix herself intentionally on any
“Third Symptom: The most decisive symptom is this—the soul is happy to find
herself alone with God, in a state of loving attention to him without any particular
consideration of the mind, but with interior peace, quietude and repose, without any
discursive acts or exercises of the powers of the memory, understanding or will. The soul
is content with this general and loving knowledge and attention without any particular
perception of anything else.
“The existence of these three symptoms should be verified conjointly before it is
safe to attempt the abandonment of meditation based on sensible knowledge for entrance
into spiritual contemplation” (The Ascent of Mount Carmel, p. 150). St. John of the
Cross gives the same teaching in The Living Flame (Str. III, verse 3). We will quote the
following lines: “I wish to have no confusion as to what I think about the condition of
beginners; meditation with its discursive acts in which the imagination plays its part are
indispensable to them. This comes from the fact that the soul needs at that time some
matter on which she can interiorly exercise herself, which allows her to find a comforting
zest in spiritual things.
“By the very fact that the soul thus nourishes her spiritual appetite, she digs up the
roots of sensual affections and causes her desire to die to the habits of this world. But
once that this spiritual appetite is more or less satisfied and that on the other hand the
soul begins to perceive something of the savor of the Spirit, whence she draws a little
strength and constancy, one may say that God begins to wean the soul and open to her
the doors of a new state, that of contemplation. In the case of persons consecrated to the
service of God this change often occurs fairly quickly, because owing to their
renunciation of the world, their senses and spirit accommodate themselves more easily to
the will of God. And at the same time that will operates more rapidly in them, because
the only goal of their activity is spirituality. And when does this transition take place?
When discursive acts and meditations resist the desires of the soul, when the fervors of
early days have vanished. The soul becomes impotent, she finds it impossible to use her
reasoning powers as before, the senses are dry and give her no more support. In these

circumstances the soul should remain passive. She must now learn to receive, to let
Another act in her” (Hoornaert’s translation, 1916).
Infused contemplation begins with the passive recollection so admirably described
by St. Teresa in the Fourth Mansion (Interior Castle, ch. III), where she shows the
difference of this stage of prayer from the last acquired stage that has preceded it (which
is the prayer of active recollection) described in The Way of Perfection, ch. XXVIII.

Note III

It is necessary to insist on this point and to show how the teaching of St. John of
the Cross, describing contemplation as a non-activity (Living Flame, Str. III, verse 3),
and St. Thomas’s doctrine, which defines contemplation as the highest activity (ST II-II,
q. 179, 180), differ only in appearance and in virtue of the point of view from which
each of the great doctors is considering the same reality.
“The soul,” says, for instance, St. John of the Cross, “should be attached to
nothing, neither to the discursive exercise of meditation, nor to any taste, whether
sensible or spiritual. All her activity should be suspended. What is necessary is that she
should keep her spirit free and in a state of annihilation towards created things, for if she
seeks by thought or reasoning or any attraction, she may feel a support for her own
movement to lean; on the result can be nothing but obstacles and disturbance” (Living
Flame, p. 295).
“Discursive exercise of meditation, any taste, thought, reasoning, or attraction”
which would furnish the soul with something to lean on in support of her own
movement. It is clearly evident from this text that when St. John of the Cross writes that
all activity in the soul should he suspended, he is thinking of the human mode of action
of our faculties and of their particular operations, because he is speaking from the point
of view of mystical experience, and because from that point of view the suspension of all
activity of the human mode can only be described by her as a non-activity.
Contrariwise, when St. Thomas defines contemplation as the supreme activity of
the soul, he places himself at a point of view which is no longer psychological, but
ontological or metaphysical, and the activity of which he speaks, while it is indeed the
highest activity of the soul, may well, precisely on account of its excessive spirituality and
the superhuman mode of its exercise, fail to be perceived as activity at all by the soul.
Thus the experimental language of St. John of the Cross is in perfect accordance
with the theological language of St. Thomas. St. Thomas teaches that contemplation in
itself is an operation of the intelligence (“contemplatio habet quidem quietem ab
exterioribus motibus; nihil-ominus tamen ipsum contemplari est quidam motus
intellectus, prout quaelibet operatio dicitur motus” (ST II-II, q. 179, a. 1, ad 3)), but of
the nature of repose and immobility in the image of the divine operation itself—it is only
called movement (ibid.), and if the movements of intelligible operations are related to the
repose of contemplation (ST II-II, q. 180, a. 6, ad 1), it is in a preparatory way leading

up to the term which is the immobility of the gaze fixed on God symbolized by the
circular movement of Denys (ST II-II, q. 180, a. 6, ad 3); moreover, it is an operation
which excludes from its pure essence the multiplicity of discursive operations
(“contemplatio pertinet ad ipsum simplicem intuitum veritatis” (ST II-II, q. 180, a. 3,
ad 1); “ut scilicet cessante discurseu figatur intuitus animae…et in sola Dei
contemplatione persistat” (ST II-II, q. 180, a. 6, ad 2)); and which, coming into the soul
from the Gift of Wisdom, supposes that the soul, passive under the action of God, acts
without moving itself and as the instrument of the Holy Spirit (ST I-II, q. 68, a. 3, ad 2).
It may further be remarked that in the article in which he distinguishes between
operating and co-operating Grace (ST I-II, q. 111, a. 2), St. Thomas formulates a general
principle which constitutes the first theological root of St. John of the Cross’s doctrine on
the passivity of the soul under the divine action.
“There are,” he says, “certain effects of grace in which our soul is moved without
moving herself, being moved solely by God; and in this case grace is said to be
operating, while on those occasions, when our soul is moved while at the same time
moving herself, the operation is attributed not only to God, but to the soul as well, and
grace is said to be co-operating. The interior act of the will, i.e. the first act to which it
cannot move itself in virtue of a previous act (ST I-II, q. 9, a. 3), belongs to the first
category of effects; in this act the will behaves as if moved, God being the mover,
particularly when the will begins to will the good, having previously willed evil…”
In the same way we must say that infused contemplation is—acting under an
eminent “operating” grace—a vital, free, and meritorious act, in which, however, the soul
behaves as “being moved, not moving herself” (God alone moving her); that this act,
though without the perfect fixity of the Beatific Vision, which will be “measured by
eternity,” is nevertheless a sort of repose in the Last End experimentally known and
tasted by anticipation in the obscurity of Faith, which in this way resembles the
essentially active repose that is the proper characteristic of the Pure Act, God.
Do we look for some indication of the supra-human mode of action which
contemplation supposes in the intelligence? It is to be found precisely in the fact of an
activity not only simple and immobile, but which (because its object is disproportioned to
the natural mode of apprehension of every created intelligence) subsists without
perceiving anything distinct, “consists in receiving” (St. John of the Cross, Living Flame,
III, 3), and for that reason remains inaccessible and unperceived, as an activity, itself. It
already absolutely surpasses the human mode of the intelligence’s activity, that it should
act only passively under the movement of the Holy Spirit, that “it should remain in
silence, aux ecoutes” in a state of liberty, of docility to love, of “sovereign tranquility”
and of attention in order to receive (itself having been received first of all) without laying
hold of anything by the mode of action natural to it, and that it should thus advance by
means of love, in the night of Faith, conquered by the incomprehensibility of God. “Do
not say then: Oh! I am sure that the soul makes no progress, for she does nothing.
Granted that she does nothing. But while admitting that, I can prove to you that in doing
nothing she does a great deal. I affirm that if the soul empties herself of all particular

subjects of knowledge, whether natural or spiritual, she makes progress, and the more
the understanding of particular things and acts of the reason diminish, the more the
reason raises itself to the Sovereign and supernatural good” (St. John of the Cross,
Living Flame, III, 3).



Part I

On Liturgy

Liturgy and the Interior Life

The general theme of this study is that there is an intimate relationship between
liturgy and contemplation, and that it would be as absurd to wish to sacrifice
contemplation to liturgy as to wish to sacrifice liturgy to contemplation. As Pope Pius XII
put it, “no conflict exists…between the ascetical life and devotion to the Liturgy.”1
Furthermore, the liturgy itself asks that the soul tend to contemplation; and participation
in the liturgical life, if it is understood and practiced in its true spirit, is an outstanding
preparation for union with God by contemplation of love.
Before beginning we wish to pay tribute to the memory of Dom Virgil Michel,
whose friendship was dear to us, and who was the great pioneer of the liturgical
movement in America. This movement, which is linked in this country to an especially
generous apostolate, is now undergoing, as was clearly evident at the 19th North
American Liturgical Week held in Cincinnati in August of 1958, a considerable
expansion.2 It is with the hope of contributing our modest share to this movement that
we shall discuss certain opinions which have taken, here and there in Europe, a
systematic form,3 and the practical influence of which, we are told, is not without making
itself felt here—opinions which can only hurt the liturgical movement, because they go
counter to the spirit of the liturgy.
The liturgy is the public worship of the Church, the public worship rendered to
God by the Mystical Body of Christ. “The sacred Liturgy is the public worship which
our Redeemer as Head of the Church renders to the Father as well as the worship which
the community of the faithful renders to its Founder, and through Him to the Heavenly
Father. It is, in short, the worship rendered by the Mystical Body of Christ in the entirety
of its Head and members.”4
This public worship has for its center the sacrifice of the Mass. It is, of course, and
of necessity, “exterior”5 and “social.”6 The singing, the psalms, the rites, the continuous
teaching drawn from Holy Scripture and the Fathers, the great vocal prayer of the
Church are as a living garland around the Holy Sacrifice publicly offered and the
sacraments visibly distributed.
But this public worship is also, and must be, principally interior. Otherwise it would

become empty formalism.7 This is one of the points that the encyclical Mediator Dei
stresses most forcefully and to which it returns most often. “The chief element of divine
worship must be interior. For we must always live in Christ and give ourselves to Him
completely, so that in Him, with Him and through Him the heavenly Father may be duly
glorified.”8 Liturgical worship requires of those who participate in it “meditation on the
supernatural realities”9 and “ascetic effort prompting them to purify their hearts”;10 it is
above all by an act hidden in the innermost depths of themselves, invisible to men and
not heard by them, it is above all by interior fervor of soul and by uniting their hearts
with the intentions of the celebrant and with those of the Eternal Priest, that the faithful
offer with Him the sacrifice and offer themselves with Him.11
We are here, we believe, in the presence of a central truth. What is principal in the
New Law, Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches, is the grace of the Holy Spirit operating in
hearts.12 It is accordingly to internal and invisible reality that major importance has
henceforth passed. This law of interiorization, which is characteristic of the New
Testament, does not apply only to moral life, where henceforth it is interior movements
and their purity which count first. It applies also to worship itself. The worship rendered
to God by the Church is necessarily an exterior worship, but it is a worship in spirit and
in truth, in which what matters above all is the interior movement of souls and the divine
grace operating in them. Consequently, Catholic liturgy requires—in order that the public
worship rendered to God be authentic and real, and really dignum et justum—that the
theological virtues be at work in those who participate in it; Catholic liturgy lives on faith,
hope, and charity. “God is to be worshipped,” Saint Augustine says, “by faith, hope, and
What is this to say, if not that Catholic liturgy asks that those who participate in it
tend to the perfection of charity—“it should be clear to all,” Pius XII says, “that God
cannot be honored worthily unless the mind and heart turn to Him in quest of the perfect
life”14 and that it asks at the same stroke that they cultivate interior recollection and
aspire to union with God, in other words, that they tend, even if from afar, to something
which is beyond simple participation in liturgical worship, and which is accomplished in
the secret of hearts?
Two crucial truths—to which we shall give more attention in the second part of
this study—are at stake here. On the one hand, all are held by the divine precept to tend
to the perfection of charity, each one according to his condition and his possibilities. And
it is clear that if this precept is violated, in other words, if charity is not in the soul, there
is no worship rendered to God in spirit and in truth.
On the other hand, the call of all to the perfection of charity has for corollary the
call of all—call proximate or remote—to enter into the ways of the spirit and to
participate, to one degree or another, in that loving attention to God and that dialogue of
love with God which, susceptible of the most diverse modes, and compatible with the
active life as with the contemplative life, have their highest point in the contemplation of
the saints.

Let us not be misunderstood here. We do not claim that those who participate in
the liturgical life of the Church should all be in some degree contemplatives and have
passed under the regime of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. On the contrary, it is the whole
mass of the Christian people—the weak, the negligent, the ignorant and the reluctant in
the spiritual life, as well as those who are already the true disciples of Christ—that the
great sacred movement of the liturgy draws along, stimulates and instructs. But to what
does it draw them, what does it teach them, if not to stammer divine things and to aspire,
even if from very far, to some beginning at least of contemplation and of union with
God? What we are saying is that it is normal that those who participate in the liturgical
life tend to enter to some degree into the contemplation of the saints, and to practice
accordingly mental prayer under some form and to some degree. “The author of that
golden book The Imitation of Christ certainly speaks in accordance with the letter and
the spirit of the Liturgy, when he gives the following advice to the person who
approaches the altar: ‘Remain on in secret and take delight in your God; for He is yours
Whom the whole world cannot take away from you’ (Book IV, ch. 12).”15
Not to speak of the great Saint Gertrude, let us invoke in confirmation of this truth
a very significant modern witness: one of the most beautiful books on mental prayer and
contemplation that has been written by an author whose whole life was consecrated to
the opus Dei—Madame Cecile Bruyere, Abbess of Sainte-Cecile de Solesmes.16

Liturgy and the

Church’s Contemplation

The liturgical cycle manifests in sacred signs the states of Christ and the
participation of the Mystical Body in “the mysteries of His humiliation, of His
redemption and triumph.”17 “Hence the Liturgical Year devotedly fostered and
accompanied by the Church, is not a cold and lifeless representation of the events of the
past…. It is rather Christ Himself Who is ever living in His Church. Here He continues
that journey of immense mercy which He lovingly began in His mortal life.”18
It is clear, however, that the states of Christ—such as they were lived in the
intimacy of His soul—are something greater than the signs of the sacred cycle which
manifest them.
Likewise, as concerns the Church or the Mystical Body, something is greater—not
certainly than the Holy Sacrifice (about which we shall speak later on)—but greater than
the very sublimity of the lessons, of the prayers and the singing, of the sacred rites and
symbols through which the cycle of the seasons and the feasts unfolds, and which
manifest the participation of the Church in the states of the Lord; this something greater
is this very participation itself, in so far as it is lived in the intimacy of the soul by the
Church in her saints, and, to some degree, in the immense multitude of her members in
the state of grace. In other words, it is the suffering and the love through which the

Church applies all along the course of time the merits and the blood of Christ; and it is
the contemplation of the Church, that contemplation which enables it to experience in
some way the mysteries of God the Savior, and which takes place, through the grace of
the Holy Spirit who is the soul of the Church, in human persons joined together as one in
its communion.
This contemplation of the Church, in which the grace of the theological virtues and
of the gifts of the Holy Spirit expands in the invisible recesses of hearts, is clearly
superior to the great liturgical voice which manifests it; “quantum potes, tantum aude”:
thanksgiving, praise, petition, the liturgical service never succeeds—no matter how pure
its enthusiasm may be, no matter how ardent its rapture—in manifesting this
contemplation of the Mystical Body in an entirely adequate manner, for in itself it is
ineffable. It is to it that the liturgy wishes to lead souls, and it is from it that the liturgy
Now, what is true of the Mystical Body is clearly true, proportionately, of the
individuals who are its members. In what concerns individual souls, contemplation, to the
extent that they attain to it, is superior to the acts through which they take part in the
divine service.
Some err because, comparing the contemplation of one soul in particular with the
liturgy of the whole Church, they say that contemplation is only a singular act of an
individual, whereas the liturgical life is the common act of the Mystical Body itself. In
reality, it is the participation of such, or such a one in particular in the liturgical life, that is
to be compared with the contemplation of such or such a one in particular.
One also errs when one claims that in contemplation the person acts as a particular
whole or particular individual, whereas in participation in the liturgical life he acts as a
part and member of that Whole which is the Church or the Mystical Body itself. In
reality, just as for an individual soul, to sing the Divine Office is to participate in the
liturgical life of the Church, so also for an individual soul to contemplate God lovingly is
to participate in the contemplation of the Church: because it is the property of the
Mystical Body, the supernatural society living by the grace of Christ and of the Holy
Spirit, to embrace in the whole that it constitutes and in its communion all that there is of
the most intimate and the most personal in the most highly personal activity of the
particular persons who are its members.
One too often overlooks this truth, which has to do essentially with the very
difference between the supernatural society which is the Church and every other society
or community. Never is a man more a member, and more perfectly a member, of the
Church than when, “clauso ostio” and alone with Him Whom he loves, he is united to
God in an ineffable union of person to person, and enters into the depths of God. The
one who, like Saint Anthony in the desert or Saint John of the Cross in his dungeon, is
united to God by infused prayer, participates more in the life of the Mystical Body than
those who by their words and their gestures—and with piety doubtless, but supposing
they have not crossed the threshold of infused contemplation—follow the rubrics of the
liturgy with the greatest exactitude. For it is in what there is of the most intimate and the

most profound in the Church that such a one thus participates: in his love for God and
for men there courses invisibly something of the love which God infuses into the entire
Church, and it is from the divine sources themselves of the life of the Church coursing
through his heart and causing him to act as part of it; in other words, it is from the grace
of Christ and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that the contemplative union proceeds in
him. In the midst of what is the more personal thing in the world he is a member of the
Church more than ever and by highest right.

The Virtue of Religion

and the Theological Virtues

To say that simple participation in the liturgical worship, no matter how attentive
and exact one supposes it, carries the spiritual life to a more elevated degree than infused
contemplation and consequently dispenses from all aspiration and preparation for it,
would be to reverse the order of things, and to have a moral virtue—the virtue of religion
—take precedence over the theological virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
On the one hand, indeed, infused contemplation depends essentially on the
theological virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and is their common operation itself,
through which the soul, carried to a superhuman mode of acting, is joined to God and
enters into the depths of God.
On the other hand, worship and the liturgy depend essentially on the virtue of
religion; and the virtue of religion, as Saint Thomas teaches, having for its object not
directly God Himself but something to be done, certain acts to be accomplished with
respect to God and to honor God, is not a theological virtue; it is a moral virtue,19
however eminent it may be,20 and it therefore remains subordinate to the theological
virtues21 and to the gifts of the Holy Spirit.22
Thus liturgical worship is in itself an end of very great dignity; and yet there is a
higher end—an end for which, and the longing for which, it must normally dispose souls.
As we noted above,23 liturgical worship implies the exercise of the theological virtues—it
lives on faith, hope, and charity, which give rise to and govern the acts of religion. But of
itself it is a work—the noblest, most resplendent and holiest work—of the moral virtue
which is the virtue of religion. And it asks of those who take part in it that they ascend,
to the extent that they are able, towards that summit where the theological virtues
produce, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, an interior act which surpasses every
operation of the human being externally manifested, in particular those operations which
express by voice and gesture our union with the community of the faithful.
But is there not in Catholic worship something which surpasses the human order
altogether? Yes, certainly. Not only indeed is it essential to Christian worship, to worship
in spirit and in truth, to put into play the three theological virtues, but God Himself
intervenes in the worship which is rendered to Him; God Himself is present at the center

of the liturgy. The center of the liturgy is Holy Mass, the sacrifice of the Cross
perpetuated on the altar, the un-bloody immolation in which, through the ministry of the
earthly priest, the Eternal Priest offers Himself as a victim to His Father; the center of
the liturgy is an act of an infinite and infinitely transcendent value, an act properly divine,
without common measure with the highest works of grace in the human soul, because it
is an act of God (using the instrumentality of the priest), not an act of man.
We must conclude from this, on the one hand, that the more elevated a soul is in
infused contemplation and the ways of the spirit, the more profound will be its devotion
to the Mass and the more ardent its desire to unite itself to it; and, on the other hand, that
to assist at Mass with dispositions which are in some way proportioned to the act which
is accomplished on the altar, the highest contemplation would be required—though no
contemplation, no matter how high it might be, will ever be truly proportioned to the
divine mystery of the altar, which asks of love and the living faith of the soul, and of its
purifications, ever and ever more.
Hence it is that what the liturgy asks of the soul, and that to which it stirs it, the
liturgy itself alone does not suffice to give to the soul. Personal ascetical effort, personal
practice of mental prayer, personal aspiration to union with God, and personal docility to
the gifts of the Holy Spirit are necessary.
It would thus be a great error to conclude from the truths we have just recalled,
that in what concerns the human beings that we are, and the acts which emanate from
us, assistance at the divine act of the Mass makes superfluous these different aspects of
personal effort towards the intimate perfection of the soul.24
It would likewise be a great error to conclude that simple participation in the liturgy
would establish our spiritual life at a more elevated degree than the one to which it is
drawn by union with God in contemplation.

1. Encyclical Mediator Dei (November 20, 1947), p. 18. Here and elsewhere we refer to the Vatican Library
translation, “The Sacred Liturgy,” printed by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Washington, D.

2. On the liturgical movement in America, see the remarkable study published by “Jubilee,” August, 1958.

3. Need we recall the controversies raised by Dom Festugiere in 1913–1914?

4. Mediator Dei, 10.

5. Ibid., 11–12.

6. Ibid., 12.

7. “The sacred Liturgy requires (us)…’to give inferior effect to our outward observance’ (Missale
Romanum,” Secreta Feriae V post Dom. II Quadrag.). Otherwise religion clearly amounts to mere
formalism, without meaning and without content.” Ibid., 12.

8. Ibid., 12.

9. Ibid., 15.

10. Ibid., 17.

11. Cf. ibid., 36–9.

12. ST I-II, q. 107, a. 1, ad 2–3.

13. “Enchiridion,” ch. 3. Cited by the encyclical Mediator Dei, 21. Saint Thomas says: “The theological
virtues, faith, hope, and charity, whose act has for its object God Himself, give rise to and govern the act
of religion, which has for its object certain things-to-be-done directed towards God.” ST II–II, q. 81, a.
5, ad 1.

14. Mediator Dei, 13.

15. Ibid., 46. “All these things in the sacred Liturgy”—Pius XII also teaches, recalling the Council of Trent
—“aim at ‘enhancing the majesty of this great Sacrifice, and raising the minds of the faithful by means of
these visible signs of religion and piety, to the contemplation of the sublime truths contained in this
Sacrifice.’” Ibid., 37–38 (italics ours).

16. Madame Cecile Bruyere, Abbess of Sainte-Cecile, “La Vie spirituelle et l’Oraison” (the most recent edition
was published in Tours by Maison Mame in 1949–1950).

17. Mediator Dei, 53

18. Ibid., 57.

19. ST II–II, q. 81, a. 5.

20. For Saint Thomas it is the most excellent of the moral virtues. Ibid., a. 6.

21. ST II–II, q. 81, a. 5. Cf. ibid., 82, a. 2, ad 1: “Charity is the principle of religion.”

22. Like the theological virtues, the gifts are of higher value than the moral virtues, ST II–II, q. 81, a. 2, ad 1.

23. See above. note 13.

24. “Christ after redeeming the world at the lavish cost of His own Blood, still must come into complete
possession of the souls of men. Wherefore, that the redemption and salvation of each person and of
future generations unto the end of time may be effectively accomplished, and be acceptable to God, it is
necessary that men should individually come into vital contact with the Sacrifice of the Cross, so that the
merits which flow from it should be imparted to them. In a certain sense it can be said that on Calvary
Christ built a font of purification and salvation, which He filled with the Blood He shed; but if men do not
bathe in it and there wash away the stains of their iniquities, they can never be purified and saved.”
Mediator Dei, 30.

Part II

On Contemplation

Infused Contemplation

But what is contemplation in itself? Contemplation is a silent prayer which takes

place in recollection in the secret of the heart, and is directly ordered to union with God.
It is an ascent of the soul towards God, or rather an attraction of the soul towards
Him, for the sake of Him.
When a soul becomes free enough to speak of itself, when God wills it, it describes
its state of mental prayer, to the extent that this is possible. And it is thus that there
reaches us the account of admirable experiences which awakens in hearts the desire for
this recollection in God, and for the seeking of spiritual perfection—for love of Him.
It is for this that among a great many other great saints and souls of grace, a Saint
Teresa, for example, and a Saint John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church, received the
gift of describing in their words the experience and science of the mystical life and of
mental prayer. Saint John of the Cross spoke of it in prose, and in poems of a unique
beauty. And very often saintly souls who have had the experience of spiritual things have
also received the graceful gift of speaking of it in a beautiful, persuasive, and luminous
In this wholly interior light live Faith, Hope, and Charity. And by the gifts of the
Holy Spirit “the soul is directed and moved immediately by divine inspiration.”1
“Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart,”2 says Saint John of
the Cross, as he passes through the dark night which he knew so profoundly. But it is the
fire of the Holy Spirit which accounts for the ardor of this light.
According to the common teaching of the theologians, it is at once on the
theological virtues, supernatural in their essence, and on the gifts of the Holy Spirit,
“doubly supernatural—supernatural not only in their essence, like the theological virtues,
but in their mode of action,”3 that infused contemplation and the mystical life depend.
Let us recall the definition—a very general one—that Father Lallemant, the great
spiritual writer of the 17th century, gives of contemplation: “Contemplation is a viewing
of God or of divine things, simple, free, penetrating, which proceeds from love and tends
toward love…. It is the use of the purest and most perfect charity. Love is its source, its
exercise and its end.”4

We are speaking here, as is Father Lallemant, of infused contemplation, and with
all the more reason since it is infused contemplation which is being disregarded today by
certain minds who would like to reduce the whole spiritual life to liturgical piety; and we
are speaking of infused contemplation in abstraction from the variety presented by the
states of mental prayer and the diverse degrees of union.
The thesis that all souls are called, not doubtless in a proximate manner but in a
remote manner, to mystical contemplation considered as a normal flowering of the grace
of the theological virtues and of the gifts of the Holy Spirit—a thesis in line with Christian
tradition and with the spiritual teaching of Saint Bonaventure and of Saint Thomas—has
been masterfully expounded by Father Garrigou-Lagrange.5 And to the extent that it is
well understood—we mean, with all the nuances and all the adjustments which it requires
—it is, despite some passing opposition, well on the way to becoming classical.
As to “the proximate call to the mystical life,” it “exists only when the three signs
mentioned by Saint John of the Cross, and before him by Tauler, are clearly present: 1)
meditation becomes impossible; 2) the soul has no desire to fix the imagination on any
particular object, interior or exterior; 3) the soul delights in finding itself alone with God,
fixing on Him its loving attention.”6

Either Typical or Masked Forms of Contemplation;

“The Prayer of the Heart”

We have said that all souls are called, at least in a remote manner, to the mystical
life, that is to say, to life under the regime of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
“We must now observe that among the inspiring gifts which Catholic theology has
learned from Isaias to enumerate, some, like the gifts of Counsel, Fortitude and Fear of
the Lord, relate especially to action; others, like the gifts of Understanding and Wisdom,
relate especially to contemplation.
“It follows that souls which have entered into the way of the spirit will be able to
travel it in very different ways and according to extremely different styles. With some it
is the highest gifts, the gifts of Wisdom and Understanding, which are exercised to a high
degree; these souls represent mystical life in its normal plenitude, and they will have the
grace of contemplation in its typical forms, be they arid or consoling. With others it is the
other gifts which are exercised above all;7 these souls will live a mystical life, but chiefly
as to their activities and their works, and they will not have the typical and normal forms
of contemplation.
“It is not however that they are deprived of contemplation, of the loving
experience of divine things; for according to the teaching of Saint Thomas all the gifts of
the Holy Spirit are connected (ST III, q. 68, a. 5.), they cannot therefore exist in a soul
without the gift of Wisdom, which, in the case we are speaking of, is exercised still,
although in a less apparent way. Those souls whose style of life is active will have the

grace of contemplation, but of a masked and unapparent contemplation; perhaps they
will be capable only of reciting rosaries, and mental prayer will bring them only a
headache or sleep. Mysterious contemplation will not be in their conscious prayer, but
perhaps in the glance with which they will look at a poor man, or look at suffering.”8
We have just insisted on the diffuse or disguised forms of infused contemplation.
There is nothing more secret—nor more important—than what Father Osende, in a
remarkable page of his book Contemplata,9 calls “the prayer of the heart.” It is through
this sort of prayer or contemplation, so silent and so rooted in the depths of the spirit that
he describes it as “unconscious,” that we can truly put into practice the precept to pray
always. And is it not to this that Saint Anthony the hermit alluded when he said that
“there is no perfect prayer if the religious perceives that he is praying”?10
“We must observe,” writes Father Osende, “that prayer can be of two kinds:
prayer of the mind and prayer of the heart or of the spirit…. Both, of course, can be
practiced at the same time. Prayer of the mind…requires all our attention and care and
the actual exercise of our faculties. Such prayer cannot be continuous in this life….
“The prayer of the heart or of the spirit (which we shall call ‘unconscious’ prayer
because it is made without reflection and without our attention’s being actually fixed on
it) can and should be continuous throughout one’s life. The reason for this distinction is
that, although we cannot fix our mind on two things at the same time nor continue to
think always, we can love always….
“What does it matter if our mind and senses are occupied with a thousand different
things? Our heart is elsewhere, fixed on God, so that everything we do and think, we do
through Him, in Him and for Him…. Who does not see that this is possible, and very
possible? Do we not see that, even in the natural order, when the heart is dominated by a
great love, no matter what the person does, his entire soul and life are on what he loves
and not on what he does, though he may apply to his work all his mind and attention? If
natural love does this, how much more should divine love.
“He who practices unconscious prayer in all its plenitude, that is, he who has
attained the state of constant prayer, finds that his heart is almost constantly recollected
in God and divine things, for his spirit draws him irresistibly toward the divine and eternal
and his heart is drawn to where his treasure lies. Hence Saint John of the Cross says
(“Ascent of Mount Carmel,” III, 26): ‘To him that is pure, all things, whether high or
low…all the operations of the senses and faculties are directed to divine contemplation.
Such a man…finds in all things a knowledge of God which is joyful and pleasant, chaste,
pure, spiritual, glad, and loving.’”11

Contemplation and
the Call to Perfection

Dominating the whole spiritual life is the call to perfection: “Be you therefore

perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).
“Christian perfection consists essentially in charity,” says Saint Thomas.13 “Indeed
a thing is said to be perfect in so far as it attains its proper end—the proper end of a thing
being its ultimate perfection. Now it is charity that unites us to God, Who is the last end
of the human soul: he that abideth in charity, abideth in God, and God in him.”13
It follows that perfection falls under the divine precept, because it is on charity, on
the twofold love of God and neighbor, that the two precepts of the divine Law bear.
And “the love of God and of neighbor does not fall under the precept according to
a certain measure only…as is evident from the very form of the precept, which implies
perfection and totality: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, thy
whole soul, thy whole mind, thy whole strength, and thy neighbor as thyself.’ This is
why the Apostle says (1 Tim. 1): the end of the commandment is charity. Now the end
does not admit of measure—measure applies only to means.”14
According to Saint Bernard’s saying, the measure of loving God is to love Him
without measure—“modus diligendi, sine modo diligere.”
“Estote perfecti.” “Thus the Lord in His goodness,” says Saint Benedict,
commenting on this word of Christ’s in the prologue to his Rule, “shows us the way of
life”—the way of eternal life, which must never be interrupted, so that charity may grow
unceasingly, at the same time as humility which is the dawn of beatitude—“incipit
beatitudo ab humilitate.”
The way of life which Christ shows us is a way in which one advances towards
God and towards the Beatific Vision with steps of living faith, of hope, and of love. And
because it makes one advance towards perfection, this way itself is perfect.
Perfection is not a mathematical point. It is a life in state of growth; there are
degrees in perfection. What is prescribed by the precept is to tend to perfection as to an
end, and when one has begun to make his way towards it he is already accomplishing the
precept; and one begins to make his way towards it as soon as he has charity. It is in this
sense that Saint Thomas tells us: “Since what falls under the precept can be
accomplished in diverse ways, one does not sin against the precept by the fact alone that
he does not fulfill it in the best way; it suffices, for the precept not to be transgressed,
that it be accomplished in one way or another.”15 And Cajetan writes: “The perfection of
charity is commanded as an end; and we must wish to attain the end, the whole end. But
precisely because it is an end, it suffices, for a man not to transgress the precept, that he
be in the state of attaining this perfection one day, even if in eternity. Whoever possesses
charity, even in the feeblest degree, and is thus advancing towards Heaven, is in the way
of perfect charity, and consequently avoids the transgression of the precept….”16
It is only in Heaven where the soul sees God face to face that the precept is
accomplished in an entirely perfect way. But there is a perfection of charity compatible
with the present life, a perfection in state of growth; it implies “the exclusion of all things
which are repugnant to the movement of love towards God”—the exclusion not only of
mortal sin, but also of “all that hinders the affection of the soul from tending entirely

towards God.”17 And thus, whatever may be the vocation of each, the saying of Saint
John of the Cross concerns us all: “In the evening of this life you will be judged
according to your love.”
Let us recall now that contemplation, as Father Lallemant puts it, “proceeds from
love and tends to love,” that it is “the use of the purest and most perfect charity,” and
that love is “its source, its exercise and its end”—as indeed Saint Paul affirmed, for
whom charity—in the words of Father Lebreton—which “at death will flower into
eternal life,”18 is “the way and the end of contemplation.” And let us recall too that
according to the teaching of Saint Thomas contemplation “relates directly and
immediately to the love of God Himself,”19 and that it “is ordered not to any love of God
whatever, but to perfect love.”20 What are we to conclude from all this if not that the
precept of perfection protects, so to speak, and sanctions the desire for contemplation:
there is no true contemplation without progress towards perfection; and on the other
hand there is nothing which accelerates better than contemplation one’s progress towards
perfection and the accomplishment in us of the desire for perfection.

A Question Which Should Be Divided into Two Different Ones

It is important here—in order to avoid possible misunderstandings—that we be as

precise as possible about these things.
It is sometimes asked if there is a real link between the plenitude of Christian
perfection and “higher infused contemplation.”21
We believe that the question as posed in this way cannot receive from the data of
experience a simple answer. Indeed the answer is twofold. What seems to follow from
experience is, in the first place, that higher infused contemplation seems to be always
linked to a high perfection; but is, in the second place, that high perfection does not seem
to be always linked to higher infused contemplation, in the sense of the typical forms
expounded by the masters.
This absence of symmetry precludes any agreement among theologians on this
question so long as the two different questions it involves are not distinguished from each
But in reality the difficulty comes above all from the fact that the question in the
form in which it is posed does not take into account the freedom of the Spirit of God,
Who does as He likes with the souls He wants to unite to Himself.
The question is not to know if the summit of the perfection of love coincides
necessarily with the summit of mystical contemplation in its typical and fully unfolded
state. The question is to know if, on the one hand, it is necessary that the soul, in order
to attain to infused contemplation, decidedly makes its way, despite its weaknesses,
towards the perfection of charity and full purification; and if, on the other hand, in order
to attain to the perfection of love, it is necessary for it to enter in one way or another

(typical or atypical, open or masked) into the ways of infused contemplation—which
comes to saying that infused contemplation, to one degree or another and under one
form or another, is in the normal way of sanctity.
To the question posed in these terms, it seems clear to us—as will appear in a
more developed manner in the pages following—that the answer must be in the
affirmative. And we do not think it rash to think that this affirmative answer falls into the
category of the assertions on which Father Baumgartner rightly judges that every one
should be in agreement.22

Contemplation to One Degree or Another, Even Though Diffuse

or Masked, is in the Normal Way of Perfection

The saints realize to perfection the commandment to love God and neighbor. And
it is because they love God with the best of their hearts and with all their strength, that
they are in general great contemplatives, and in some way always contemplatives. As
Saint Bonaventure constantly insists, Christ Himself promised them this experience of
divine things when He said in Saint John (14:21): “He that loveth me, shall be loved by
my Father: and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.”
Sanctity is the full perfection of the soul, and perfection is to love God without
measure. But contemplation is directly ordered to union with God, and union with God
proceeds from the perfection of love.
Thus perfection and contemplation are normally linked by reason of charity, on
which they both depend; and contemplation, even if diffuse and masked, is the hidden
manna on which the soul must normally nourish itself—through all the trials of life, and
in order to establish itself fully in the love of God and neighbor.
“Vacate et videte quoniam ego sum Deus”: be still and see that I am God, it is said
in Psalm 45. It is thus that contemplation calls us, and that God calls us to contemplation.
“Taste and see that the Lord is sweet.”23
How could man come to the perfection of charity if he did not keep himself
habitually in the presence of God, and did not tend with his whole heart to being united
with Him? The search for perfection disposes one to contemplation, and contemplation,
by increasing the perfection of love, increases the perfection of the virtues.
“Without contemplation,” writes Father Lallemant, “one will never make much
progress in virtue…. One will never entirely get out of his weaknesses and his
imperfections. One will always be attached to the earth, and will never rise much above
the sentiments of nature. Never will one render to God a perfect service. But with it one
will do more in a month, both for himself and for others, than one would do without it in
ten years. It produces…most sublime acts of love of God, which one only very rarely
makes without this gift…and finally it perfects faith and all the virtues….”24
Thus there is continuity between ascetical doctrine and mystical doctrine—spiritual

doctrine is one. Ascetical doctrine must begin by showing “the end to which spiritual
progress must tend, that is to say, Christian perfection… in all its grandeur, according to
the testimony of the Gospel and of the saints.” And asceticism does not cease when the
soul enters into the mystical union. “To the very end the soul must remember the words
of Our Lord: If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his
cross daily.”25

Contemplation and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit

We have just seen that perfection and contemplation imply each other by reason of
love which is at once the essence of perfection and “the source, the exercise and the
end” of contemplation. One can also show this mutual implication by stressing the fact
that life under the regime of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is the state proper to perfection
and to contemplation all at once.
Saint Thomas teaches that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are necessary for salvation,
because we are too weak all by ourselves always to use as we should even the
theological virtues and the infused moral virtues.26 There is much greater reason to say
that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are necessary for perfection. The sons of God are moved
by the spirit of God27; the perfect live under the regime of the gifts of the Spirit. But to
enter under the regime of the gifts of the Spirit is precisely to cross the threshold of
infused contemplation.28 For, as Saint Bonaventure tells us, “the gifts immediately
dispose one to contemplation.”29
Without some form or other of habitual contemplation, would it be possible for the
soul effectively to perceive, in the midst of afflictions and torments, that “the duties of
each moment,” as Father de Caussade put it, “conceal, under their obscure appearances,
the truth of the divine will,” and that “they are as it were the sacraments of the present
moment”? Commenting on Saint Paul’s words, “the Spirit helpeth our infirmity…”30 the
great Carmelite theologian Thomas of Jesus writes: “These words clearly refer to the
particular motion or aid of the Holy Spirit, and point to the need that we have of it…. It
is the gifts of the Holy Spirit which make the soul promptly docile, entirely free, capable
of overcoming difficulties, and wholly occupied with God in prayer and contemplation.
This effect cannot be produced even by the infused virtue of religion, nor by the
theological virtues by themselves.”31 This is as much as to say that the life of perfection
is an inspired life, and therefore a life which—perhaps in secret—infused contemplation
nourishes and sustains.

The Tradition of the Saints

We can conclude that in his fine study on the mystical theology of Saint
Bonaventure, it is not only the teaching of Saint Bonaventure but the whole tradition of
the saints that Father Ephrem Longpre summarizes, when he writes: “the contemplative
state is only the supreme blooming of the supernatural life, the positively experienced
flowering of grace and the infused habits, the higher exercise of the gifts of the Holy
Spirit…. By a necessary consequence, the mystical life is the ordinary way of
Saint Bonaventure and his contemporary Saint Thomas Aquinas,33 those two great
representatives of theology and mysticism in the thirteenth century, were not however
saints of the reflex age! Nor were Saint Irenaeus, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, Evagrius,
Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustine, Diadochus, Saint Gregory the Great, Saint John
Climacus, Maximus the Confessor, Saint Bernard, Hugh of Saint Victor, the Carthusian
Guiges du Chastel, Saint Hildegard, Saint Albert the Great, Saint Gertrude, Angela of
Foligno, Tauler, Suso, Saint Catherine of Siena, the author of The Cloud of Unknowing,
Ruysbroeck the Admirable.
In the fifth century, Cassian, transmitting in his Conferences the lessons of
spirituality which he had received from the Fathers of the Desert, teaches that the Lord
Himself placed the “principal good” in divine contemplation, a spiritual science accorded
to purity of heart—and to charity—by the illumination of the Holy Spirit. For him
contemplation is a light inseparable from moral purity. Without moral purity, no
contemplation is possible. At the highest moments supervenes the “prayer of fire,”
provoked by an operation of the Holy Spirit which he compares to a puff of wind on a
light feather, and in which love ravishes the soul in an ineffable experience, light in the
mind and flame in the will.34
In the following century, Saint Gregory the Great, “the most eminent spiritual
author in the West up to the end of the Middle Ages,”35 continues and adds to the
tradition which Cassian had echoed. The higher the soul rises, the more it tends to
contemplate “the beauty of our Creator in a knowledge through love: “per amorem
“There is not for faithful souls,” he writes,37 “any function which is incompatible
with the grace of contemplation; every truly interior man can be graced with its lights,
and no one can glory in them as in an extraordinary privilege.” Saint Gregory also noted
—as Saint Bernard was to do—the painful passive purifications which Saint John of the
Cross later called the nights of the senses and of the spirit.38
Prayer seeks, contemplation finds, said Hugh of Saint Victor; and Tauler, “The
soul, leaving aside every useless external occupation, will find through the abnegation of
its own will and true humility a certain quietude and supernatural experience of divine
things, which leads to full perfection, in which one has a supernatural view of
Dom Huyben has shown that “the doctrine of the normal, though eminent,
character of the mystical life is admitted by Saint Bernard, Tauler, Louis de Blois, and

that no one contradicted it in the Middle Ages.”40 The idea that mystical contemplation is
the normal flowering of the graces of the perfect life was common doctrine.
To sum everything up, let us say that the source of contemplation is the constant
search for the greater and greater perfection of the soul, and that perfection consists
essentially in charity; and that it is also on the love of God that contemplation lives. The
most pure desire of God is therefore essential to it. The great contemplatives of all ages,
those of the reflex age as also those prior to the reflex age, desire only God alone.
“I do not count myself for anything,” says Saint Hildegard in the twelfth century.
“I turn towards the living God in order that He may deign in all things to keep me from
“What do my concerns matter, Lord,” exclaims Saint Teresa of Avila. “For me
there is no longer anything but You.”

1. Garrigou-Lagrange, Perfection chretienne et Contemplation (Paris: Desclee & Cie), I, 34.

2. Dark Night of the Soul, Stanza 3 (translation of E. Allison Peers).

3. Garrigou-Lagrange, Perfection chretienne et Contemplation, I, 34.

4. La Doctrine Spirituelle, ed. Pottier (Paris: Tequi, 1936), 430–2.

5. Especially in Perfection chretienne et Contemplation, often cited in this study, and in L’Amour de Dieu et
la Croix de Jesus. See also the article in Dictionnaire de Spiritualite, t. II (Paris: Beauchesne, 1953), and
La Contemplation dans l’ecole dominicaine, col. 2067–2079, in which Father Garrigou-Lagrange has
condensed his teaching on contemplation.

6. Garrigou-Lagrange, Perfection chretienne et Contemplation, II, 421–2.

7. Cf. J. and R. Maritain, “De la vie d’oraison,” (Paris: Rouart, 1947), Note IV. Infused contemplation,
Father Garrigou-Lagrange writes, “very manifest in the perfect ones who are more inclined to the
contemplative life, is, as it were, diffuse in the other perfect ones in whom chiefly predominate the gifts
of the Holy Ghost relative to action—the gifts of Fear of the Lord, Fortitude, Counsel, Knowledge, united
to the gift of Piety, under a less visible influence of the gifts of Wisdom and Understanding.” Ibid., I, 214.

8. Cf. Jacques Maritain, “Action et Contemplation,” in Questions de Conscience (Paris: Desclee De Brouwer,
1938), 144–46. According to Saint Bonaventure, all the gifts, “each in its place, facilitate mystical
experience because they purify, illumine and perfect” (Ephrem Longpre, “Dict. de Spiritualite,” col.

9. Translated into English under the title Fruits of Contemplation (St. Louis: Herder, 1953).

10. “Non est perfecta oratio in qua se monachus vel hoc ipsum quod orat intelligit.” Cassian, IX, 31. Let us
note that the idea of perpetual or continuous prayer, which is prolonged even into sleep by a
subconscious mental activity, plays a central role in Cassian. (Cf. “Dict. de Spiritualite,” article on
Contemplation, col. 1924 and 1926.)

11. Victorino Osende, Fruits of Contemplation, 157–9. Father Grou, in the 18th century, had already noted
(“Manuel,” pp. 224 ss.) that continuous prayer is a prayer which escapes consciousness. See Arintero,
“the Mystical Evolution in the Development and Vitality of the Church,” Vol. II (St. Louis: Herder, 1951),
45. This idea is already indicated by Cassian.

12. ST II–II, q. 184, a. 1-3.

13. Ibid., 184, a. 1.

14. Ibid., 184, a. 3

15. Ibid., 184, a. 3, ad 2.

16. Cajetan, in II–II, q. 184, a. 3.

17. ST II–II, q. 184, a. 2.

18. “Dict. de Spiritualite,” col. 1715. 20. Ibid ., col. 1711.

19. ST II-II, 182, a. 2.

20. Ibid., 182, 4, ad 1.

21. Cf. Charles Baumgartner, article on Contemplation. “Conclusion generale,” “Dict. de Spiritualite,” col.

22. Cf. Ibid., col. 2182–2183.

23. “Gustave et videte quoniam suavis est Dominus” (Psalm 33).

24. La Doctrine Spirituelle, 429–30. 27. Garrigou-Lagrange, ibid., t. I, p. 39.

25. Ibid.

26. Cf. ST I, q. 68, a. 2.

27. “Quicumque spiritu Dei aguntur, ii sunt filii Dei” (Romans. 8:14).

28. Cf. the masterful treatise of John of Saint-Thomas, Les Dons du Saint-Esprit, French translation by
Raïssa Maritain (Paris: Cerf, 1930; 2e ed. Tequi, 1950); English translation by Father Dominic Hughes,
O.P. (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1951).

29. Cf. Ephrem Longpre, “Dict. de Spiritualite,” col. 2083.

30. “The Spirit also helpeth our infirmity. For we know what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit
himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what the
Spirit desireth; because he asketh for the saints according to God” (Romans 8: 26–7).

31. Venerable Thomas of Jesus, De Oratione divina, I, 2.

32. Ephrem Longpre, “La theologie mystique de saint Bonaventure,” in Archivum Franciscanum Historicum,
1921, fasc. I and II. Cf. the articles of Father Longpre on Saint Bonaventure (“Dict. de Spiritualite,” col.
1777–1791), and on contemplation in the Franciscan school (ibid., article on Contemplation, col. 2080–
2102). According to Saint Bonaventure, he writes, “there exists a promise of mystical or Christian
experience; everything is disposed… so that Christ’s pledge (John 14:21) may be realized with full right
in every believer in whom the Holy Trinity dwells and who fulfills the required conditions: the observance
of the commandments and the love of Christ Jesus” (col. 2080). “The Gospel makes neither distinction
nor exception; it mentions no privilege, it requires no other vocation than the Christian life: “He that loveth
me, shall be loved of my Father: and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him (John 14:21).” (Col.

33. The spiritual teaching of Saint Thomas Aquinas is summed up excellently in columns 1983–1988 of Father
Paul Phillipe’s article on contemplation in the thirteenth century (“Dict. de Spiritualite”). Let us note the
following remarks (col. 1986): “It properly belongs to infused wisdom to increase by itself the love of

God in the soul…. Mystical contemplation is wholly impregnated by love and cannot not give rise to a
greater love.” And if from love knowledge can proceed, it is “because charity enables one to judge well
of the things of God: such is the science of the saints (Saint Thomas, in Phil., c. 1, lect. 2)”—in which
love causes the intelligence to enter “into the depths of God” in virtue of a knowledge by affinity under
the motion of the Holy Spirit.

34. Cf. Michel Olphe-Galliard, article on Contemplation, “Dict. de Spiritualite,” col. 1921–1929.

35. Jean Leclercq, on Contemplation, “Dict. de Spiritualite,” col. 1933.

36. R. Gillet, Introduction aux Homelies morales sur Job (Paris, 1951), 32. Cf. “Moralia” X, 8, 13.

37. In “Ezechiel,” II, Hom. 5. Cited by Garrigou-Lagrange, ibid., 675.

38. Cf. Garrigou-Lagrange, ibid., 675 and 684.

39. Ibid., 686 and 694, note 2.

40. Huyben’s remarkable article: “La Tradition mystique au moyen age,” Vie Spirituelle, January, 1922, 298ss.
Garrigou-Lagrange, ibid., 690.

Part III

Against Some Misconceptions Which Tend to

Divert Christian Souls from Contemplation

So-called Techniques to Lead Us to Union with God

How is it possible that the truths recalled in the preceding pages, and which are an
integral part of the venerable heritage of the Doctors of the Church and of the Saints, are
put in question by some who, presenting themselves as the barristers of the Sacred
Liturgy itself, reprove, in the name of the public prayer of the Church, mental prayer,
solitude with God, and silent contemplation?
Those who take such a position do not know what contemplation is and they
misunderstand the Sacred Liturgy. They do not know that these two supernatural realities
and grandeurs must be associated and not divided.
Need we bring up some of the grievances which the detractors of solitary prayer
and of contemplation advance?
One sometimes hears it said that whereas the collective movement of the liturgy
draws us of itself and quite spontaneously towards God, the masters who teach us the
ways of meditation, of infused prayer and of contemplative union, propose to the efforts
of each one systematic formulas and techniques to be applied. We have here a strange
misunderstanding. Ascetical and mystical science teaches us to liberate ourselves from
the obstacles which are in us, so that we may be able to let the gifts of grace act freely in
our soul. But it teaches us at the same time to hold for an illusion every effort to attain
perfection and contemplative union by any kind of systematic procedure, formula or
technique. As concerns infused contemplation in particular, is not the essential fact, as we
recalled in the preceding section, that it coincides with the entry of the soul under the
regime of the gifts of the Holy Spirit?
“What is it to say this, if not that Christian contemplation depends above all on that
Spirit who breathes where He wills, and whose voice one hears, yet without anyone
knowing whence He comes or whither He goes… (cf. John 3:8). This means that
Christian contemplation is quite the contrary of a matter of technique…”1 Natural
spirituality, like that of India for example, has quite fixed techniques. “This apparatus of
techniques is what first strikes one who begins to study comparative mysticism. Well, one
of the most obvious differences between Christian mysticism and other mysticisms is its

liberty as regards technique, as regards all recipes and formulae…”2 “It is necessary,”
writes Father Osende,3 “to affirm once and for all, in accordance with the doctrine of the
Church and the saints, that there is no method, procedure, or rule whereby one may
acquire or induce mystical contemplation. All that we can do is to dispose ourselves so
that God will communicate it to us when it pleases Him.”

So-called Subjective and Egocentric Spirituality

One also hears formulated sometimes another series of grievances: ascetical

preparations, solitary meditation, the desire for and the experience of infused prayer, all
this—some say—arises from a spirituality in which the soul is turned towards itself and
seeks itself. Under pretext of seeking mystical union it abandons itself to introspection
and to a psychological fixation on its own interior states, in which a disguised egoism
holds the first place and which many a time would call for the attentions of the
psychologist or psychoanalyst rather than of the spiritual director. To this spirituality that
one terms “subjective,” one opposes then the purely “objective” and entirely
disinterested spirituality of the liturgy, which in convoking the whole of creation to the
praise of God and in absorbing each one in the prayer and the elan of the assembly of the
faithful, cures the soul of egoistic seeking of self and teaches it to be contented with
honoring God through the worship which is rendered to Him in common.
It is true that liturgical prayer is a precious aid to contemplative souls, in particular
in their effort to deliver themselves from the complications and returns on self to which
our psychological mechanisms naturally incline us. Apart from this, it must be said that
under beautiful phrases on the liturgy the kind of talk to which we have alluded contains
serious errors. In the encyclical Mediator Dei, Pope Pius XII refutes a so-called purely
“objective” spirituality which would exclude all “subjective” spirituality, in other words,
which would exclude all spirituality in which the person as such is engaged in his unique
relation with God.4
Before going any further, it is perhaps not irrelevant to cite the lines in which
Monsignor Knox expressed with smiling British reserve some very wise remarks: “We
have been using mental prayer for years, and it doesn’t seem to have made much
difference to our characters; have we any reason to think that this form of worship is
specially pleasing to God?
“To that objection, I have only a word to say, which I will leave with you; I may
be quite wrong. I think mental prayer is imperative, if only to plough up the mind and
leave it fallow for God’s inspirations. He may want to tell you about something you are
meant to do for Him; and although He does not need our help in creating the opportunity
for Him, it seems to me that we are wrong if we do not create it. All the masses and all
the office we say can leave His voice unheard; we shout it down with our

But let us consider now the true bearing and the internal logic of things. Behind the
criticisms addressed to the seeking of self supposedly implied in the practice of
meditation and the docility to the mystical ways, it is to be feared that there is found
simply the desire to escape from the demands which God causes to be heard within, and
from that total gift of oneself through which He brings it about that finally a soul is no
longer but “a single spirit and love” with Him. To honor God through worship rendered
in common and through the virtue of religion is, we recalled above, the highest thing in
the order of the moral virtues. But one cannot impose on souls that they stop their
aspirations there, nor that they use such a noble good to turn them aside from a still
higher good, which belongs directly to the theological virtues and the gifts of the Holy
Spirit, and in which the very love of God for the creatures He made to His image is
No one denies that a psychological fixation on oneself, even an unhealthy anxiety
for introspection, can mingle with piety, even sincere piety, in many souls. But the
masters of asceticism are the first to denounce the illusions caused by these parasites. It
is absurd to reproach mental prayer and interior recollection with what is their
counterfeit. It being a fact that infused contemplation exists only through the love of God
sovereignly loved, and only for that, it is pure nonsense to accuse of a kind of
transcendent egoism those to whom it gives in reality only a supreme desire: “cupio
dissolvi et esse cum Christo”I desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ.”
To be anxious about one’s own perfection (according to the spirit of Christianity,
let us understand) implies no egoist seeking of self, for it is for the love of God, not of
one’s self, that the Christian aspires to become perfect. It is clear besides that one could
not advance in the love of God if he were not constantly attentive to conquering himself
and to purifying himself of all that which within him constitutes an obstacle to charity.
There comes however a moment—when the soul has progressed rather far in the way of
the spirit—when, through the effect of the contemplative union itself, concern for one’s
own perfection, as necessary as it may remain, passes into the background. Then the
soul no longer thinks of anything but loving. With those who have reached this stage,
holy preoccupation—centered in God, not in self—with one’s own perfection ceases to
attract the attention of conscious thought.
“They are no longer preoccupied with self, but only with the extension of the
Kingdom of God throughout the world, that His name may be loved and glorified by all
men, beginning with themselves. All their prayers, petitions, works, and sacrifices are
directed principally toward this end and they are converted into invisible channels
through which the graces of heaven descend upon earth.”6 Thus it is by virtue of
contemplation that the supreme degree of forgetfulness of self is attained.
“Contemplation alone,” we wrote elsewhere, “discovers the value of charity.
Without it, one knows it by hearsay; with it, one knows it by experience. Through love
and in love, it makes known that God is love. Then man lets God do in him what He
wills; he lets himself be bound because he loves; he is free because he loves. All that has
not the taste of love loses for him all savor. Because of that love, with which it perfects

our life, contemplation alone realizes in us universality, renders the soul catholic in spirit
and in truth. As it transcends all the intellectual and moral virtues, prudence, science and
art, so also it transcends all particularisms, attunes the soul to the unity of the Mystical
Body…. Through it, Christ, dwelling in those who love Him, gives their hearts a sort of
Eucharistic amplitude.”7

The Saints of the Reflex Age

There is a last argument to which those who would like to reject the authority of
Saint John of the Cross and of Saint Teresa readily have recourse. It is drawn from the
diversity of ages in history. Saint Teresa and Saint John of the Cross, they say, were
saints of the reflex age. They probably had to write as they did, given their historical
epoch. What they wrote was probably good for that age of history, but it has no value for
our age, which has suffered only too much from individual introspection and whose
essential need is in the social and communal order.
Such a reasoning contains many errors. The fundamental error consists in
forgetting that if there are in the spiritual life a development and modalities which are
linked with the movement of history, the substance itself of this life depends neither on
time nor on history but on supra-temporal truths. Why is it that one does not see that it is
essentially the same doctrine which, taught in the sixteenth century by Saint John of the
Cross in the perspective of the practical science of the spiritual life, was taught in the
thirteenth century by Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Bonaventure in the perspective of
theology? Why does one forget the teachings of the Fathers and of the medieval Doctors
on the primacy of contemplation, the decisive importance of which we stressed above?
And why does one forget the mysterious continuity in which, in the Living Flame of
Love of Saint John of the Cross, the darkness of Saint Gregory of Nyssa finally
recognizes its true nature? By what strange blindness does one fail to recognize the
testimony given by the saints and the great spiritual writers, all through the Christian
centuries, to that very experience of the depths of God whose states and degrees Saint
Teresa and Saint John of the Cross only succeeded in describing in a more analytical and
more explicit manner?
It is true that with Saint Teresa and Saint John of the Cross (and with Saint Francis
of Sales also) there was an explicit and reflexive “prise de conscience” of what takes
place at the interior of the soul that has entered into the contemplative way.
For such a growth in awareness there was required—given its object—a special
gift of God, the grace of a high supernatural light received for the enlightening of the
whole Church. Such a growth in awareness constituted of itself an immense progress. It
apprised us of the precious treasures which at the most secret depths of the soul we hold
from the life of grace. Doubtless, as with every growth in awareness, it was accompanied
by accidental dangers. But of itself, as with every growth in awareness, it obeyed—and
in the purest and highest domain—the very law of the spirit and of the growth of the

spirit. It is not a gesture of the hands by way of taking leave of them more or less
courteously, it is an incomparable gratitude that we owe—and shall always owe—to the
great saints of the reflex age.
It is true also that our historical age has other needs than that of Saint Teresa and
Saint John of the Cross. But it is certainly not in the aspiration to submit everything to
the primacy of the social and the communal that these true needs of our age are to be
sought. As concerns the spiritual life in particular, the true and authentic need of our age
is, on the one hand, to understand better the mystery of the Mystical Body (which
transcends to the infinite the natural social and the human communal); and it is, on the
other hand, and especially, to understand—without losing or neglecting anything of the
teaching of the masters on contemplation—that today contemplation asks, we do not say
to leave the cloisters and the convents, but to go out of doors and spread its wings, and
to have done with the illusion, too frequent among people, that it should be reserved for
specialists. “As soon as a man is fully disposed to be alone with God, he is alone with
God no matter where he may be—in the country, the monastery, the woods or the city.”8

Contemplation on the Roads of the World

Indeed, contemplation is not given only to the Carthusians, the Poor Clares, and
the Carmelites.
It is frequently the treasure of persons hidden in the world, known only to some
few—to their directors, to a few friends. Sometimes, in a certain manner this treasure is
hidden from the souls themselves who possess it—souls who live by it in all simplicity,
without visions, without miracles, but with such a flame of love for God and neighbor
that good happens all around them without noise and without agitation.
It is of this that our age has to become aware, and of the ways through which
contemplation communicates itself through the world, under one form or the other, to the
great multitude of souls who thirst for it (often without knowing it), and who are called to
it at least in a remote manner. The great need of our age, in what concerns the spiritual
life, is to put contemplation on the roads of the world.
It is fitting to note here the importance of the witness and the mission of Saint
Therese of Lisieux. It would be futile to seek an opposition between her and Saint John
of the Cross, whom she called “the saint of Love par excellence.” In substance it is the
same spirituality, but everything has undergone in her a marvelous reduction to the
essential. Not only all the extraordinary graces to which Saint John of the Cross forbade
the soul to aspire and to attach itself, but all the great typical signs, terrible or
resplendent, which manifested, in the soul’s own experience, the stages traversed by it in
advancing in the way of union—all these things have now disappeared. There is in Saint
Therese of Lisieux—and with an unbelievably pure limpidity—no longer anything but
total love, total gift, and total stripping of self. It is a great way indeed, this “petite voie”
of Therese’s—and an heroic one—but one which hides rigorously its grandeur under an

absolute simplicity, itself heroic. And this absolute simplicity makes of it a way “par
excellence” open to all those who aspire to perfection, whatever their condition of life
may be. This is the feature here that it is particularly important for us to keep in mind.
Saint Therese of the Infant Jesus has shown that the soul can tend to the perfection of
charity by a way in which the great signs that Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of
Avila described, and which find themselves in preference in convents, do not appear. At
the same stroke, we believe, Saint Therese in her Carmel prepared in an eminent way
that wider diffusion than ever of the life of union with God which the world requires if it
is not to perish.
Let us add that in this contemplation “on the roads of the world,” whose
development the future will doubtless witness, it seems that constant attention to the
presence of Jesus and fraternal charity are called to play a major role, as regards even the
ways of infused prayer. We believe that the vocation of those contemplatives thrown into
the world and the misery of the world who are the Little Brothers of Charles de
Foucauld, has in this respect a high significance, and that one can expect from them new
lights in the domain of the spiritual life, with time and the grace of God.

The Liturgy Transcends Essentially

Every Natural Aspiration for Community

Liturgical worship, we have already noted, is an end in itself; but it tends by nature
to prepare and to lead those who participate in it to a higher end, which is contemplation.
To claim to deprive the liturgy of this ordination to contemplation, is to denature the
liturgy. “One point we stress over and over,” says Father Alfred C. Longley, pastor of St.
Richard’s in Minneapolis, one of the most remarkable liturgical parishes in the United
States, “is that the aim of worship—through Mass and the sacraments—is love.”9 Why
then should not participation in the liturgical service tend to prepare us for that
contemplative union in which the perfection of love for God and for all men normally
takes root? Those who turn souls aside from contemplation in the name of the liturgy
are, contrary to what they think, great enemies of the liturgy itself. Such a disregard for
mental prayer and contemplation certainly does not arise from a true view of the liturgy,
but on what it is fitting to call a “pseudo-liturgical systematization.”
We said just now that one of the great needs of our age is to understand better the
mystery of the Mystical Body. It is this need that is being met by the effort of all those,
priests and laymen, who dedicate themselves with an admirable zeal to the liturgical
renewal, thereby restoring so many parishes to an authentic life and to a common fervor
in worship worthily rendered, and helping the faithful to realize better, through their
union with the public prayer of the Church, their belonging to the Mystical Body.10
It is to an essentially supernatural society—in which we are “fellow-citizens of the
saints,” and whose principle of life, invisible to our bodily eyes, is the Blood of Christ

and the grace of the Holy Ghost—that we thus realize better our belonging. What is
essentially important, and what we have to actualize in our entire life, is the typically
supernatural quality which makes us members of the Mystical Body and of the
communion of saints. This is clearly quite another thing from being a member of a choir,
although the singing of the choir is a part of the public prayer of the Church, and
although it depends on our interior fervor that our singing be an act of love elevating our
soul towards God.
Let us add that in understanding better the divine social life of the Church and our
belonging to the Mystical Body we are normally drawn to understand better also the
authentic exigencies of the human social life and the necessity of making fraternal love
prevail in it. It is an effect of the super-abundance of the things of the Kingdom of God
activating the things of earth. Human social life is thus super elevated in its own order by
the supernatural ferment of the Gospel virtues. It is perfectly normal that a liturgical
parish be also a parish in which Gospel charity vivifies the natural social community and
the natural social activities, and develops in them the sense of social justice and of
fraternal mutual help. To the work pursued by the liturgical renewal one already owes
significant realizations accomplished in this spirit.
But it is quite otherwise with the pseudo-liturgical systematization. It confuses the
orders, and instead of tending to elevate the human social element by the life of the spirit
it tends to submit the spiritual life to the human social element. What we must reproach it
for above all, it seems to us, is its pulling down to the plane of the human social what
belongs of itself to the divine social. There is here a kind of insidious naturalism. It is
then the nostalgia of common engagement, of the life of the team and the group, of the
primacy of the social and the communal—so deeply felt by our age in the natural and
temporal, terrestrial and human order—that one invokes and wishes to satisfy, and that
one wishes to impose, in the very order of religious and spiritual life. It is a purely natural
gregarious instinct that one seeks to satisfy in the name of the sacred liturgy, it is an “esse
inter homines”—a “being among men”—that one demands in the name of the Mystical
Body itself. Thence the suspicion towards private prayer, regarded as individualist and
egocentric, and accepted only in the measure in which it prepares one for the better
performing of public prayer and of the functions of worship. Thence the disregard of the
person and of his singular relation with God. The authentic human social realm
recognizes in its own order the rights and the privileges of the person. But in the false
perspective of which we are speaking one extends the human social claims outside of
their own order, to impose them on a domain which is not their own and where they
devour everything.

Divine Love is a Love from Person to Person

One ends up forgetting the personal character of the love that God demands of us,
of each soul one by one—and not only of choirs of reciters. If our God loved only social

masses praying and singing together (He loves them too), this would have been indicated
by some commandment. But there is only the wholly personal commandment of love:
Thou (and not you) shalt love thy God with thy whole heart, thy whole soul, thy whole
mind. Now neither the heart nor the soul nor the mind are social things. They are
individual or, better, personal; and the person is not an object that can be added up.
Consider the human assembly of a hundred thousand believers: they do not add up
to form a mass that would be the sum of them all; they are persons each one of whom
has the faith. It is not a single act of faith common to all; it is the act of faith proper to
each one which is an offering pleasing to God.
If it is a question, it is true, of the supernatural society that is the Church, it is in
virtue of a unique sap which is the life of their life, in virtue of the grace of Christ
vivifying their most personal activities, that human persons are members of the Mystical
Body. As an exterior sign of this communion, and of fraternal love among us, Jesus likes
that we be several—even if only two or three—gathered together in His name. But
persons are not added up there either, and it remains always that faith, hope, and charity
are strictly personal, like merit. As a member of a body whose common good is identical
with the ultimate good itself of each person, each one is alone before God to love Him,
to contemplate Him here below and to see Him in Heaven, as also to be judged by Him
—each one according to his love.
This is why what counts in the contemplative life is always a wholly unique
presence before God.
The love of God is always from Person to person, and our love for God is always
from our heart to His heart which has loved us first,11 in our very singularity—whether
this love wells up in us at the recitation of liturgical texts, at the hearing of Gregorian
chant or any other music worthy of accompanying the Divine Office, or at the solitary
reading of the Bible, or in the wordless recollection and repose of prayer.

The Value of Silence

Against the pseudo-liturgical state of mind it behooves one to defend the rights and
the dignity of silence. In certain parishes into which this state of mind has penetrated,
many of the faithful—so our friends in Europe write us—complain that in entering into
church to meditate they are deafened by the noise. It is certain that the dialogue Mass,12
as it is called, is a conquest of the liturgical renewal in its most authentic sense. It proves
itself to be of incomparable assistance for the piety of a great many. Still it is necessary
for the human voice to be humble in it, discreet and prayerful, not screeching. If on the
other hand the solemn Mass is clearly the noblest and fullest form of the celebration of
the Holy Sacrifice, it would be folly however to claim to condemn low Masses for this
reason—those low Masses of the dawn in which there descends upon the soul in silence,
with an unequaled sweetness, the dew of the feasts and commemorations of each day.
As regards participation in the liturgical life of the Church, and although the

expression “active participation” has in actual fact taken the sense of participation
externally manifested, it is important to observe here that to listen, whether with the ear
or with the heart, is from the philosophical point of view as “active” as to speak. No
doubt it is preferable that the faithful manifest this participation outwardly by answering
the priest and joining, at certain moments, their voices to his, even during low Masses,
according as it is recommended in a recent Instruction of the Congregation of Rites.13 If
however these recommendations are not given as a categorical order imposed on each
one, it is because, in the last analysis, those who prefer to nourish themselves on the
prayer of the Church either by listening to the Gregorian chant at Office or at High Mass,
or by piously reading the Missal to follow the action of the priest and to unite themselves
with it, participate, to speak the truth, in the liturgical life of the Mystical Body in a
manner as really active, although silent and not manifested (and in this sense less
complete), as those who sing or who answer in a loud voice. And it remains in any case
that even when it speaks, humility listens.14
Let us note finally with what care the Church maintains, even in the so-called
dialogue Mass and in the solemn Mass, the part due to silence—to that very silence
which is that of prayer “clauso ostio.” “From the Consecration to the ‘Pater’, silence is
recommended.”15 “During the time of the Consecration, all singing, and, wherever it is
the custom, even the music of the organ or of any other instrument must cease. After the
Consecration, unless the Benedictus is still to be sung, a sacred silence is advised up to
the Pater noster.”16

The Liberty of Souls

Against the pseudo-liturgical exaggerations it behooves one to defend the liberty of

souls. This is what the Pope, Father and pastor of all, did, when he said in moving terms:
“Many of the faithful are unable to use the ‘Roman Missal even though it is written in
the vernacular; nor are all capable of understanding correctly the liturgical rites and
formulas. So varied and diverse are men’s talents and characters that it is impossible for
all to be moved and attracted to the same extent by community prayers, hymns, and
liturgical services. Moreover, the needs and inclinations of all are not the same, nor are
they always constant in the same individual. Who then would say, on account of such a
prejudice, that all these Christians cannot participate in the Mass nor share its fruits? On
the contrary, they can adopt some other method which proves easier for certain people,
for instance, they can lovingly meditate on the mysteries of Jesus Christ or perform other
exercises of piety or recite prayers which, though they differ from the sacred rites, are
still essentially in harmony with them.”17
“It is perfectly clear to all,” Pius XII writes again,18 “that in the Church on earth,
no less than in the Church in heaven, there are many mansions (John 14:2)…. It is the
same Spirit Who breatheth where He will (John 3:8); and Who with differing gifts and in

different ways enlightens and guides souls to sanctity. Let their freedom and the
supernatural action of the Holy Spirit be so sacrosanct that no one presume to disturb or
stifle them for any reason whatsoever.”
Rome has always been vigilant in opposing any attempt to regiment souls. She
knows that the spirit of the liturgy requires respect for the Gospel liberty proper to the
New Law. On the contrary, in holding as valid one single form of piety, that in which
each one acts in common with the others, and in demanding of all that by word and
gesture they obey the liturgical forms with a military precision; in challenging or putting in
question private devotions, nay even the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament outside of
Mass, those who confuse liturgy and pseudo-liturgy impose on souls rigid frameworks
and burden them with external obligations which are of the same type as the observances
of the Old Law.

In Defense of the Liturgy

Against pseudo-liturgy it behooves one to defend the liturgy. The latter, as we have
observed, superabounds from the contemplation of the Church; it is in the inspired
wisdom of the Church, and in its union of love with God, that is the supreme and most
pure measure of the forms through which worship and public prayer are accomplished.
The liturgy can only suffer gravely from the spirit of system, or from a spirit of the
arbitrary whether in novelty or in archaism, or from a fixation on the past which tends to
disregard its homogeneous development inseparably bound to that of the life of the
Church. These different kinds of excess have been denounced in the encyclical Mediator

In Defense of Solitude

It is clear that participation in the liturgical life of the Church is of itself eminently
suited for preparing souls for supernatural recollection and contemplative union. The
liturgy transmits to us in its signs an expression of the charity and contemplation of the
Church itself. Nothing is richer in meaning than its rites and its great poetry, its prayers,
its lessons, its hymns and its psalms. In a continuous and exultant reiteration it enlightens
our minds with the light of the Old and the New Testaments, and it puts on our lips the
words uttered by the most venerable contemplatives, prayers of David, messages of the
Prophets, teachings of the Fathers. And to the one who follows it each day with all the
attention of his heart, it brings a continuous spiritual stimulation, and often responses and
inspirations singularly appropriate to his personal life; it awakens him to the aspirations of
his own soul at the same time as to the mysteries of the cycle of time and of the cycle of
the Saints.
If participation in the liturgical life (on condition that it be animated by fervor, and

not deadened by routine) thus constitutes a particularly excellent way to prepare the soul
for contemplation, it is however far from taking the place of ascetical preparations and
from rendering them superfluous. It is neither the only way nor the indispensable way
towards contemplation. Still less would it be, as the pseudo-liturgical excesses would
have it, necessarily required for the perfection of the spiritual life independently of all
ordination to contemplation, and as a sort of absolute sufficient unto itself.
Why should the possibility of attaining to a perfectly pure spiritual life be reserved
to a privileged elite devoted to the liturgical service? There is the multitude of others,
whom the obligations of life and the exigencies of work impede. There are those charged
with family responsibilities, the itinerants, the sick, the illiterate, there are the solitaries.
Against pseudo-liturgy it behooves one to defend solitude and the solitary life. The
soul breathes in solitude, a certain amount of solitude is indispensable for the life of the
spirit: “The ears with which one hears the message of the Gospel are hidden in man’s
heart, and these ears do not hear anything unless they are favored with a certain interior
solitude and silence…. We listen to the Father best in solitude.”19 “The more our soul
finds itself alone and separated,” wrote Saint Ignatius of Loyola,20 “the more it renders
itself capable of approaching its Creator and Lord and of attaining Him.”

In solitude she lived

And in solitude now has built her nest,
And in solitude her dear one alone guides her. 21

As to the solitary life, it is the state of life at once the most difficult and the most
elevated.22 Eternally snow-clad summit from which descend the life-giving rivers, this
state of life will never be missing from the Church. With the Carthusians it is certainly
not exclusive of the liturgical service and of the most beautiful chants, but the Office
chanted in common is of less importance than the solitary dialogue with God. With the
hermits there is no longer anything but the Solitary Dialogue with God. There is no
longer any public prayer; there is no longer any liturgical service (except, for the priests,
the read Mass and the private recitation of the Office). It is in pure solitude that a Father
de Foucauld attained a sublime contemplation and an heroic perfection.
Saint Benedict Labre was not a hermit, but a beggar, or rather, a seeker of God on
the roads of the earth, completely cut off from the world by total poverty, vermin and
beggary; and in this respect he was more retired from men and more alone than even a
The Solitude of Saint Benedict Labre! Solitude is his vocation—whether he be lost
in the outlying wilderness or amidst the people of Rome. Contemplation must be his
whole life in the time before the eternal Beatitude.
He has to leave the convent in which he thought he was to pass his life; he has
only to go along the roads and pray, often in anguish and darkness.
He has no other desire than the solitary life in the midst of infinite privations—in

the glowing presence of God, of Him who requires him in his entirety.
Such is then his life. He goes along the roads with God. He doesn’t need anything
of this world. Total poverty is for him a gift from Heaven—poverty, solitude; and
silence. His prayer is prayer of humility and of love, of charity and of light, of fire and of
ecstasy. He sings in the forests.
Over the long ways of France and Italy, walking barefooted, he reaches Rome.
Doubtless it was a sacred desire of his. He has come to the home of Saint Peter and
Saint Paul, and to the tomb of innumerable martyrs.
He frequents a small and very humble church, Santa Maria dei Monti, where his
body and the tomb statue of him are today.
He assisted at Mass there, received Holy Communion, had his habitual ecstasies
and his raptures there. The poor people of the district venerated this other poor one, this
one who needed only the love of God, this strange being who was ignorant of the
attractions of terrestrial forces, and whom God drew to Himself.
In Rome at Santa Maria dei Monti, at the Coliseum, in the streets where the
children made fun of him, he lived his divine life. Alone and ever in the presence of God,
of His love, of His light.

1. Jacques Maritain, Questions de conscience, 149.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid., 176.

4. Cf. Mediator Dei, 13–15.

5. Ronald Knox, in his posthumous book, The Priestly Life: Conference on Prayer (New York: Sheed and
Ward, 1958), p. 131.

6. Victorino Osende, ibid., 310. This whole page could well be cited.

7. Jacques Maritain, Primaute’ du Spirituel, 171–72.

8. Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude (New York: Farrar Straus and Cudahy, 1958), p. 96.

9. Cf. “Jubilee,” No. cited, 40.

10. It is to be noted—and this is entirely normal—that many advocates of the liturgical renewal are at the same
time fervent defenders of the mystical life and of contemplation. Such is the case, for example, with
Father H. A. Reinhold (cf. his two books The American Parish and the Roman Liturgy (New York:
Macmillan, 1958) and Soul Afire (New York: Pantheon Books, 1944).

11. It is thus that Henry Suso writes: “Once I saw spiritually that the heart of my heavenly Father was joined
to mine in an ineffable manner. Yes, I felt the heart of God, divine Wisdom without form or image, who
spoke to me in the innermost recesses of my heart, and in the swoon of my joy I exclaimed: ‘O my
sweet Beloved and my only Love, see how I embrace Thy divinity, heart to heart!’” (“Union of the Soul,”
c. 3; cited by Arintero, ibid., vol. II, 276).

12. In his article in L’Osservatore Romano (October 2, 1958) on the subject of the Instruction of the
Congregation of Rites mentioned below, Father Antonelli points out that the expression “dialogue Mass” is
not too felicitous a one, for in what is called the dialogue Mass the faithful—in addition to the responses

that they make to the priest, as in a dialogue—can recite with him several important parts like the Gloria
and the “Credo.” (Cf. “Documentation Catholique,” November 9, 1958, 1438, note 23.)

13. Instruction, “De Musica sacra,” “Acta Apostolicae Sedis,” September 19–22, 1958 (cf. “Documentation
Catholique,” November 9, 1958).

When it treats of the “read Mass” (low Mass) this Instruction sanctions (art. 31) the Mass called
(improperly) the dialogue Mass as the third and most perfect mode of participation of the faithful (itself
implying four different degrees). However it also sanctions (art. 29) “the first way in which the faithful
can participate in the read Mass” and in which “all, on their own responsibility, bring a participation either
interior, by giving a pious attention to the principal parts of the Mass, or exterior, according to the
different approved regional customs.” (The words “on their own responsibility” are italicized by the
Instruction itself; the other italics are ours.)

14. Merton, Thoughts in Solitude., p. 50.

15. “Instruction” cited, art. 14, c.

16. Ibid., art. 27, e and f.

17. Mediator Dei, 40

18. Ibid., 61 (with respect to the exercises of Saint Ignatius and while recommending them especially).

19. Thomas Merton, ibid.,13, 106.

20. In his Twentieth Note.

21. Saint John of the Cross, “Spiritual Canticle” (translation of E. Allison Peers).

22. ST II-II, q. 188, a. 8.



“Lord, teach us how to pray.”
Luke 11:1


During a reunion at Kolbsheim, some ten years ago, we were discussing with a
group of friends the titles of books to be included in a new collection. At that time Raïssa
said at random at one point in the conversation: “Shouldn’t we have a book on prayer,
something like Contemplation along the Roads of the World?” Whereupon Louis Gardet
declared this was just what was needed, and that Raïssa herself should write it. After that
she was always thinking of this project which she could not carry out because of the trial
of illness, with its interminable suffering, which constantly ravaged our little flock. But
every time she could, she noted down thoughts for this Contemplation along the Roads,
thoughts which came to her during prayer and certain of which made a singularly deep
impress upon her mind.
These notes, of which she sometimes made several drafts, and which she intended
to work over and complete, have, alas, fallen to me to recopy and put into order. Those
which were to comprise the first part of the book were grouped under the title Notes on
the Lord’s Prayer. I believe it is proper to publish them separately because they form a
sufficient whole. I am confident that they will aid those drawn to meditation to enter
more deeply into the infinite riches of the very perfect prayer taught us by Christ himself
and which is the prayer above all others.
In conformity with Raïssa’s expressed wish—for that matter we always submitted
to each other what we wrote—I have taken it upon myself to supplement her work
where it appeared necessary. Sometimes it was a question of things clearly implied in the
themes she intended treating and which merely lacked sufficient development—in
particular, things which she said to me on several occasions and which I remember very
exactly: in such cases I simply incorporated them into the text, certain that I was
expressing her thought.
Sometimes it was a question of things that seemed called forth by her reflections,
but which we did not discuss verbally in an explicit manner, or which were not clearly
contained in her plan as I knew it: in such cases I have used a special typo-graphical sign
to denote that these additions do not engage her, although I have made them only with
the thought she would have approved them.
May it be, as I hope, that at no time in the course of this work have I departed
from her help and inspiration.

~Jacques Maritain
Fraternité, Toulouse

Chapter I

The Lord’s Prayer

The Charity of Christ has provided us with the essential prayer—the Lord’s
Prayer, the prayer that is universally true and needed. O ratio Dominica perfectissima
est.1 In itself it is enlightenment and revelation. From the words of Christ, the Word
Incarnate, we know in a very certain way, henceforth unveiled and glowing in our hearts,
that we have a Father in heaven—Pater noster qui es in coelis—a God who loves with
paternal tenderness, and not only a Creator. God takes delight in all that he has made
(“God saw all the things that he had made, and they were very good” (Gen. 1:31)), but
he loves only men and angels as his children.
For the pagan sages also, in particular for the Stoics, the name Father was
doubtless befitting to God, but in an entirely different sense, referring only to the
Principle of the cosmos as the universal First Cause: God was our Father because he had
begotten us, and because his spark in us caused us to be marked with a resemblance to
him. Even in the Old Testament the true meaning of divine Fatherhood remained implicit
and was not unveiled. “Fatherhood was the attribute of God the Creator and the God of
providence.”2 It was the Only Son, who dwells in the bosom of the Father, who told us
of this God whom no man hath seen at any time (John 1:8). All things have been
delivered to me by my Father; and no one knoweth the Son except the Father, nor doth
anyone know the Father except the Son, and he to whom the Son may choose to reveal
him” (Matt. 11:27). Father in an absolutely unique sense for Jesus, whose Person is
consubstantial and identical in nature with the First Person of the Trinity, God is Father
for his adopted sons in a sense which Jesus alone revealed: He calls us to share—through
the supernatural gift of grace—in his intimate life, his possessions, his beatitude, in the
heritage of his incomprehensible and infinitely transcendent Godhead, and to become
perfect even as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matt. 5:48).
“By the very name Father, we confess the remission of sins, sanctification,
redemption, adoption, inheritance, our bond of brotherhood with the only Son, and the
gifts of the Spirit.”3

Tertullian said that the Lord’s Prayer is the “breviary of the entire Gospel.”4

Like the Gospel, the Lord’s Prayer has deep roots in Judaism, and carries the
religion of Israel to its supreme point of perfection and flowering, but through the descent
of a higher grace and of an absolutely transcendent element.
It has been remarked that many features of the formulas of the Lord’s Prayer
resemble certain formulas of Jewish prayer and seem to be derived from them. But in
drawing upon the treasure of his people’s tradition, Jesus transfigured what he took.
Despite the material resemblance, an infinite distance remains between the Lord’s Prayer
and Jewish prayer. The Spirit has renewed and super-elevated everything.
Not only is the entire Lord’s Prayer free from the slightest human accrescence or
superfluity and divinely reduced to the essential, as a piece of gold that is miraculously
purified, not only does its brevity contrast with the lengthy passages (however beautiful
they may be but which the precious gems of our words make too burdensome) of the
benedictions of Jewish prayer, but also and above all the universality of the spiritual
kingdom and of the divine Fatherhood has eliminated from it any element of national
particularism. “That exceedingly earnest and moving supplication which the Jews made
on behalf of Israel is omitted. As charity ought to embrace all men, so the prayer is
deemed to be uttered by all the faithful speaking as one to the one true God, who is the
Father of them all.”5

The Lord’s Prayer is reported by Saint Luke in a slightly abbreviated form (11:2–
4), and in its complete form by Saint Matthew (6:9-13). It is composed, Father Lagrange
tells us, of six petitions in two series, “the first three being desires relating to God’s glory;
the last three being petitions in behalf of man.”6 With more reason, we believe, Saint
Thomas holds to the traditional number of seven petitions7 (sed libera nos a malo is then
regarded as not included in the sixth petition—et ne nos inducas in tentationem—but as
forming a distinct petition).
This prayer begins in a turning toward God and the goodness of God, In the first
three petitions Christ unites us to himself in solemn and admirable supplications, Jesus’
desires and our own, addressed to the common Father: Hallowed be Thy Name—Thy
Kingdom come—Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Christ permits us to join with him in addressing these mysterious supplications to
our Father and his, as if our will and the sanctity, or the effort toward sanctity of his
human creatures, were an aid brought to God himself in his struggle against evil, against
the spirit of evil. Did not God decree for man’s salvation the Incarnation of the Word into
frail humanity, and the redemptive Passion of his Only Son “obedient unto death, even
unto the death of the cross”? Each man is called upon to take part in this great combat
led by the Son for the highest glory of the Father, because each man—in one manner or
another, even the most imperfect and remote, and merely because he is born into the
world—is a member of Christ, the head of Humanity,8 and head of the Mystical Body

which magnetizes and draws Humanity to himself.
Therefore we must pray to God for God.
It is very true that the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer relate to a certain
comportment on the part of men—such that the ineffable Name be glorified among us,
that God’s kingdom come about in mankind, and that his will be done by us and in us.
When you ask that the Father’s name be hallowed, “to look at the matter closely,” wrote
Saint Augustine, “thou art asking this for thyself.”9 Yes, doubtless, but for what good do
you ask first and above all if it is not the glory of Him who is your absolute Supreme End
as he is that of all created things; the accomplishment of the sovereignly good designs of
Him whom you love more than yourself and above all created things; and satisfaction of
the tenderness and generosity with which he loves you freely with a love that is but one
with his necessary love of Himself? So that to look at it even more closely, it is for God
and the Good of God that the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer would have you
pray first and above all else.10 Your own good is here implied only as a secondary
Saint Augustine’s great concern was to place us on guard against the idea that God
could receive anything whatsoever from the creature, or that the creature’s efforts could
add anything to Uncreated Good. However, we should not, out of fear of a manifestly
absurd idea, turn our eyes away from the sublime mystery of truth referred to in the first
three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer and which Saint Paul expressed by saying that we are
God’s coadjutors, Dei enim sumus adjutores (Cor. 3:9). In the joy that God takes in his
saints, in the return of the prodigal son, in the love of men and of angels—and above all
in the perfect charity and obedience of Christ Jesus—there is nothing, absolutely nothing
by which the creature could add anything whatsoever to the suPèrexcellent fullness of
the divine Being. On the contrary, as it is God who causes the creature, and the liberty of
the latter moved by Him, to participate in the work which He himself accomplishes in
accordance with the eternal designs, so also it is God who in virtue of the
superabundance of his charity causes the loving responses of his creatures, the offerings
and the gifts to which his Grace induces them, to enter into the very joy and exultation of
love which are identical with his immutable essence and through which he delights
eternally in himself.11 The manifestation ad extra of his glory adds nothing to this glory
which is his by necessity of nature, but he has freely willed from all eternity that while
unfurling itself in time it be fully possessed on high by the eternal glory in which it shares,
and receive from it all its effulgence.
We see in what sense it is right to say that we should pray to God for God. We
should first and before all desire, seek, and pursue the good of this God whom we dearly
love, and ask him that the manifestation of his glory and of his goodness be finally
accomplished. Through the merits of Christ’s Passion—uniting ourselves with it and
living in divine grace and charity—we should first and before all else aspire in heart and
action that we ourselves and every immortal soul should bear witness to the holiness of
the heavenly Father and render his Name blessed on earth; that we should hasten the
expansion of his Reign and the final coming of his Kingdom, triumphant over every other

power; that we should accomplish here below his adorable Will, so that through love it
may finally be established also on earth as it is established in heaven.
We should pray that charity may in the end transfigure this world and invest it with
a divine character, finally liberating it from the kinds of rights, if one may so speak,
which the Prince of this world has exercised over it.
And that charity may reign in us, we should pray for ourselves in the manner
taught us by Jesus in the continuation of the Lord’s Prayer.
Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie. Here begins the prayer of sinners
for themselves. We ask daily bread for our bodies and for our souls; pardon for our sins,
in return for the mercy we show toward those who have offended us; we ask our
heavenly Father to guard us from the dangers of temptation and for him to deliver us
from evil.
He will do this because He loves us and because He is the source of all good. And
without this what could we offer him? The gifts that children make wholeheartedly to
their father are always drawn in some measure from that father’s wealth.

1. Saint Thomas Aquinas, ST II-II, q. 83, a. 9.

2. M. J. Lagrange, Evanglion selon saint Luc, p. 321, n. 2.

3. Saint John Chrysostom, Homily 19, in Matt. 6, n. 4., Patrologia Graeca, 57, 278.

4. De Orat., ch. 1, Patrologia Latina, 1, 1153.

5. M. J. Lagrange, The Gospel of Jesus Christ. Translated by the members of the English Dominican
Province (Westminster, MD: Newman Press, 1958), vol. II, p. 15.

6. M. J. Lagrange, Evanglion selon saint Matthieu, p. 126. St. Matthew’s six petitions plus an invocation
form the perfect number” (Lagrange, The Gospel of Jesus Christ, p. 15, n. 7).

7. ST II-II, q. 83, a. 9. The tradition of which we speak here has Saint Augustine as its highest authority.
Origen and Saint John Chrysostom regarded the Lord’s Prayer as composed of six petitions. Cf.
Lagrange, Evanglion selon saint Matthieu, p. 131, n. 12.

8. ST III, q. 8, 3. “Christus est caput omnium hominum Membra corporis mystici non solum accipiuntur
secundum quod sunt in actu, sed etiam secundum quod sunt in potentia.” (“Christ is the head of all
men…members of the mystical body not only as they are in act, but as they are in potentiality.”)

9. “Cum rogas ut sanctificetur nomen ipsius, nonne quasi pro illo ilium rogas, et non pro te? Intellige, et pro
te rogas.” Serm. 56, ch. 4, n. 5. P.L., 38, 379. Cf. ibid., ch. 5, n. 7, P.L., 38, 380, with regard to the
second petition, fiat voluntas tua: “Ut ergo fiat a te, non sine causa oras, nisi ut bene sit tibi.”

10. This is what Saint Thomas teaches regarding the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer (II-II, q. 83, 9). we
believe with Father Lagrange that it is the same for the other two petitions which are joined to it. Cf.
Lagrange, Evanglion selon saint Matthieu, p. 126, n. 8. And again: “But one can also consider of primary
importance the honor and in some way the good of God. The human soul can raise itself no higher than
by this benevolent love, this true friendship which incites in itself desires in behalf of the sovereign good
it loves” (ibid., p. 127, n. 9). “We can desire the spread of God’s holiness for his own sake without
thinking of the spiritual benefit we will draw from it” (p. 128, n. 9). “The three elevations descend in an
admirable order from God to man, who will be more directly on the scene in the last three petitions” (p.
129, n. 10).

11. Cf. John of Saint Thomas, Cursus theologicus, III, disp. 4, a. 4 and 5 (on the liberty of the divine will, and
of its immanent acts in regard to creatures).

Chapter II

The First Three Petitions

Our Father

Jesus Christ taught us to say Our Father, and not My Father. This is because, as
Saint Thomas Aquinas writes,1 “God’s love is not restricted to any individual, but
embraces all in common; for God loves all things that are. Most of all he loves men….
At the same time we should remember that, although our hope rests chiefly on God’s
help, we can aid one another to obtain more easily what we ask for…. As Ambrose
reminds us2: ‘Many insignificant people, when they are gathered together and are of one
mind, become powerful, and the prayers of many cannot but be heard.’ This agrees with
Matthew 18:19: ‘If two of you shall consent on earth concerning anything whatsoever for
which they shall ask, it shall be done to them by my Father who is in heaven.’ Therefore
we do not pour forth our prayers as individuals, but with unanimous accord we cry out
‘Our Father,’ even when one each of us prays clauso ostio.
“Let us also reflect that our hope reaches up to God through Christ, according to
Romans 5:1–2…. Through him who is the only-begotten Son of God by nature, we are
made adopted sons…as is said in Galatians 4:4–5. Hence, in acknowledging that God is
our Father, we should do so in such a way as not to disparage the prerogative of the
Only-begotten,” who alone has the special right to say, My Father.”

Who Art in Heaven

“Wherefore should the nations say: ‘Where then is their God?’ Nay, our God is in
the heavens. He doth whatsoever pleaseth him” ((Ps. 115: 2–3).
Speaking of the Patriarchs, they acknowledged, says Saint Paul (Heb. 11:13–16),
that they were “’strangers and sojourners on earth.’ For those who say such things make
it plain that they search for a fatherland.
“As it is, they long for a better fatherland, that is, a heavenly one. Whence God is
not ashamed to be called their God, for he hath prepared for them a city….”
And again (Philip. 3:20–21): “For us, our country is in the heavens; “whence we
eagerly await as saviour the Lord Jesus Christ; “who will transform the body of our
lowliness [the body of the “earthly man” (Cor. 15:47)]; “that it may be one with the

body of his glory [the body of the “celestial man” (Cor. 15:48–49)]; “by the force of
that power whereby he is able to subject all things to himself.”
What are, then, those heavens in which our Father lives, and where our city is
found, and which is the fatherland to which we aspire, and where our “life is hidden with
Christ in God”? (Col. 3:3) This is a mystery that infinitely surpasses every idea the
human mind can attempt to express in halting words. It is an astonishing thing that the
Beyond, which is more important for us than everything here below, on which our hope
hangs, and which God “has prepared for those he loves,” draws us all the more
powerfully the thicker the veil that covers it—“what eye hath not seen, what ear hath not
heard, what hath not entered into heart of man” (Cor. 2:9).3
Nevertheless faith, in its obscure manner, teaches us something of it. Heaven, or
the heavens, is doubtless, as is sometimes said,4 souls in the state of grace wherein the
Trinity dwells, and in particular the souls of the saints.5
“There is an obstacle to prayer or confidence in God,” Saint Thomas remarks,6
“that would deter one from praying. This is the notion that human life is far removed
from divine providence. The thought is given expression, in the person of the wicked, in
Job 22:14: ‘The clouds are his covert, and he doth not consider our things, and he
walketh about the poles of heaven’; also in Ezechiel 8:12: ‘The Lord seeth us not, the
Lord hath forsaken the earth.’
“But the Apostle Paul taught the contrary in his sermon to the Athenians, when he
said that God is ‘not far from every one of us; for in him we live and move and are’
(Acts 17:27–8)…. We are told in Matthew 10:29–31: ‘Are not two sparrows sold for a
farthing? And not one of them shall fall to the ground without your Father. But the very
hairs of your head are all numbered’…thus indicating that everything belonging to man is
to be recovered at the resurrection. As our Lord adds, in the same context: ‘Fear not,
therefore; better are you than many sparrows’ (Matt. 10:31). This clarifies the passage:
‘The children of men shall put their trust under the covert of thy wings’ (Ps. 36[35]:8).
“Although God is said to be near all men by reason of his special care over them,
he is exceptionally close to the good who strive to draw near to him in faith and love….
Indeed, he not only draws nigh to them: he even dwells in them through grace….
Therefore, to increase the hope of the saints, we are bidden to say: ‘who art in heaven,’
that is, in the saints, as Augustine explains. For, as the same doctor adds, the spiritual
distance between the just and sinners seems to be as great as the spatial distance between
heaven and earth…. He who has made them heavens will not withhold heavenly goods
from them.”
Nevertheless heaven, or the heavens, or the “things that are above” (Col. 3:1–2), is
also and first of all—is essentially—the other world where God is loved and obeyed in an
absolutely perfect manner by the blessed and by the angels,7 where the sons of God are
revealed (Rom. 8:19), and where creation enters into the freedom of the glory of the
sons of God (Rom. 8:21); “heaven is where sin has ceased, heaven is where the wound
of death exists no more8; it is the “light inaccessible” where dwells the Blessed and only

Sovereign” (1 Tim. 6:1–16); it is the universe of the beatific vision, the Church
triumphant and the Jerusalem on high, which has existed from the beginning with the
holy angels steadfast in their allegiance to God, and which will attain its fullness with the
resurrected and thenceforth “spiritual” bodies of the just, formed to “the likeness of the
heavenly man” (1 Cor. 15:44, 49), when Christ will have “put…under his feet,” “the last
enemy,” which is “death.” Then “he will say: ‘he hath subjected all things’” (1 Cor.
This is the world where, because it is a divinized world, the Father dwells—as he
dwells already in the souls of the saints here below, but there in a still higher manner—
altogether at home and content, finding there no obstacle at all to his love. It is a world of
whose existence we know from revelation, but whose nature and laws are impenetrable
to us. It is a heaven whose azure is a veil beyond which our gaze does not pass. At night
it gleams with stars, but we have no telescopes to bring these stars of the night of faith
closer to us.
Lord Jesus, have pity on us therefore and on our poor world. Grant that we may
conquer through love the power over this world which You accorded to Lucifer from the
moment of his creation, and which remains despite his sin, and to which our sins enslave
This love is the very life of Your grace, which we have to receive and to keep
Our power lies in fidelity to Your grace.
Lucifer’s power lies in his creaturely princedom over the things of the world.
Jesus’ power lies in His supreme fidelity (He, God incarnate in our miserable body)
the Incarnate Word Jesus who won for his Humanity “the power to subject all things to

Hallowed Be Thy Name

“He who would offer a worthy prayer to God,” says Saint Thomas,9 quoting Saint
John Chrysostom, “should ask for nothing before the Father’s glory, but should make
everything come after the praise of him.”
Hallowed be Thy name. “By whom would God be sanctified, since it is he who
sanctifies?”10 But He said: “Be holy because I am holy” (Lev. 11:44). It is by sanctifying
ourselves that we glorify our Father’s Name.11 Thus we can repair the injustice done to
him by this misguided world: “My name is continually blasphemed all the day long”
(Isaiah 52:5). Jesus himself rendered perfect glory to this Name.
“I have glorified thee upon earth.”
“I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou hast given me out of the
“Just Father, indeed the world hath not known thee, but I have known thee, and

these have known that thou sent me; and I have made known thy name to them, and will
make it known, in order that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them and
I in them” (John 17:4; 17:25–26).
And to us Jesus has given this precept: “Let your light shine before men, in order
that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in the heavens” (Matt.
Thus we should ask that the Father’s Name be hallowed in us; and not only in us,
as Tertullian remarks,12 but in all men, especially in those whom the grace of God still
awaits, and in those whom we hold to be our enemies, since we are also required to pray
for them.
Hallowed be Thy Name. We know that in the Semitic languages the word name has
so much force that in signifying the named it reveals in some way its essence. With the
progress of time the word has lost little by little the magic power with which it was
invested primitively, and in virtue of which the knowledge of the Name gave power over
the Named.13 The name which “both designates and veils the named,”14 nevertheless
retained for the Jews of the Hellenistic era a value so intensely and even so exaggeratedly
realistic that to know and utter someone’s name was to manifest this someone himself as
it were by seizing him under a veil. Thy Name is Thyself, Thyself as designated in Thy
hidden secret.
To speak truly, however, it is only in God that there is identity between Name and
Named. Far rather than the Names we use to designate God, the Name of which it is a
question in the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer, is the ineffable Name itself, the
subsisting Name which God alone can pronounce and which is identified with God
himself. “When Jacob asked the Angel early in the morning: ‘Tell me, what is your
name?’ he replied, ‘Why do you ask my name?’ It is impossible to utter this truly
wondrous name, the name that is set above every name that is named either in the
present world or in the world to come.”15
Mystery of Divine Revelation! This Name set above every other name can itself
be designated—but at a distance, the distance that separates the Infinite from the finite16
—by a name which our lips can utter. Thus it is that the ineffable Name was first
revealed to Moses, and mysteriously symbolized by the tetragrammaton. At a certain
moment in their history the Jews—through a feeling of reverent fear and holy trembling
in which the logic of their way of semi-identifying the name with the named was pushed
to its extreme limit—had to decide no longer to pronounce it at all.17 The word Adonai
(my Lord) henceforth replaced that of Yahweh.
But the ineffable Name was not only revealed to Moses from the midst of the
burning bush and the fiery flame, and in a sign—“I Am Who Am,” or “I Am Who I Am
(and Whom I alone know)”—which was to become unpronounceable and
undecipherable for the people of God.
It has also been revealed to all of us by Jesus, on the roadways and humble hills
where he and his disciples did their preaching—and in the word which is the most easily

pronounced by the poorest children of men.
For by this time it is no longer a question of a name which one would wish,
attempting the impossible, to render in our human signs as incommunicable as the very
Name of God in God (as if the “I AM” of Horeb (Exod. 3:14), as well as all the other
names by which God makes himself known to us, were not a sign among others which
the mirror of creatures18 offers our minds).
This time it is a question of a very simple name in our language, which declares
from the very first (as befits a revelation that is not reserved to any one people alone, but
cast to all the ends of the earth) that the reflection of the beyond in the mirror of
creatures” is the sole means by which God can be known and make himself known to
us. He is the Father of us all, and the Father from whom proceeds the uncreated Word,
incarnate in Jesus. “If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments. And I will ask the
Father, and he shall give you another Advocate, that he may be with you forever” (John
14:15). “If any one loveth me, he will keep my word, and my Father shall love him, and
we will come to him” (John 14:23). “Whatsoever you ask the Father in my name, he will
give it you” (John 15:16). “As thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they too may be
in us” (John 17:21).
Thus in one breath we say: God One and Triune, who made heaven and earth,
You our Father who are in heaven; Father of the only Son and of us who are his brethren
by adoption, You our Father who are in heaven.
And by this very Name of Father we are taught that he is Love, Mercy, and
Nevertheless, do not believe, my poor soul, that with this name of Father, or of
Love and of Goodness, the distance between Him and thee is any less great19 than it is
with the name we are forbidden to spell out. For He eludes every grasp and His
transcendence makes Him all the more unknown the more thou knowest Him. He is—in
an infinitely better way than anything else is, but also and by that very fact in a way
altogether different from the way which anything else is. He is Father—in an infinitely
better way than any of us is father, but also and by that very fact in a way altogether
different from the way in which any of us is a father. He loves thee—in an infinitely
better way than any creature can love, but also and by that very fact He loves thee in an
altogether different manner, a manner that thou art absolutely incapable of imagining.
And when the great trial comes to thee, this altogether different of His Fatherhood
and of His love will nail thee to the Cross,

O divine Cross, bitter wood,

Bloody price of the Beatitudes, 20

the more cruelly still than the altogether different of his being.

In meditating on all these things, we see that if we were to try to express in other
words the meaning of the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer, we should have to say:
O God, One and Triune, who art our Father, O First Person of the Trinity who art
the Father of the Only Son and of us who are your adopted sons,
May glory be rendered Thy ineffable holiness; may Thy name, which is Thyself,
be manifested, praised and blessed in us and in every creature. Ita fac nos vivere, ut per
nos te universi glorificent21—grant us to live in such a way that through us all that there
is in the world may glorify Thee.

Thy Kingdom Come

Adveniat regnum tuum. The Greek word basileia, the Latin

word regnum, signify both reign and kingdom. These two meanings do not exclude each
other; on the contrary, they evoke each other. Nevertheless we may ask which of the
two, in the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer, has the primary importance.
To this Father Lagrange replies that there can be no question of saying, “Thy
Kingdom come,” because a kingdom does not come22—a manifestly feeble reason,
because it is entirely normal to speak of the advent of a kingdom; and a kingdom comes
when it is established and when it extends itself, and if a reign “comes,” it is, be it more
or less implicitly, together with a kingdom over which it rules and which itself conjointly
“comes” or “arrives.”
Indeed, if Reign is ordinarily used in French translations of the Lord’s Prayer,
Kingdom is ordinarily used in the English and German translations (Kingdom, Reich),
and it is particularly noteworthy that in translations into Semitic languages a word
meaning first of all Kingdom is used. This is the case in the current Hebrew translation
(Malkout, a modern translation, it is true), and, in a still more significant way, in the
Arabic translation offered by the Greek-Catholic rite; not only is it a question here of a
translation consecrated by liturgical usage and by time, but in reciting the Lord’s Prayer
at Mass one says Malakout, which signifies Kingdom, whereas at the beginning of the
Mass in speaking of God’s reign one uses another word (Mamlakat) which explicitly
signifies Reign and not Kingdom.
Without thereby excluding the meaning of “reign,” we shall thus prefer to say:
“Thy Kingdom come.” And at the same time we shall understand that in the Lord’s
Prayer Jesus did not teach us to ask only in a general way for God to be obeyed by all,
but also to ask in a more precise and explicit manner for the coming of that Kingdom of
God or Kingdom of heaven23 which he came to proclaim,24 and concerning which his
thought and his preaching abounded in inexhaustible parables which the Gospels
constantly present to us.
But what is this Kingdom if it is not the Church which is in this world but not of
this world—regnum meum non est de hoc mundo (John 18:36)—the Church considered

not as it existed before Christ, under inchoate and masked forms, but as together with
Christ, especially after Pentecost, it will appear among us with face uncovered and in the
resplendent vigor of its Head, the Incarnate Word? And it is also the Church of the
hereafter, not according as before Christ it gathered the elect together in the bosom of
Abraham, but as it will rejoice in vision once Christ enters into his glory, and as it will
finally attain to its complete fullness with the resurrection of the body.
“Until John, there were the Law and the prophets; thence-forth the Gospel of
God’s kingdom and everyone of those who have ears to hear is forcing his way into it”
(Luke 16:16)—“the violent those who do not hesitate to cut off their right hand if it
gives them scandal and to love Jesus more than father or mother have been seizing it by
force” (Matt. 11:12). “Amen, I say to you, among those born of woman there has not
risen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven [according as
he has the grace of Christ already come and he is called no longer to wait in limbo but to
see God face to face in heaven] is greater than he” (Matt. 11:11).

Thy Kingdom come. This petition, or this desire, relates first and above all to the
future world, the world of eternity where alone the first petition also, “Hallowed be Thy
Name,” will be accomplished in an absolutely perfect manner. “It is quite evident that the
petition concerns the future.”25 “The Kingdom of God, for whose coming we ask, has its
term in the consummation of the world.”26 “The kingdom of God within us, who are
tireless marchers, will reach its perfection when the words of the Apostle27 are
accomplished: ‘When He shall have put all his enemies under his feet, He shall deliver up
the Kingdom to his Father, in order that God may be all in all.’”11 “What then is this
kingdom you desire to come? It is the one spoken of in the Gospel”: ‘Come, ye blessed
of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’
(Matt. 25:34.”28 This Kingdom is the Church triumphant. “Then shall the just shine forth
as the sun in the kingdom of the Father” (Matt. 13:43).29
And what did the Old Testament say earlier? Wisdom “showed him the just the
kingdom of God” (Wis. 10:10), when Jacob in his dream saw the ladder standing upon
the earth and the top thereof reaching heaven, and the angels of God ascending and
descending.30 “The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed…
and itself shall stand for ever” (Daniel 2:44). “His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom”
(Daniel 3:100; 4:31). “Et regnum ejus in generationem et generationem” (Daniel 4:31).
“One like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven…. His power is an everlasting
power…and his kingdom shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13–14). “The saints of the
most high God shall take the kingdom: and they shall possess the kingdom for ever and
ever” (Daniel 7:18; cf. 7:27).
“Saviours shall come up into Mount Sion to judge the mount of Esau; and the

kingdom shall be for the Lord” (Obadiah, 21).
But the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer refers also to a kingdom already
present, which has to expand and win more and more the depth of the human being and
of human life. “The kingdom of God has come when you have received his grace.
Indeed he himself said (Luke 17:21): ‘The kingdom of God is within you.’”31

Interrogatus autem a Pharisaeis: quando venit regnum Dei? respondens eis dixit: Non venit
regnum Dei cum observatione. Neque dicent: Ecce hic, aut ecce illic. Ecce enim regnum Dei intra
vos est. (Luke 17:20–21)

Let us try to disengage the meaning of these lines of Saint Luke, quoted by Saint
Ambrose in the passage just mentioned: “On being asked by the Pharisees when the
kingdom of God would come, he answered them and said: The kingdom of God cometh
unawares—it cannot be awaited like a material event, as the coming of an army in clouds
of dust and with arms glittering in the sun—“as if one could say: ‘Behold, it is here,’ or,
‘it is there.’ For behold, the Kingdom of the grace of Christ come among men is within
you,” or, according to an equally authoritative translation, “among you.”32 “It is already
among you: you have not seen it because it does not come as a finished thing of which it
can be said that it is here or it is there, but by looking at it closely we can recognize it as
a seed which is growing.”33
It is among you, or within you, as the Kingdom of Christ’s grace come among men
—it is the Church here below, the Kingdom of God “in the state of pilgrimage and
crucifixion,”34 and which while visible, and composed of the just who make its visibility
more resplendent and of sinners who becloud it, has as its soul and life grace and charity,
and, on these grounds, is without stain or blemish, but in the depths of hearts, at that
secret point where each man chooses either to allow the life of the Mystical Body to
operate in him, as in a holy and active member, or chooses to evade that life as a
member in whom blood no longer circulates. This is the Kingdom of God making its way
on earth, in which Jesus Christ “is in agony until the end of the world” and which, step
by step, by the application of the merits of Christ to each member of time, “makes up” in
the course of centuries, by virtue of its union with the love and passion of its Head, for
“what is lacking to the sufferings of Christ” (Col. 1:24).
In saying, “Thy Reign come,” or “Thy Kingdom come,” it is for this progressive
accomplishment of the work of co-redemption that we are asking. We beseech God to
make us advance toward the final term as “tireless marchers,” and to have us cooperate
in the expansion of his Kingdom, so that the Church, enlarging its boundaries without
cease, may extend itself more and more among the peoples of the world and reintegrate
into itself the people of Israel; that there may increase more and more the number of the
saved (whether they form part of the Church’s visible membership, or whether they
belong to it invisibly); and that by successive stages a progress in depth may render those
who in the supernatural order are “fellow citizens of the saints,” more and more docile to

the spirit and to the exigencies of the Gospel and more and more in accord with the
charity of Jesus.

And we ask secondarily that in the temporal order itself and in all that which
relates to its domain, the struggle which is pursued from age to age against the servitude,
misery and suffering of men, the effort toward justice, civic friendship, respect for the
dignity of the person, constantly win ground.
And doubtless to expect for this earth, as if it had to come about in history, the
kingdom of God fully consummated, is an absurdity, because as long as history will
endure a progress in the direction of evil will coexist with a progress in the direction of
good, and will thwart it. But the fact remains that the kingdom of God fully
consummated will come about beyond history, with the new earth and the new heavens,
when the sorting out will be made between the mass of iniquity which draws the world in
the direction of its prince, and which will detach itself so as to go toward its own place,
and the energies of love and of truth which draw it in the direction of its Saviour and
which will detach themselves so as to go toward their own place, so that by such a
rupture and blazing discontinuity the world transfigured will be absorbed into the Church
triumphant, into the Kingdom of heaven which Christ will restore to his Father.
It remains that throughout the course of history, so long as there will be immortal
souls bent beneath inhuman conditions of life, there cannot be on earth any rest for the
Christian; it remains that, by a corollary of his supernatural vocation, the temporal
mission of the Christian engages him to work in one manner or another for the common
good of humanity on earth, and for the maintenance of man’s temporal hope in the
Gospel. It remains that for as much as the transformations of the world will take place in
a manner truly beneficial to man and truly liberating, they will be, on the one hand, as it
were a refraction, in the temporal world, of the virtues and graces of the Kingdom of
God in pilgrimage here below, and, on the other, as a distant prefiguration, in the enigmas
and nights of our carnal conditions, of the Kingdom of God in the glory of the world to
It is for this reason that these transformations indirectly concern the Kingdom of
God; we ask for them indirectly in asking for the coming of this Kingdom. Why
indirectly? Because they are sought first for men (although referred, of course, as is
every good petition, to the glory of God as ultimate end).

But all that we ask directly in asking for the coming of the Kingdom of heaven, all
the things which directly concern that Kingdom, and which we have previously
considered—it is clear that we ask for all of this first for God, our Father and our Friend

by the grace of charity, before asking it for ourselves.
We must therefore renounce following here, however great and respected they
may be, those who think that the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer is addressed to
God for ourselves, not for God. Doubtless, as we have already remarked, and since
obviously creatures are needed if God wishes that in causing them to enter freely into His
joy He may consummate freely, by their means, the glory which He has necessarily and
eternally by nature and to which nothing can be added, the first three petitions relate to
the comportment and to the destiny of men. And this, we believe, is all that Tertullian
wished to say (“We ask to reign more promptly, and to escape more quickly from
bondage”35) or Saint Cyprian (“We pray for the coming of the promised Kingdom,
purchased for us by the blood and passion of Christ. Then we who were formerly slaves
in the world may reign under the sovereignty of Christ”36).
But Saint Augustine, fearing lest one would imagine that God does not yet reign
over the things he has made, and that he will owe to our own good solicitude his reigning
over them some day, assures us that in asking that his Kingdom come we are but
“exciting our desire towards that reign of God in order that it may come to us, and that
we may reign in it.”37 And because he follows Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas,
in that invaluable masterpiece that is the Compendium Theologiae, restricts his
commentary on the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer to a long explanation of what
will be our beatitude or subjective ultimate end, and the vision by which we will enjoy
In truth, the second petition, like the first and the third, relates to the destiny and to
the comportment of men. But like the other two, it is toward the good of God, not of
men, that it first and above all excites our desire; it is for God that it has us pray. “An
uplifting of the heart toward our Father,” Father Lagrange very correctly writes, “three
desires uttered by a soul united to that Father by the bonds of friendship and animated by
a desire for His good: the soul’s good being is the outpouring of the Father’s good and
returns to Him again in glory.”39
The Lord has willed, because he loves us, that we enter into his joy; the Father has
willed that the Kingdom of heaven be given to his saints.40
And we will, because we love Him, that his Kingdom should increase here below,
in order that there may unfold in time the work for which he sent his Son and in which
his love delights; we will, because we love him, that his Kingdom, the Kingdom which
before being given to us41 is first of all and will ever remain essentially his, be
consummated in heaven, in order that in accordance with his desire he may there be all
and all, and that his own praise and his own joy, as necessary and immutable in him as
his essence, may have—through the free gift which he has made of himself to his elect,
and which has been freely received by them under the motion of grace—their eternal

Thy Will Be Done on Earth as It Is in Heaven

God is so lofty—and so infinite is the fullness of his being—that in order to know,

in our human way, what in him is perfectly one and indivisible, we need to employ a
plurality of concepts. It is thus that the theologians distinguish in the divine will several
kinds of will, which they designate by words that do not denote a particularly happy
effort of verbal imagination but which concern things very important to consider.42
Let us turn first to what the theologians call voluntas signi: this is the divine will
taken (in opposition to the voluntas beneplaciti, or will properly so-called) in a
metaphorical sense, according as one calls “the will of God” this or that mode of
manifestation (for example, precept, prohibition, counsel1) which for us is the sign of an
act of will. Those who accomplish the precepts of the Lord do his will. Therefore in
saying, “Thy Will be done,” we are asking that we ourselves and our brethren carry out
all that the Father prescribes, avoid all that he forbids, and faithfully follow the inspiration
of his counsels.
This is quite evident. “If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments” (John

It is well for us to meditate more at length on another theological distinction which

introduces us more deeply into the impenetrable mystery. In considering the will of God
properly so called, the theologians distinguish the “antecedent will”—let us say the
primordial or ‘uncircumstanced’ will—and the “consequent will,” which we may call the
definitive or ‘circumstanced’ will. It is the definitive or circumstanced will which is
always accomplished,43 and which nothing in the world can escape; it is the absolute will
of God. But the primordial or uncircumstanced will, that by which “God wishes all men
to be saved and to come to knowledge of truth” (1 Tim. 2:4), is nevertheless very real
and fundamentally real, although conditional; it is not a simple velleity,44 it is the first root
of the whole divine economy. In calling it primordial or antecedent, one clearly does not
mean to say that it precedes in time the definitive will (the two are in God the same
unique and sublime eternal will; priority and posteriority are only of the logical order and
concern only our human mode of thinking); in calling it primordial or antecedent we wish
to say that as concerns the logical order of increasing determination under which the
object willed is taken, it is that original impetus of infinite Goodness by which, taking
only itself into account and leaving aside every other consideration, it wills that all that
which proceeds from it be good and without any trace of evil. But such a will may be
And from the very fact that there are creatures, it may be said that the antecedent
will is going to find itself inevitably frustrated in a certain measure. For God plays fair

with beings and means neither to constrain their natures nor to render these natures
useless by substituting for them a constantly miraculous regime: there is no material
world without destruction, and more particularly, from the moment that animal life
appears, without suffering. There are no minds without freedom of option and (so long
as they are not divinized by the vision of God) without the possibility of choosing evil
instead of good. The possibility, inherent in our free will, of breaking by our “nihilatings”
the divine motions which incline us toward good, has as its consequence that acts morally
evil will be permitted whose first initiative—precisely insofar as they are evil—belongs to
us alone. In this way our evasions and our refusals are in eternal eyes circumstances
according to which, in the great struggle thus being waged, the consequent or
circumstanced will, will accept for the antecedent will defeats that cause the saints to
weep and will determine for it requitals and super-compensations such as brought the
awestruck Saint Paul to his knees—both the one and the other directed toward a final
triumph of that divine generosity all the more resplendent the more it will have been
wounded en route.

God’s will is adorable in all ways and under all its aspects.
It is clear that by the third petition of the Lord’s Prayer the Christian soul asks at
one and the same time that there be accomplished the voluntas signi, the consequent or
circumstanced will, and the antecedent or uncircumstanced will. We believe, however,
that the desire formulated in this third petition refers principally to the antecedent will.
Nevertheless, it behooves us first to speak of the consequent will.
The consequent or circumstanced will is always and infallibly accomplished. Why
then ask that it be done? That which has been decided upon will happen in any case.
Yes, undoubtedly; but by this petition it is we who freely put ourselves in unison with this
will and, whether in joy or sorrow, bless its inscrutable designs: dignum et justum est,
aequum et salutare. It is we who in homage and thanksgiving, and by an act of faith
which can sometimes rend our hearts, proclaim that all which our Father in heaven wills,
whatever he may will to decree and whatever he may permit, is good because it is he
who has willed it. “In saying: ‘Thy will be done,’ we rejoice that there is nothing evil in
the will of God even if he deals sternly with us.”46
To ask that the will of God be done—that is, his consequent or circumstanced will
—is therefore sometimes a gift and abandonment of ourselves made in full agony.
Perhaps it will be necessary to go so far even as to the sweating of blood. Jesus gave us
the example.
After having first said: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from
me,” he added: “Yet not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Verumtamen non mea voluntas, sed
tua fiat (Matt. 26:39; Luke 22:42). This prayer of Jesus is at the heart of all human
sorrow and of all human hope. He had to die because he had taken upon himself all the

sins and all the sufferings of the world—in consummation of his obedience and of the
work he had come to do. It was before the absolute will, the consequent and definitive
will of Him he loved more than his soul and his life, that he bowed his own human will
and made abandon of it.
By the third petition of the Lord’s Prayer we also pray for the accomplishment of
the antecedent will of God, the will which emanates primordially from his goodness but
which can admit of obstacles. And indeed, as we have said, it is for the accomplishment
of this antecedent will that we pray first and before all else. Why is this? It is because
Jesus has us say: “Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Sicut in coelo—it is precisely this which we do not see carried out on earth. The
will of God falls short of being done on earth as it is in heaven.
Sicut in coelo, that is to say, as it is accomplished by the holy angels and the elect,
in the other world which is that of the vision of God and which will be that also of the
resurrection of the body—there where free will, still in exercise as regards all that which
is not God himself sovereignly loved, has become incapable of sinning—there where the
angels by “myriads of myriads” cry out in loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was
slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and
blessing,” and in which every creature in the entire universe renders glory “to Him who
sitteth upon the throne and to the Lamb.”47 “As the angels of heaven carry out thy will,
Lord, may the same be done on earth.”48
By the third petition, writes Tertullian, “we ask that his will be done in all men.”49
And Saint Cyprian: “Christ makes us pray for the salvation of all men.”50 And Saint
Augustine: “It is for perfection that we beg by this prayer.”51 And again: “Thy will be
done by men, even as by the angels.”52 And again: “So that his will may be done by us
as it is done in heaven by his angels.”53
As by the angels—in all men—for the salvation of all men—for the perfection of
all men here below: it is clear that understood in the full force of sicut in coelo the third
petition has as its first object, not the consequent or circumstanced will of God, which is
always accomplished, but his primordial will. It refers first and principally to the
antecedent will by which God wills that all men be saved, and that in creation there be
found, in divers degrees, only good, without any sting of evil, neither evil in a relative
sense or the evil of suffering, nor evil in an absolute sense, or the evil of sin. It is for the
accomplishment of this will that Jesus taught us to pray first and above all, as it was for
the accomplishment of this will that his own human will aspired of itself and above all.
This primordial and uncircumstanced will may be, if one may be permitted so to
speak, outclassed, as when a certain good willed in things has as its reverse side suffering
in them.54
It can also, as we have noted, be frustrated. It is in this sense that “God is
wounded by our sin.”55 For “God does not do good in man if man does not will it,”56
and man is able not to will it; he can evade the divine activation which inclines him

toward good, and at the same stroke place an obstacle before the antecedent will.57
Sin is offense against God. But what exactly does this expression mean? What is
its true sense, if not to signify that sin deprives the divine will—the primordial or
antecedent will—of something it has really willed? “In his antecedent will, God wills that
all men be saved, and he likewise wills that all my actions be good. If I sin, something
that God has willed and loved will forever not be. This through my own first initiative. I
am thus the cause—the nihilating cause—of a privation with regard to God, a privation
as to the term or effect willed (but in no way as to the good of God himself). Sin not
only deprives the universe of a thing that is good, it deprives God himself of something
he conditionally but truly willed. The moral fault affects the Uncreated in no way in
Himself—He is absolutely invulnerable—but in the things and effects that He wills and
loves. Here we could say that God is the most vulnerable of beings. No need of poisoned
arrows, of cannons or machine-guns; an invisible movement in the heart of a free agent
suffices to wound him, to deprive his antecedent will of something here below which he
has wanted and loved from all eternity, and which will never be.”58

How can we avoid touching at this point upon the question which the Heart of
Jesus in glory afflicted by our desertions, and the tears of the Virgin who came down to
our mountains to speak to two children do not permit us to evade?
Reason rebels at the idea of the conjunction of suffering and Beatitude. “The latter
is absolute plenitude, and suffering is the cry of the wounded. But our God is a crucified
God; the beatitude of which he cannot be deprived did not prevent him from fearing or
mourning, or from sweating blood in the unimaginable Agony, or from passing through
the throes of death on the Cross, or from feeling abandoned.”59 it is by a suffering God
that we have been redeemed.
It may further be remarked that “for a created being to be capable of suffering is a
real perfection; it is the lot of life and of the spirit; it is the greatness of man.”
It remains that “because the very idea of suffering implies some imperfection, it
cannot be ascribed to the ‘impenetrable Essence.’ But in some form which no human can
name, is it not needful that there be found in that Essence the whole element of
mysterious perfection which pertains to the suffering of the creature?”
These inexpressible recesses of Light, “this kind of glory of suffering, perhaps it is
to this that correspond on earth the suffering of the innocent, the tears of children,
certain excesses of humiliation and misery which it is almost impossible for the heart to
accept without being scandalized, and which, when the face of the enigmatic world has
passed away, will appear at the summit of the Beatitudes.”60
The passages just cited are taken from We Have Been Friends Together. The
author was careful there to excuse herself “for what is obscure in these reflections,” and
recalled with awe the famous words of Léon Bloy: “When one speaks lovingly of God,

all human words are like blind lions searching for a spring in the desert.”
It is in the last of the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer that there appears
most manifestly the mysterious character which it has in common with the two others of
being a prayer to God for God, a wish which the filial love of Christ and of his brothers
addresses to God for God himself, for his triumph, for his eternal and infinite joy which
desires to receive into it the intelligent creatures he has made. There is in this third
petition a tenderness so ardent that it does not hesitate to go beyond the possible: sicut in
coelo et in terra, “by men, even as by the angels.”
“When the disciples asked Christ to teach them to pray, he gave them the Lord’s
Prayer, and the first three paradoxical petitions that they had to address to God,” for
“divine things” which “therefore will come about partially in dependence on our human
initiatives. It must be concluded that the fervor with which God’s friends pray will
decide, to a very great extent, the outpourings of God’s helping graces, be they regular or
miraculous, the advances made by the City of God, and any progress in the conversion
of the world.”61
One might say that in passing from one stage to the other the petition becomes
more intimate and goes in a deeper way to God’s own good. May honor and witness be
rendered His holiness. May His reign come to all men, and that kingdom where His very
divinity is participated in by created minds. May the superabounding Love which is one
with His Being, may the desire of His heart, may His will find accomplishment without
obstacle in the world of men as in the world of the blessed in heaven.
The third petition is a prayer of loving acceptance, which means most often a
prayer of abandonment of self and of submission in the midst of crushing trials and ruin,
a prayer of prostration in order to participate in the humiliation of the Saviour. But it is
also, and even more, a prayer of exultation, of zeal and fiery desire, an insatiable prayer,
inflamed by love, a prayer which makes us enter into the primeval desires of God and of
his incarnate Son, and which claims for the glory of the Father that which will never be
fully realized here below and cannot be,62 but which must be asked for with all the more
fervor and perseverance and which will be accomplished at the end of ends in so much
more beautiful a manner that every created mind among the saved will be in raptures
with it.

1. Saint Thomas Aquinas, Compendium Theologiae, II, ch. 5; in Opuscula Theologica (Turin: Marietti,
1954), t. I, n. 557 and 558. English trans. by Cyril Vollert, S.J., Compendium of Theology by Saint
Thomas Aquinas (St. Louis and London: B. Herder Book Co., 1958), pp. 319–20.

2. More precisely, as attributed to Saint Ambrose (Ambrosiaster, in Rom., ch. 15, P.L., 17, 186–87).

3. Cf. Isaiah 64:3, and Jeremiah 3:16.

4. M. J. Lagrange, The Gospel of Jesus Christ, II, p. 212.

5. Cf. Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, Caéchèses mystag., IX, p. 33, 1177: ‘The heavens also mean those who bear
in them the image of the celestial man, in whom God dwells and walks”; and Saint Augustine, De Serm.
Dom. in monte, book II, ch. 5: “In coelis, id est, in sanctis et justis.” P.L., 34, 1276.

6. Compendium Theologiae, II, ch. 6 (Marietti), t. 1, n. 562 to 564. English trans. by Vollert, pp. 322–3.

7. Cf. Saint Augustine, Ep. ad Probam, P.L., 33, 502 (n. 21); and De Serm. Domini in monte, book II, ch. 6,
P.L., 34, 1278.

8. Saint Ambrose, De Sacram., book VI, n. 20, P.L., 16, 451.

9. Compendium Theologiae, II, ch. 8 (Marietti), t. I, n. 572; English trans. Vollert, p. 329. Saint John
Chrysostom, Hom. 19, in Matt. 6, n. 4, P.G., 57, 279.

10. Saint Cyprian, De Orat. Domin., n. 12, P.L., 4, 527.

11. As Father Lagrange very rightly points out, God’s inaccessible holiness demands to be communicated. To
pray for the hallowing of his Name is to pray for the full accomplishment of the work of holiness which
is his, and in which those who live in his grace will be associated throughout all time (Cf. Lagrange,
Evanglion selon saint Matthieu, p. 128, n. 9).

12. Cf. De Oratione, ch. 4, P.L., I, 1157.

13. “The uttering of the Name gives as it were a power over the Named, the ‘seal of the name’ being in a way
an entrance into communication with the intimate nature of the Named.” Louis Gardet, Mystique
musulmane (Paris: Vrin, 1961), p. 199. This remark also applies to Jewish thought; and even, as the
author indicates, to Buddhist thought, and in a certain measure to the thought of the Christian East (“The
Prayer of Jesus”).

14. Louis Gardet, “Al-Asma” in L’Encyclopédie de l’lslam (second edition).

15. Gen. 32:29; Judges 13:17–18. Cf. Saint Thomas Aquinas, in Librum B. Dionysii De divin. Nomin.
Expositio, ch. 1, lect. 3 (Marietti, 1950), n. 96 (free translation borrowed from The Degrees of
Knowledge, New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1959, p. 1). Cf. Contra Gentiles, I, ch. 31: “If we could
know the divine essence as it is in itself, and give it a name befitting to it, we would express it by a single
name. Such was the promise made by the prophet (Zach. 14:9, to whose text Saint Thomas here gives its
highest eschatological meaning) to those who will see him in his essence: ‘In that day there shall be one
Yahweh and his name shall be one.’”

“It will not be,” Monsignor Journet admirably comments, “a sonorous name that can be pronounced in
one of the human languages. It will be a name of fire and of light, a spiritual name, pervasive and
subsisting. It will be uttered in the hearts of the elect and of the angels immerged in Him as is the sponge
in the ocean, by the divine essence itself, capable in itself of denoting all its transparency and plenitude.
Nevertheless, in fact, no creature will ever possess it to the point of exhausting its content or of
circumscribing its riches: for it is absolutely necessary to be all that God is in order to know absolutely
what God is.” Charles Journet, Connaissance et Inconnaissance de Dieu (Fribourg and Paris: Ed. Egloff,
1943), p. 58.

16. It is a question here of our knowledge of God. If, on the other hand, it is a question of God’s knowledge
of us and of the care with which his providence watches over us, we must say, as we have seen above
(p. 33), that God is not far from us, that he is very close to men.

17. “It was not in the first place,” Father Lagrange writes, “because the Jews feared that the Gentiles were
making magic use of the sacred name that they forbade its use among themselves: it was rather because
the Jews regarded this name as a formidable mystery that the pagans liked to use it in their magic rites. In
ancient times, it was the common patrimony of the Israelites; it was not forbidden them. On the contrary,
they pronounced it with love in their pious outpourings. The reserve of Hellenistic times implies that
many Israelites had become too worldly to use it” (M. J. Lagrange, Le Judaisme avant Jésus-Christ
(Paris, 1931), p. 459). It could also be said, and more correctly in our opinion, that this reserve sprang

from a more and more explicitly felt communication, to the Name revealed to us, of the sacred terror
inspired by the transcendence of the Named.

18. “Let us say, to employ the vocabulary of the philosophers. the analogy of anoetic rational knowledge or
the superanalogy of faith. (Cf. J. Maritain, The Degrees of Knowledge, pp. 222-6. 241-4.)

19. Cf. above, n. 32.

20. Raïssa Maritain, “Croix,” in Au Creux du Rocher (Paris: Alsatia, n.d.).

21. Saint John Chrysostom, Hom. 19, in Matt., 6, n. 4, P.G., 57, 279, cited by Saint Thomas, Compendium
Theologiae, II, ch. 8 (Marietti). n. 572; Eng. trans., p. 325.

22. Evanglion selon saint Luc, p. 322, n. 2

23. “From the first days of his public life, Jesus proclaims: ‘the kingdom of the heavens is at hand’ (Matt.
4:17)…. All throughout his mission ‘the kingdom of the heavens’ came constantly to his lips. The
expression is typically Palestinian (Mark and Luke translate it according to Greco-Roman usage: ‘the
kingdom of God.’).” Augustin George, S.M., Connaître Jésus-Christ (Paris: Equipes Enseignantes, 1960),
p. 41.

24. Oportet me evangelizare regnum Dei. Luke 4:43.

25. M. J. Lagrange, Evanglion selon saint Luc, p. 322, n.

26. Tertullian, De Oratione, ch. 5, P.L., 1, 1159.

27. Condensed version of 1 Cor. 15:24–28.

28. Origen, De Oratione, 25, P.G., 11, 497.

29. Saint Augustine, Serm. 56, ch. 4, n. 6., P.L. 38, 379.

30. Cf. Gen. 28:12. “In thee and thy seed all the tribes of the earth shall be blessed.”

31. Saint Ambrose, De Sacram., book VI, n. 22, P.L., 16, 451.

32. We have used both Father Lagrange’s translation [also corresponding to that of most English translations
of the Bible] which says “within you,” and that of the Jerusalem Bible which says “among you.”

33. M. J. Lagrange, Evanglion selon saint Luc, p. 460 n.

34. Charles Journet, L’Eglise du Verbe Incarné, t. II, p. 87.

35. Tertullian, De Oratione, ch. 5, P.L., I, 1159.

36. Saint Cyprian, De Oratione Dominica, n. 13, P.L., 4, 527.

37. Ad Probam, P.L., 33, 502 (n. 21).

38. Comp. Theologiae, II, ch. 9, Marietti, n. 573ff. (The work, interrupted by the death of the saint, stops
with the second petition.)

39. M. J. Lagrange, The Gospel of Jesus Christ, vol. 11, p. 16.

40. “Intra in gaudium Domini tui” (Matt. 25:21 and 23). “Ego dispono vobis, sicut disposuit mihi Pater meus,
regnum, ut edatis et bibatis super mensam meam in regno meo” (Luke 22:29–30).

41. “Nolite timere, pusillus grex, quia complacuit Patri vestro dare vobis regnum” (Luke 12:32). Cf. Daniel

42. There are five signs that manifest the divine will: prohibition, precept, counsel, operation, and permission.
Cf. ST I, q. 19, a. 12.

43. ST I, q. 19, a.6.

44. That is to say, an inchoation which does not attain to being an act of will, in other words a feeble
movement by which one does not will something but only would will it. When Saint Thomas uses the
word velleitas (ST I, q. 19, a. 6) it is in an altogether different sense and in order to signify a will which
is formal and properly so called but which is not unconditional nor unfailingly carried out. Cf. John of
Saint Thomas, Cursus theologicus, III, disp. 5, a. 7 and 8.

45. Not, to be sure, in the sense in which a desire is frustrated in us (by some exterior agent which deprives
us despite ourselves of what we will). The antecedent will is “frustrated,” but by a freedom that God
himself has created, and which he has authorized to evade him if it wishes, and which actually posits an
evil act only with his permission.

Let us note on the other hand that when by reason of an ensemble of circumstances God has decreed
something in view of a good the accomplishment of which depends on our freedom—for example that
some sick person be cured so that he may repair an injustice he has committed—the thing in question
(the cure of the sick person) occurs infallibly through the consequent will, but this will still remains for
one part (in what concerns the future) antecedent and uncircumstanced. It could happen that this person
does not repair and even aggravates the injustice he has committed.

46. Tertullian, De Oratione, ch. 4, P.L. 1, 1158.

47. Cf. Apoc. 5:11–13. Cf. Ps. 103 (102):21: “Ministri ejus, qui faciunt voluntatem ejus.”

48. Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, Catéchèses mystagogiques, XIV, P.G., 33, 1120.

49. De Oratione, ch. 4, see above, p. 37, n. 28.

50. Oratione Dominica, n. 17, P.L., 4, 530.

51. Serm. 56, ch. 5, n. 8, P.L., 34, 1278.

52. “Sicut ab angelis, ita ab hominibus.” De Serm. Dom. in monte, book II, ch. 6, P.L., 34, 1278.

53. “Ut sic a nobis fiat voluntas ejus, quemadmodum fit in coelestibus ab Angelis ejus.” Ad Probam, P.L., 33,
502 (n. 21).

54. The evil of suffering is doubtless not willed directly and per se; it is nevertheless willed per accidens, or
“allowed” by the consequent will.

55. Charles Journet, The Meaning of Evil (New York: P. J. Kenedy & Sons, 1963), p. 182.

56. John Chrysostom, Opus imperfectum, Hom. 14, sup. Matth., ch. 6 (Paris: Gaume, 1836), t. VI, p. 811:
“Nam sicut homo non potest facere bonum, nisi habuerit adjutorium Dei: sic nec Deus bonum operatur in
homine, nisi homo voluerit.” Cited in Catena aurea, in Matt. 6 (Turin: Marietti, 1953), t. I, p. 105.

57. Cf. Saint Thomas, I Sent., dist. 47, q. 1, a. 2, ad 1. “Those who are not with God are, so far as in them
lies, against God, from the fact that they go against God’s antecedent will” (quoted by Journet, The
Meaning of Evil, p. 183).

58. Jacques Maritain, Neuf leçons sur les notions premières de la philosophie morale, pp. 175–6.

59. Raïssa Maritain, We Have Been Friends Together (New York: Long-mans, Green, 1942), p. 189.

60. Maritain, We Have Been Friends, p. 190.

61. Journet, The Meaning of Evil, pp. 172–73.

62. Cf. the opusculum of Saint Thomas Aquinas, In Orationem Dominicam Expositio, in Opuscula Theologica
(Turin: Marietti, 1954), t. II, n. 1068:

“Such is the will of God, your sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3). This will of God cannot be perfectly fulfilled
in the present life; it will be fulfilled on the day of the resurrection of the saints, when bodies will rise
glorified and incorruptible.”

Chapter III

The Last Four Petitions

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

After beseeching God for his glory, we beseech him for us sinners.
Why did not Jesus, who has told us to be perfect even as our heavenly Father is
perfect (Matt. 5:48), include in the prayer that he has taught us a special petition relating
to that perfection of love which is our highest goal here below, and which is set down as
something each should tend toward in accordance with his condition and insofar as he is
able? In truth this petition is not absent from the Lord’s Prayer: it is included in the first
three petitions, the ones addressed to the Father for himself. Because for those who wish
to satisfy the Gospel precept to be perfect even as the Father is perfect, it is not their
own perfection that they must ask for first, it is rather the Good of God, because they
love God more than themselves and than their own perfection; it is not to their own
perfection (to be attained) that they must attach the whole ardor of their desire—they are
Christians, not Stoics—it is rather to the treasures of life and of goodness of their
Beloved, who is Love and who asks for, and rejoices in, our love.
Those who are entering on the paths of the spirit should think a great deal about
their perfection. Those who have advanced far enough on the paths of the spirit scarcely
think any longer of their perfection—perhaps they have been too harassed on the way; in
any case it is Another that they are interested in.1 Christian perfection closes its eyes to
itself, it has eyes only for Jesus and for his Father; it is not a perfection of impeccability
but a perfection of love.
Moreover, man’s perfection is most certainly the work both of God and of man
together. It supposes on man’s part a fervent and tenacious will, heroically patient and
persevering. It supposes that man’s liberty has, under God’s grace, faithfully cooperated
with grace. But if one speaks the language of practical experience and not of speculative
science, and if one reflects that in the “sons of God, led by the Spirit of God” (Rom.
8:14) the human will has always the second initiative, under the divine motion, but never
the first initiative (it is of evil alone that we have the first initiative, an initiative of
primary cause),2 then, and in this sense, we must say that the perfect one, as such,
derives everything from God, nothing from himself. What he draws from humanity is its
weakness, and the proneness to sin always present in him; this is the lot of man the

This is why, when the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer turn to man, it is to sinners
that they turn—non enim veni vocare justos, sed peccatores (“I am not come to call the
just, but sinners”) (Matt. 9:13)—it is with all us sinners, and according to our condition
as sinners, that they are concerned (and who, indeed, recognize themselves to be sinners
better than the saints themselves? “If we say that we have not sin,” says Saint John, “we
deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us”(1 John 1:8). The Lord’s Prayer instructs,
and while instructing us it puts ointment on our wounds. If there are some among us who
think themselves perfect, they will be cured of their presumption. If there are some who
would like to be saints and grieve because they are not, they will be cured of their
sadness. If there are some who are plunged in evil and darkness, they will begin to have
What then do sinners need? To live, first of all, like the grass of the fields, and like
those sparrows no one of which falls to the ground without God’s consent. And to live as
men, and as men redeemed. And what they need after this is pardon, the remission of
sins. These are the two things they fundamentally need.
But still another thing is necessary for them.3 For even pardoned they are still in
danger; in danger because of weakness. They have need that God himself come to help
them because of their weakness.

“Our supersubstantial bread, our daily bread.”

The same Greek word, (epiousion), is used by both Matthew (6:11) and
Luke (11:3) to characterize the bread we ask for; but in the Latin version revised by
Saint Jerome this same Greek word is translated in Saint Matthew by supersubstantialem
and in Saint Luke by quotidianum. Truth to tell, the Greek word epiousion is an enigma,
which already intrigued Origen, and concerning which modern scholars are scarcely more
advanced than he. Origen remarks4 that this word is not to be met with either in literary
language or in popular speech; it was forged by the Gospel.
According to the etymologies consulted,5 it means: in the first place, either the
“bread of tomorrow,”6 or the “bread of the present day,”7 which is equivalent to the
quotidianus of Saint Luke; in the second place,8 either the “bread we need in order to
subsist”—this is the meaning that modern scholars regard as the most acceptable9—or
the bread “which is above our substance,” because it is of the very substance of God
(hoc est, qui est de tua substantia)10—thus the supersubstantialis of Saint Matthew.
It appears in any case that the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer can be
understood in three different senses, which are moreover perfectly compatible: let us say,
the univocal literal sense, the analogical literal sense, and the spiritual or mystical sense.
In the univocal literal sense, it is a question of material bread and of bodily food;
we ask for that which we will need in order to subsist—omnis sufficientia victus (all

sufficiency of food) as Saint Augustine says11—as much as is sufficient for each one, but
above all for the poor. Jesus has pity on our poor flesh; that it may be sustained,
temperately of course, yet sufficiently for us to escape from hunger and from destitution
which, in the terrestrial order, is a kind of hell.
This is the first meaning of the fourth petition.
In the analogical literal sense, it is a question of the bread which is the food of the
spirit: the truth and beauty of which every human soul has need, and above all the Word
of God: “Not by bread alone shall men live, but by every word that cometh from the
mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). We should always be hungry for every word that comes
from the mouth of God. And yet, taking into account our weakness and the ease with
which we misuse even what is best, it is still as befits the poor that our petition is
addressed to the Father: saPère, sed saPère ad sobrietatem, “not to be more wise than it
behooveth to be wise, but to be wise unto sobriety”(Rom. 12:3).
In the spiritual or mystical sense, it is a question of the bread that is Jesus himself:
Ego sum panis vitae—“I am the bread of life…. I am the bread come down from
heaven. If any one eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread which I will give
is my flesh, for the life of the world” (John 6:35, 51). One can scarcely see how the
supersubstantialis of Saint Matthew could mean anything other than the Eucharistic
bread. Also could Jesus, in the impulse of his love, think of the food on which man lives
without thinking at the same time of the supreme gift of Himself which he came to
bestow on us, of the Bread which is his Body?
We are told that this meaning, on which the Fathers liked to insist, departs from the
proper meaning.12 But if means “above the substance” (our
substance is transformed by it, not it changed into our substance), it seems more correct
to say that the spiritual sense of the fourth petition remains a proper meaning, although
mystical or transcendent, and presupposing the first two meanings.13 Jesus, wrote Saint
Cyprian, “is the bread of those who constitute his body.”14
What would be, then, the most proper translation? To cover the first two meanings
we believe we must translate, as is done in the Greek-Catholic rite: “Give us today our
sufficiency of bread,” or “the amount of bread necessary to us.”
To cover the three meanings together, let us say with Theodore of Mopsuestia:
“Give us today the bread we need.”15

The fourth petition has us pray for today, not for tomorrow. “Be not anxious for
the morrow; the morrow will have anxieties of its own. Sufficient for the day is the evil
thereof” (Matt. 6:34).
But we will pray tomorrow, and every day until our death, for what will be then
our today.

In asking for our daily bread it is a kind of favor we are asking, a thing we are not
certain of having for it is not assured us by nature. And if perchance it is assured us for
today, we still ask for this favor as beggars and the indigent, for all those who do not
have today what is sufficient.
That many do not have sufficient is all too true. And Jesus does not like this, nor
does his Father. The remote cause of it is Adam’s sin. But there are proximate causes; it
seems that the responsibility of other men and of the great human community has a great
share in the matter, at least by omission. If there were fewer wars, less craving to enslave
or exploit others, fewer national egoisms, egoisms of caste or egoisms of class, if man
cared more about his neighbor and really wished to bring together for the common good
of the human species the resources which, especially in our day, he and his science have
at their disposal and which he employs for mutual menace and destruction, there would
be fewer peoples on earth who do not have enough bread and fewer children who die or
are incurably debilitated by lack of food.
It is with great fear that we touch here on the mystery of universal solidarity. We
ask ourselves, tremblingly, what barriers man in the course of his history (or must we still
say his prehistory?) has raised and continues to raise against the Gospel. It has been said
that to those who seek first the kingdom of God all else shall be added. Must we believe
that as a consequence of conditions that more love and more justice could have
prevented, there are men too bowed down by misfortune to have retained even the
possibility of seeking first the kingdom of Heaven? Then will not this kingdom which
they have not sought through no fault of theirs, in which through no fault of their own
they have not hoped, will it not seek them out and await them at the door when they
leave a world that has failed to perceive God’s image in them? As for terrestrial history, it
learns each day at its own expense that Deus non irridetur,16 but it does not understand
what it learns.

A minor question, which is a question of words, still remains to be examined. The

message of the Gospel is addressed to all the peoples of the world. It is sometimes asked
why Jesus used in the Lord’s Prayer the word “bread” rather than a more general word
such as “food,” for example, since there are people who do not use bread and for whom
rice or cassava or some other product of the earth is the most striking symbol of daily
Several answers can be given to this question. First of all, it is not abstract words
like “food,” but rather concrete, “picture” words which the Gospel prefers, and these
words are inevitably particularized. It can next be noted that a certain particularization to
a given historical and cultural milieu, that of the Jewish world at the time of Augustus and
Tiberius, is implied by the very fact of the Incarnation, which took place at a given point
in space and time; and this particularization due to concrete conditions in no way

prejudices the universality of the Gospel message; it only needs to be explained, just as
those to whom this message is transmitted need to be instructed.
Finally, Jesus had an altogether special reason to use the word “bread,” if it is true
that the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer refers, according to one of the meanings it
includes, to the sacrament of the Eucharist. And just as it is possible to procure no matter
where a little wheat flour so as to be able to celebrate Mass, so also it is possible no
matter where to teach the people one is evangelizing the meaning of the word “bread.”
There are, in particular for the primitive tribes (and also for certain highly civilized
cultural areas), indispensable words much more difficult to translate and to explain than
the word “bread.”

And Forgive Us Our Trespasses as We Forgive Those Who

Trespass Against Us

Et dimitte nobis debita nostra. “Trespasses” or “debts,” it is the same thing under
two different names. In Saint Matthew (6:12) we read: “And forgive us our debts, as we
also forgive our debtors”; and in Saint Luke (11:4): “And forgive us our sins, for we also
forgive everyone who is indebted to us.”
It is the good news of the remission of sins. What a marvel! It depends on us; a
movement of our hearts (not easy, it is true, the most difficult perhaps for human nature)
suffices for the Father in heaven to pardon the disappointments and wounds we have
inflicted on his love. He has pledged it; in his name the Son has promised it to us. It is a
fundamental law of the divine economy taught us by the Gospel. How God loves that we
love one another! “It suffices that we pardon to have the assurance of divine pardon.”17
If I truly pardon there is no doubt that I shall be, that I am already pardoned.
This law was already recognized in the Old Testament, but imperfectly. If the texts
of the Psalms (Ps. 132 (131):1; Ps. 7:4) that Saint Augustine quotes18 on this subject are
not conclusive, Ecclesiasticus at least is very clear: “Forgive thy neighbor if he hath hurt
thee: and then shall thy sins be forgiven unto thee when thou prayest. Man to man
reserveth anger, and doth he seek remedy of God? He hath no mercy on a man like
himself, and doth he entreat for his own sins?” (Ecclesiasticus 28:2–4) It must
nevertheless be noted with Father Lagrange that “the idea of neighbor was ordinarily
restricted to Israel”19; and besides, as soon as the idea of justice—of a justice still too
harsh—intervened, the precept of compassion was counteracted by the law of retaliation;
and the divine promise: you shall be forgiven if you forgive, had still not been explicitly
made into the golden rule of the economy of salvation.
This golden rule was revealed to us in the Lord’s Prayer. We are here at the heart
of the Gospel. What is a Christian for peoples accustomed to the code of just vengeance
and among whom the Gospel makes its first conquests? He is a man who forgives.20 “Ye
have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth’ (Exod. 21:24–25). But I tell

you, not to resist the evildoer…. Ye have heard that it was said, ‘Thou shalt love thy
neighbor’ (Lev. 19:18) and hate thine enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray
for them that persecute you, that ye may become yourselves children of your Father who
is in the heavens; for he maketh his sun to shine upon the evil and the good, and he
raineth upon the just and the unjust” (Matt. 5:38–39, 43–45).
There is no other commentary on the fifth petition than the Gospel itself.
Immediately after transmitting to us the text of the Lord’s Prayer, Saint Matthew’s
Gospel continues (Matt. 6:14–15): “For if ye forgive men their transgressions, your
heavenly Father will likewise forgive you; but if ye forgive not men their transgressions,
neither will your Father forgive you your transgressions.” The parallel passage is given in
Mark in another place, on the occasion of the parable of the barren fig tree:
“Whensoever ye stand at prayer, forgive if ye have aught against anyone, that your
Father who is in heaven may likewise forgive you your transgressions” (Mark 11:25–26).
He will forgive us our transgressions. Is this to say he will forgive the sins of those
also whom we forgive? It was solely to the apostles and to their successors, not to the
Christian people, that was given the power of the keys,21 the sacramental power of
forgiving sins. Those who have offended us and whom we pardon—how could God lag
behind us and be less ready than we to pardon them? Nevertheless the grace efficacy, in
their regard, of our pardon depends on their own free will and on divine mercy. This is
why it is said in Proverbs (Prov. 25:21–22), in a text taken up again by Saint Paul: “If
thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him to drink; for in so doing thou shalt
heap coals of fire upon his head” (Rom. 12:20).
Mysterious coals—not of anger certainly, otherwise how could Proverbs add: “And
the Lord will reward thee,” and Saint Paul: “Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil
by good”? These glowing coals burn with the terrible and sweet fire of the inscrutable
divine will. In doing good to our enemies we entrust them to God, we call down on their
heads the fire of the divine initiatives and attentions. If they resist the flames of grace
they will fall, despite our wishes, into the flames of justice. But if they let themselves be
won by grace and mend their ways and repent of their sins before God, they will receive
the effect of the flames of mercy, in accordance with our wish, and the sins they have
committed against us will be forgiven.
The fact thus remains that in forgiving those who have offended us we work in a
certain (preparatory) manner and so far as we are able, to the end that in them evil be
overcome by good and that they receive God’s pardon; we contribute, to the extent that
it is in us, to increase the sum of good on earth and to cause the work of the Prince of
Peace to be accomplished there.

If I truly pardon, we wrote above, there is no doubt that I shall be, that I am
already pardoned.

But just the same, am I ever certain of having been pardoned? The question is to
know whether I have pardoned truly, as it is to know whether I truly love God and my
neighbor. And this only God knows with certain knowledge. God alone knows with
certain knowledge whether I have pardoned from the bottom of my heart, as the Gospel
enjoins me. At the end of the parable of the servant whose debt was forgiven him and
who did not forgive the debt of his fellow workers, we read in Matthew: “Then his lord
sent for him and saith to him, ‘Thou wicked servant, all that debt I forgave thee because
thou be-soughtest me; shouldst not thou also have had pity on thy fellow-servant, even
as myself had pity on thee?’ And his lord, being angry, delivered him to the torturers until
he should pay all that was owing. So also shall my heavenly Father do to you, if ye
forgive not each his brother from your hearts” (Matt. 18:32–35). And what does Saint
John say? “Little children, let us not love with word, neither with the tongue, but in deed
and truth” (1 John 3:18).
After all, if we do our best, why should we torment ourselves? To seek to know
with certain intellectual knowledge, with proved and demonstrated knowledge, whether
we really love and if we have really pardoned from the bottom of our heart, would be
vain curiosity of mind and a grave error. For what God wants is that we turn away from
ourselves and place all our care in him. He wants us to hope in him: then what we cannot
know with certain intellectual knowledge we can have a firmly assured confidence of—
because of his own goodness and his will to help us, which are absolutely certain things.
It is in this sense, that after having told us not to love with words, nor with the
tongue, but in deed and truth, Saint John adds: “Hereby we shall know that we are of the
truth, and before him we shall persuade our heart that if our condemn us, God is greater
than our heart and knoweth all things” (1 John 3:19–20).
“If thy brother sin against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if
he should sin against thee seven times in the day and seven times return to thee, saying ‘I
repent,’ thou shalt forgive him” (Luke 17:3–4).
Si poenitentiam egerit. Si septies in die conversus fuerit ad te, dicens: Poenitet
me. This si is the condition presupposed by what theologians call “ordinary pardon” or
“pardon necessary for salvation,” as distinct from the “pardon proper to the perfect.” If
my brother, however gravely he may have offended me, asks me for forgiveness, I shall
forgive him from the bottom of my heart. But if he does not come to to ask forgiveness,
I shall be ready to forgive him (secundum praeparationem animae), but without my
necessarily having to anticipate him; and by the fact that I forgive all my enemies in
general he will be included among them, but virtually, and without my having to
accomplish for him in particular that act of gift through which justice no longer has any
claim on him in my regard. “We must know that there are two kinds of pardon. One is
proper to the perfect; in this case, according as it is said: ‘Seek after peace and pursue it,’
(Ps. 34:15 [33:15])19 the offended goes to meet the offender. The other is ordinary
pardon, to which all are bound by precept, and by which we must pardon him who asks
We find the same doctrine in the Summa Theologica, with regard to love for our

enemies: “It is absolutely necessary, for the fulfillment of the precept, that we should
inwardly love our enemies in general, but not individually, except as regards the mind
being prepared to do so…it is not necessary for salvation that we show our enemies
(such like) favors and signs of love, except as regards being ready in our minds, for
instance to come to their assistance in a case of urgency23…or if he should beg
forgiveness. But to love one’s enemies absolutely in the individual, and to assist them, is
an act of perfection. In like manner it is a matter of obligation that we should not exclude
our enemies from the general prayers which we offer up for others; but it is a matter of
perfection, and not of obligation, to pray for them individually, except in certain cases.24
And again: “Charity does not require that we should have a special movement of love to
every individual man, since this would be impossible. Nevertheless charity does require
this, in respect of our being prepared in mind, namely, that we should be ready to love
our enemies individually, if the necessity were to occur. That man should actually do so,
and love his enemy for God’s sake, without it being necessary for him to do so, belongs
to the perfection of charity.”25
Such a doctrine is just and human; it prevents us from loading souls down with
burdens they cannot yet carry, and from requiring of others what we are perhaps
incapable of ourselves. To truly forgive—not with the lips but from the bottom of the
heart—is a terribly serious thing; for even in “ordinary pardon” there is required
preparation of soul, which supposes that we do not deliberately nourish within us,
whatever may be the movements not consented to, any feeling of hatred against this or
that enemy in particular26; and to forgive, be it only secundum praeparationem animae,
is not only to renounce vengeance,27 it is also to be ready to give the guilty one even that
which he has taken from us, and thus to bring it about (at least in what concerns us, and
also in what concerns our petitions to God) that he be henceforth in accord with divine
justice and that he be released from its claims on him—he is liberated, his debt is
forgiven. Forgiveness implies no detriment to justice; even in going beyond it, it seems
that justice receives its due.28 But it obliges (except when an interest superior to that of
my resentment must be protected) that one renounce the sanctions that justice would
have imposed. And for him who has not yet had his eyes washed enough by tears and
his soul softened enough by charity, even this is felt—wrongly—to be a breach of justice.
The poor heart is locked in debate, it feels torn between two contradictory imperatives, it
is in agony. An act of pardon required, in case of necessity, toward a miserable one who
has destroyed or outraged that which a man holds most dear—it may be that this man
will pay it with his life.
It remains that in case of necessity such an act of forgiveness is required by the
Gospel. And it remains that the Gospel leaves to theologians the care of the distinction
we have just mentioned between ordinary forgiveness and the forgiveness of the perfect.
It is the spirit of forgiveness that the Gospel makes a duty for us; and the Gospel places
itself less in the perspective of what is or is not prescribed as necessary for salvation than
in that of the law of correspondence between the divine comportment and our own:

pardon as He pardons; as thou hast pardoned, thou shalt be pardoned. Moreover, in the
majority of concrete cases, it is not with my enemies in general but with this or that
enemy in particular, whose dagger’s blow I have just received, that my conscience has to
do. Then, whatever I have against him, it is he in particular whom I must forgive in my
heart and from the bottom of my heart if I wish to put my conscience at rest and to
escape from an intolerable perplexity. My God, forgive me as I forgive him.
I am not, for all that, perfect. But when the Spirit blows, it carries beyond all limits
traced beforehand; the spirit of forgiveness impels every Christian, perfect or imperfect,
who wishes to obey the Gospel, to pass beyond the strict precept—if only for once, just
for the turmoil I am in today. And ordinary pardon, which is (as we have noted above)
more demanding than it appears to be, forces us in many cases to precipitate ourselves
willy-nilly into the pardon of the perfect.
“But to you who give ear I say, love your enemies, do good to them that hate you,
bless them that curse you, pray for them that mistreat you. To him that striketh thee on
the cheek, offer the other also; and from him that taketh away thy cloak, withhold not
thy tunic also. Give to everyone that asketh of thee, and from him that taketh away thy
goods ask no return. In fine, as ye would that men should do unto you, so do ye unto
them. If you love them that love you, what merit have ye? Even the sinners love those
who love them…. And if ye lend to those from whom ye hope you receive back, what
merit have ye? Even sinners lend unto sinners, in order that they may receive as much in
return. Nay, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend without hope of recovery,
and great shall be your reward, and ye shall be children of the Most High, for himself is
good to the ungrateful and evil. Have pity, even as your Father hath pity.
“Judge not, and ye shall not be judged; condemn not, and ye shall not be
condemned. Pardon, and ye shall be pardoned: give, and it shall be given to you: good
measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over shall they pour into your lap. For
with what measure ye measure, it shall be measured unto you in return” (Luke 6:27–

And Lead Us Not into Temptation

Et ne nos inducas in tentationem. Two errors are

to be avoided in meditating on the sixth petition. We must not imagine (as the literal
translation, “And lead us not into temptation” might lead us to believe) that in order to
test our resistance, God himself sometimes tempts us or incites us to evil. The interior
troubles and dark invasions that the attraction of evil suddenly or insidiously produces in
the soul arise from our weakness and our “own lust” (James 1:14); they proceed also
from the fallen Angel, who excites that lust and who, tan quam leo rugiens, “goeth
about, seeking to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). It is the devil who tempts us, it is not God. “Let
no man, when he is tempted, say that he is tempted by God. For God is not a tempter of
evils, and he tempteth no man” (James 1:13).

“Say not: It is God who has made me sin: for he doth not what he hateth. Say not:
He has caused me to err: for he hath no need of wicked men” (Ecclesiasticus 15:11–12).
“Heaven preserve us from believing that God could tempt us.”30
But from another standpoint we must be on guard against lessening or softening
the meaning of Jesus’ words. We must not imagine that we are told to ask to be
dispensed from all that would make us pass through the fire of trial, and which by that
very fact would imply some risk of our failing or sinning, which is the case with the
majority of the occasions that human life has us encounter, and especially with every
option in which it costs us something to choose for the good, and with every serious
affliction, tribulation, visitation of misfortune or persecution, and more especially still
with every temptation properly so called, and with those supreme temptations to which a
soul agonizing on the cross is exposed. “Blessed is the man that is patient under
temptation; for when he hath been proved, he shall receive the crown of life, which God
hath promised to them that love him” (James 1:12). “But even if ye suffer for justness’
sake, blessed are ye” (1 Peter 4:15).
“As long as we are on earth, we are entangled in the flesh which struggles against
the spirit…we are therefore exposed to temptation…. Who could imagine men removed
from temptations, when he knows how overwhelmed they are with them? Is there any
moment when one is secure from having to struggle in order not to sin?”31 “Does the
Lord ask us to pray not to be tempted at all? Nevertheless it is said in the Scriptures: ‘He
that hath not been tried, what manner of things doth he know?’ (Ecclesiasticus 34:11)
And elsewhere (James 1:2): ‘Esteem it in all joy, my brethren, when you fall into various
Saint Thomas wrote the same: in the sixth petition “we do not ask not to be
tempted, but not to be conquered by temptation.”33
And what does the Apostle say? “All that will to live piously in Jesus Christ shall
be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12).
And what does the Lord Jesus say? “Blessed are ye when they shall reproach you,
and persecute you, and speak all evil against you, lying, because of me; rejoice and exult,
because your reward is great in heaven. For thus did they persecute the apostles who
were before you” (Matt. 5:11).

A first point should therefore be noted. It is that, as Father Lagrange reminds us,
the word peirasmos means test or trial (everything that calls on us to make proof of
some virtue, especially of our fidelity and our love), and that “test” or “trial” has a much
broader meaning than “temptation.”34 Thus Jesus said to the apostles: Vos autem estis,
qui permansistis mecum in tentationibus meis. Clearly the word tentatic here
signifies trial, and not temptation. “But ye are they who have remained with me

throughout my trials” (Luke 22:28) These trials “are the difficulties of life, the ambushes
of the Pharisees and of Herod’s men, the visible disapproval of the religious leaders,
despite their hypocritical maneuvers.”35
Likewise it is said of the just: “God hath tried them, and found them worthy of
himself. As gold in the furnace he hath proved them, and as a victim of a holocaust he
hath received them.… On the day of his visit the just shall shine, and shall rush to and
fro like sparks among the reeds” (Wisdom 3:5–7) And again (Ps. 66 (65):10–11): “For
thou hast tried us, O God: Thou hast tested us as silver is tested. Thou broughtest us into
the net” (not the net of evil nor of temptation but the net of trial and misfortune).
And the supreme trial, that of Abraham, was not a temptation (an incitement to
evil), but an order received directly from the All Holy God. “Was not Abraham found
faithful in trial?”36
Nevertheless the word “trial” does not for all this exclude temptation; far from it—
temptation is one of the most redoubtable forms of trial. It was not spared Joseph, son of
Jacob; nor Job on his dung-heap; nor Jesus himself in the desert, nor any of His saints.
Another point to note is that of the kind of trial that is suffering, God is not the
direct cause (per se), but is the indirect cause (per accidens); he allows it to exist
because it is the reverse side of a good which he intends, or a condition or a means
presupposed for that good. And of the kind of trial which is temptation he is in no way
the cause, he simply permits it. Yet it is clear that without his permission temptation
would not occur.37
“The adversary can do nothing against us without the prior permission of God.”38
This is why Saint Gregory the Great wrote: “Men should know that the will of
Satan is always unrighteous, but that his power is never unjust; of himself he exercises
his will, but he holds his power from the Lord. The iniquities he proposes to permit, God
allows in all justice.”39 As Charles Journet adds: “No one, after God, worked harder for
Job’s sanctity than the Devil, and no one could have wanted it less.”40
And what would we become, and what would our misery be, if God did not have
absolute control over all the trials and all the temptations that can assail us? Let Him
slightly bow his head, the trial will go no further, and the angels of heaven will come to
comfort and help the soul in agony. And when thou art at the bottom of the abyss, and
he has rejected and abandoned thee, and delivers thee to death and worse than death, he
takes care of thy soul in secret, places flowers upon thy shroud and keeps the vultures
away from thee.
“Temptation hath not come upon you but such as man can bear; and God is
faithful, and will not suffer you to be tempted beyond your strength, but will make with
temptation an outlet, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13).
Diligentibus Deum omnia cooperantur in bonum. “We know that for them that
love God he worketh all things together unto good” (Rom. 8:28).
The sixth petition is the prayer of our weakness, the prayer of a being who knows
he is weak and prays not to be weak today, during the dangerous hours which will be the

hours of this poor today.
It puts us on our guard against presumption. It is a prayer of humility (and humility
does not know where to stop, though too there is no true humility which is not
accompanied by magnanimity).
There is a kind of presumption which is only apparent, because it is merely a naive
outburst of love and confidence. It is thus that the Psalmist asks to be tried: “Prove me,
Lord, and test me: Try my reins and my heart” (Ps. 26 (25):2). What should one say of
James and John? Not only do they charge their mother to ask Jesus that they may sit at
his right hand and at his left hand in his kingdom (Matt. 20:21), or in his glory (Mark
10:37) (to which Jesus answers: “Ye know not for what ye ask”), but when he questions
them, “Can ye drink of the cup whereof I am about to drink?” they do not fear to say to
him, “We can.” Nevertheless the Lord did not reprove them for this, but said: “Of my
cup indeed ye shall drink” (Matt. 20:23).
But true presumption costs dear. Poor Peter! “Even if all shall be scandalized
because of thee, I will never be scandalized…. Though I should have to die with thee, I
will not deny thee” (Matt. 26:33–35).
At the hour of supreme combat, we must pray not to enter into temptation;
temptation would run too great a risk of exceeding our feeble forces. On reaching the
Garden of Olives, Jesus “said to them, ‘Pray that ye enter not into temptation’” (Luke
22:40). And again when he found them sleeping in their sadness: “Simon, sleepest thou?
Couldst thou not watch one hour? Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation” (Mark
A man who truly knows his weakness will not refuse trial; he does not forget that
in the midst of the worst afflictions and the worst temptations God will always help him.
But it is himself that he mistrusts; he knows that a mere trifle is enough to lead him
astray, that he is capable of every cowardice and every folly, of every lapse in grace.12 Is
he better than David, is he better than Simon Peter? Where they have fallen, will he be
able to hold firm? And shall he be able to weep and rise again as they did? Lord, if you
put me to the trial—with your help I will try to avoid every lapse, and if you will to go
further, so be it, I will not try to escape. But will I cooperate with your grace? Will I not
fall into the pit? Do you not realize my misery? Lord, do not put me to the test.

Here, we believe, in all their converging diversity and mutability, are the complex
feelings of the soul to which the sixth petition corresponds. What words exactly translate
the Greek text from which this petition comes down to us? This is not an easy question.
Taking everything into account (and at least following the opinion of those best qualified
to judge) it seems it is undoubtedly proper to give preference to the formula of the
Hebrew translation: “And lead us not into the hands of trial.”
The meaning of the sixth petition is in any case quite clear. It is the meaning which,

by modifying slightly and fusing together a formula of Saint Ambrose42 and another of
Father Lagrange,43 one could express thus: Do not allow us to be submitted to a trial or
to a temptation we cannot bear; may thy Providence, always so ready to hear our prayer,
never leave us exposed to occasions of sin too dangerous for our weakness.

But Deliver Us from Evil44

The seventh petition is “closely linked” to the sixth “in its form and in its
meaning.”45 It answers it like an echo.
But at the same time it is “an ending that briefly sums up all the other petitions”46;
in a single and final stroke it resumes them all, and with them the great prayer of the
whole of creation. That is why it properly constitutes a distinct petition.

The Greek Fathers in general understood the word ponèros in the masculine
and said: “But deliver us from the Evil One.” According to Father Lagrange,
it is better to follow the Western tradition and understand this word as neuter (to
ponêron). In the Septuagint, where it appears often, it in fact signifies that which is bad
or Evil, never the devil. In the same way Saint Paul writes: hrusetai me ho kurios apo
pantos er gou ponêrou, “the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work (of my
enemies)” (2 Tim. 4:18). It is true that in a passage of Matthew (Matt. 13:19) the word is
taken in the masculine and signifies the devil. But that is the only passage in Matthew
where this is the case.
This single case, however, seems to us slightly to shake Father Lagrange’s position.
For our part we think that the true sense of the seventh petition is indeed “Deliver us
from evil” and that it does not directly refer to the devil, but nevertheless refers to him
indirectly; so that in saying, “Deliver us from evil” we also say, although implicitly,
“Deliver us from the Evil One.”47
For the Prince of this world is the head of all the wicked,48 and it was he who,
when he tempted and overthrew Adam, brought down upon us Sin and Death and all the
evils that afflict us, and he still claims to exert over us, in contest with Christ, what he
holds to be his rights. When we ask to be delivered from evil, we ask in the same words
and at the same time to be delivered from his yoke and tyranny.
The evil from which we ask to be delivered is obviously moral evil, “every kind of
moral evil”49 to which temptation incites us.
Plato noted in an unforgettable manner that it is better to be punished (even and
especially unjustly) than to be guilty. Moral evil, or evil of sin” is, Saint Thomas taught,

the preeminent evil or evil in the supreme sense.50 Through it I escape from God to
produce nothingness, I wound creative Love, and I crucify Christ. Through it, if I do not
repent, I lose my soul. To say, “Deliver us from evil,” is to say, “Deliver us from sin.”
Nevertheless is there not another category of evil than the evil of sin? And must
our prayer to be delivered from evil be limited to a given category of evil, even be it that
of the preeminent evil? Our cry for deliverance has no more limits than Jesus’ mercy. Ab
omni malo, libera nos, Domine. Ab omni peccato, libera nos, Domine. A fulgure et
tern pestate, a flagello terrae motus, a peste, fame et bello, a morte per petua libera
nos Domine. Deliver us from all evil, Lord, from all sin first of all, but also from lightning
and tempests, from earthquakes, from pestilence, from famine and war, from everlasting
Deliver us from that unparalleled sorrow of seeing those we love suffer without
remedy. Deliver us from spiritual darkness. Deliver us from anguish, which is doubtless
the state of suffering on which the Holy Spirit has particular pity (is it not in such a
compassionate manner that it is always spoken of in Scripture?). Deliver us from the
terrestrial hell of destitution. Deliver us from the tortures inflicted by men or by the
cruelest maladies.
In second rank, certainly (because they are evil in a less radical and less formidable
sense) the evil of suffering and the evil of pain are also included in the last petition of the
Lord’s Prayer.
This is what Saint Augustine thought when he wrote that it is the same thing to say
libera nos a malo and to say with the Psalmist: “Deliver me from mine enemies, protect
me from those who rise up against me.”51 No matter what tribulation the Christian may
be suffering, Saint Augustine further explains, the last petition of the Lord’s Prayer
reminds him that he is made for that good in which one will no longer suffer any evil,
and it likewise shows him the goal to which his groans and his tears should aspire.52
In the Middle Ages Saint Augustine’s views were not allowed to fall into oblivion.
“The Lord,” we read apropos of the seventh petition in Saint Thomas’ little work on the
Lord’s Prayer,53 “teaches us to ask in general to be delivered from all evils, sins,
infirmities, adversities, afflictions…. He delivers us from afflictions either by sparing us
them, which is exceptional and concerns only those who are too weak—or by consoling
us (If God did not console, no one could hold fast. We are ‘utterly weighed down,
beyond our strength’ (2 Cor. 1:8), ‘but he that comforteth the humble, even God, he
comforteth us’ (ibid., 7:6))—or by granting us higher goods—or by changing the
tribulation itself into good through patience (Rom. 5:3); the other virtues indeed avail
themselves of good things; but patience turns evil to account, and it is in evils, that is, to
say in adversities, that it is necessary.”54
The blood of Christ has delivered us from sin; but this deliverance will be fully
accomplished, for each man, only at the end of his life—and this provided he has not
refused grace. And at the same stroke we will be delivered from every evil of whatsoever
kind. And on the day of the resurrection, when all will be consummated and Jesus will

restore all things into the hands of his Father, the new heavens and the new earth will
exult at being forever totally released from sin and from death, and from every tribulation
and every affliction.

The last petition of the Lord’s Prayer rejoins, so to speak, the first three. Like
them it implies an ultimate eschatological meaning. Like them it will be fully
accomplished only beyond this world and its history. It raises its protest against evil in all
its amplitude and under all its forms, against the root of evil, as against the threat of evil
hidden everywhere, and against the empire of evil that locks the world in struggle against
evil in all senses of the word, the final defeat of which will mark the triumph of the
Holiness of God, of the Kingdom of God and of the Will of God.
When we pronounce the seventh petition, what passes through our lips is the
deepest aspiration of the very depth of the creature to be supernaturally delivered from
those very deficiencies and failures whose possibility a universe of created natures
inevitably entails. And we do not pray only for ourselves but for the whole of creation,
which “doth groan and travail, while awaiting adoption, the redemption of our body”
(Rom. 8:22–23).
The last petition of the Lord’s Prayer has not only a moral significance but also
one that is metaphysical and cosmic. Its reverberations are infinite.

1. “They are no longer preoccupied with self, but only with the extension of the kingdom of God throughout
the world that his Name may be loved by all men, beginning with themselves. All their prayers, petitions,
works and sacrifices are directed principally toward this end and they are converted into invisible
channels through which the graces of heaven descend on earth.” Victorino Osende, Fruits of
Contemplation (St. Louis: Herder, 1953), p. 310.

2. “The first cause of the defect of grace is on our part.” Saint Thomas, ST I-II, q. 112, a. 3, ad 2.

3. It may be noted with Father Lagrange (Evanglion selon saint Luc, p. 321, n.) that of the three things of
which we are speaking the first concerns the present, the second the past, the third the future.

4. De Oratione, 27, P.G., 11, 509.

5. Cf. Lagrange, Evangilion selon saint Luc, p. 323, n. 3.

6. If comes from

7. If it comes from

8. If it comes from combined with

9. Cf. Lagrange, Evangilion selon saint Luc, p. 323, n. 3. Evangile selon saint Mathieu, p. 130, n. 11.

10. Saint Jerome, quoted by Lagrange, Evangilion selon saint Luc, p. 323, n. 3, in Dom Germain Morin,
Anecdota Maredsolana, III, ix, p. 262.

11. Ad Probam. Quoted freely by Saint Thomas, ST II-II, q. 83, a. 9. Saint Augustine (P.L., 33, 498, n. 12,

and 499, n. 13) says: “sufficientia rerum necessariarum.” Cf. col. 502, n. 21.

12. Lagrange, Evanglion selon saint Luc, p. 323, n. 3.

13. On the three meanings distinguished here, cf. Thomas Aquinas, In Orat. Domin. Expositio (Marietti), nn.
1078 and 1079.

14. De Oratione Dominica, n. 18, P.L., 4, 531.

15. Homélies catéchètiques, Hom. 11, on the Lord’s Prayer, ed. Raymond Tonneau (Vatican City: 1949), par.
14, p. 309.

16. “God is not mocked” (Gal. 6:7).

17. Lagrange, Evanglion selon saint Matthieu, p. 132, n. 14.

18. Ad Probam, P.L., 33, 503 (n. 22).

19. Lagrange, Evanglion selon saint Matthieu, p. 132, note.

20. This is what Father Lebbe told us when he spoke to us of his experience as a missionary in China.

21. “Receive ye the Holy Spirit; whose sins ye shall forgive, they are forgiven them: whose sins ye shall retain,
they are retained” (John 20:22–23).

22. Saint Thomas Aquinas, In Orat. Domin. Expositio (Marietti), n. 1091. Let us remember—but this is an
altogether different question—that the perfect, like others, may have to exact the sanctions of justice
against a guilty one in order to protect some superior interest of which they have the keeping. Besides,
we are, even in such a case, bound in our person-to-person relations with the one we are having
condemned, and as to that which in his misdemeanor has reached our own subjectivity, to pardon him in
our heart at least secundum praeparationem animae, and, in case of necessity, effectively in action and by
coming to his aid.

23. Cf. ST II-II, q. 25, a. 9. “Talia beneficia vel dilectionis signa inimicis exhibere non est de necessitate salutis
nisi secundum praeparationem animae, ut scilicet subveniatur eis in articulo necessitatis.”

24. ST II-II, q. 83, a. 8.

25. Ibid., II-II, q. 25, a. 8.

26. “Whoso hateth his brother is a murderer, and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding within
him” (1 John 3:15).

27. “The desire for vengeance removes from you all hope of obtaining pardon for your other sins,” it
“deprives you of any right to say: as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Saint Augustine, Serm.
57, P.L., 39, 392.

28. ST I, q. 21, a. 3, ad 2.

29. Cf. Matt. 5:38–48.

30. Tertullian, De Oratione, ch. 8, P.L., 1, 1164.

31. Origen, De Oratione, 29 P.G., 11, 532–3.

32. Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, Catéchèses mystagogiques, XVII, P.G., 33, 1121.

33. ST II-II, q. 83, a. 9.

34. Lagrange, Evanglion selon saint Luc, p. 324, n. 4. Cf. Evanglion selon saint Matthieu, pp. 130–1, n 13.

35. Lagrange, Evanglion selon saint Luc, p. 551, n. 28.

36. 1 Mac. 2:52. In the book of Tobias, the angel Raphael said to Tobit: “When thou wert burying the dead,
leaving thy dinner untasted, so as to hide them all day in thy house, and at night give them funeral, I, all
the while, was offering that prayer of thine to the Lord. Then, because thou hast won his favor, needs
must that trials should come, and test thy worth.” (Tob. 12:13—Knox translation.)

37. This is why Semitic thought, concerned above all with the concrete event, paid little heed to the distinction
between to permit and to will. Cf. Deut. 13:13, with regard to a trial which is a temptation: “The Lord
your God trieth you, that it may appear whether you love him with all your heart, and with all your soul

38. Saint Cyprian, De Orat. Domin., n. 25, P.L., 4, 536.

39. Saint Gregory the Great, Moralium, book II, in ch. 1 Job; P.L., 75, 564.

40. Journet, The Meaning of Evil, p. 256.

41. “We know that God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb. we must ask him, in his infinite goodness, not to
allow us this day to come up against any temptation greater than our powers of resistance; or if he does,
to strengthen us with a further granting of his grace. And also that he may not put us so greatly to the
test as to expect from us all that he has a right to claim…and that he may take our weakness into
account” (Journet, The Meaning of Evil, p. 238).

42. “And do not allow us to be led into a temptation we cannot bear.” De Sacram., book VI, n. 29, P.L.,

43. “May Thy Providence, always ready to hear our prayer, never forsake us in the snare of sinful occasions
which threaten us in our weakness.” The Gospel of Jesus Christ, vol. II, p. 16.

44 Matt. 6:13.

45. Lagrange, Evanglion selon saint Matthieu, p. 131, n. 13.

46. Saint Cyprian, De Oratione Domin., n. 27, P.L., 4, 537.

47. This version is adopted by the Jerusalem Bible (Paris: Editions du Cerf, 1956), p. 1296.

48. Thomas Aquinas, ST III, q. 8, a. 7.

49. Lagrange, Evanglion selon saint Matthieu, p. 131, n. 13.

50. Cf. Saint Thomas, ST I, q. 48, a. 6.

51. “Qui dicit, Erue me ab inimicis meis, Deus, et ab insurgentibus in me libera me (Ps. 58:2), quid aliud dicit
quam, libera nos a malo?” Saint Augustine, Ad Probam, P.L., 33, 503 (n. 22).

52. “Cum dicimus, Libera nos a malo, nos admonemus cogitare, nondum nos esse in eo bono ubi nullum
patiemur malum. Et hoc quidem ultimum quod in dominica oratione positum est, tam late patet, ut homo
christianus in qualibet tribulatione eonstitutus in hoc gemitus edat, in hoc lacrymas fondat, hinc
exordiatur, in hoc immoretur, ad hoc terminet orationem.” Ibid., ch. 11, n. 21, col. 502. We have kept the
sense of this passage in abbreviating it. Cf. ibid., ch. 14, n. 26, col. 504: “In his ergo tribulationibus quae
possunt et prodesse et nocere, quid oremus, sicut oportet, nescimus; et tamen quia dura, quia molesta,
quia contra sensum nostrae infirmitatis sunt, universali humana voluntate, ut a nobis haec auferantur,

53. Saint Thomas invokes here the authority of Saint Augustine, but without giving a reference. It seems to us
all the less doubtful that it is a question of the letter Ad Probam since one of the passages (ch. 11, n. 21)
of this letter to which we refer above is cited in the Catena aurea in connection with the seventh petition
of the Lord’s Prayer.

54. In Orat. Domin. Expositio (Marietti), n. 1102 (condensed).

Chapter IV

The Prayer of Jesus

Who would dare, without trembling and without invoking graces from above, to lift
his eyes toward what must have been those hours of unimaginable inner prayer when the
Incarnate Word silenced all things within himself so that his soul might be free to
experience lovingly, under the light of vision, the glory of his Father, of his own Divinity,
and of the Holy Spirit? Theologians tell us that to the beatific vision, in which the divine
essence causes itself to be grasped by the created intellect, there is joined in the blessed
the experience of love due to the gifts of the Holy Spirit1; it is in this way that one can
think that when he entered into prayer superior to any concept Christ contemplated God,
and called down divine mercy on men.
And without doubt his contemplation also turned, in the tears of the gift of
Knowledge, toward that poor humanity whose languors it was his mission to bear.
My God, enlighten a little for me this mystery, the thorns on the head of Christ
and, within, his very bitter thoughts. Meditation for which “the representation of
place” has been made by sinners on the body of the Blessed One, by flagellation and
the other cruelties and the mock crowning, pending the Cross and Death.
On the Mount of Olives Jesus held before his eyes the subject of his prayer, all
the sin to be assumed and the abandonment by men and God. Then began his agony in
trembling and fright and the sweat of blood. And now, under the crown of thorns, he
has in his humanity the vision of all the evil that has been, that is present, and that is
to come.
Darknesses of the contemplation of sin, truly implacable night, mystical and
fathomless night, experience founded in charity and in Christ’s union of love with
sinners. It is for them that he has come, to carry them on his shoulders across the
torrent of the ages to the solid land of eternity.
The King’s bed is of wood of Lebanon, his diadem is of thorns. We have laid him
on the cross, all misery is naked before him, and his bloodied head bows slightly upon
his shoulder. He tastes the infinite bitterness of our sins, as in the darkness of divine
contemplation the poor saints taste the essential sweetness of God.2

When Jesus withdrew into solitude to pray, it was doubtless first and principally to

pray without words.
But Jesus prayed also with his lips as with his heart. He prayed aloud on Psalm
Sunday (John 12:27–28), he prayed aloud in his great sacerdotal prayer at the Last
Supper, he prayed aloud in the Garden of Olives, he prayed aloud on the Cross. And his
vocal prayer of every day, is it not that very one which he taught us to say with him,
after him? The Lord’s Prayer is not only the prayer that Jesus taught us, it is the prayer
of Jesus himself.
With what tenderness and longing he was to pronounce the great desires contained
in the first three petitions! They were his own prayers which he offered to his Father, for
the Name of his Father, for the Kingdom of his Father, for the Will of his Father; they
were his own prayers before being the prayers which, as head of humanity, he offered in
the name of his brothers.
The other petitions of the Lord’s Prayer he pronounced in the name of the sinners
that he had come to save, and according as, Mediator and Lamb promised to sacrifice,
he was but one with those whose sins he had taken upon him.
So true it is that by essence the Lord’s Prayer is a common prayer,3 the prayer in
which each of us addresses himself to God on behalf of his brothers as well as on his
own behalf, the prayer in which the Son of God has pronounced not only petitions
whose meaning held first for himself personally, but also petitions whose meaning held
only for the sinners with whom he identified himself through love. It is clear that the last
three petitions could not concern Jesus personally. He had no sins to be forgiven; he was
not in danger of falling into temptation; he had no need to be delivered from evil—he, the
conqueror of evil, the Saviour of the world.
The fourth petition, nevertheless, he made as we must make it, at once for the
bread of which he and his had need each day while journeying on the earth, and for the
bread of which the poor of the world have need every day.
And in a certain sense he could also make the sixth petition for himself, not
through fear of sinning but through fear of having to endure that which revolts nature;
and he could even make the seventh petition also, according as it concerns the evil of
suffering. (Pater, si possibile est, transeat a me calix iste.)
To meditate each petition of the Lord’s Prayer, trying to enter into the sentiments
of Jesus himself when he pronounced it, would doubtless be a good manner of praying.

We have no other guide to eternal life, divine life, beatitude, than the Life of
Christ, the Teaching of Christ, the Passion of Christ, and the Prayer of Christ. The
imitation of Christ is the way of love and of holiness.
Thus the Lord’s Prayer, taught us by Christ,4 is the truest of prayers, the most
completely and perfectly true, just and agreeable to God, the prayer whose flame must
always burn within us.

There is no prayer, no contemplation, unless Christ be in the soul, and unless an
imitation of Christ, a participation in his states and in his life, and in his prayer, what
Saint Paul calls a reproduction of His image (Rom. 8:29), be present in the depths of the
soul. He himself is also present there, because all the graces received by the soul reach it
through the instrument, conjoined to God, that is the humanity of the Saviour.
If it is a question of the particular goods, even the most justly desirable in
themselves, for which, in the innumerable occasions of human life, we happen to ask
God, but of which we do not know the role in the reverse side of things and the divine
economy, we must believe Saint Paul: “We know not how we are to pray as we ought;
but the Spirit Himself pleadeth in our behalf with unutterable groanings” (Rom. 8:29).
And what then does the Spirit do? He makes us cry, “Abba! Father!” (Rom. 8:15) What
is this to say if not that the Spirit, when He makes us pray as we must, reminds us
interiorly of the example of Jesus and has us pray, as adopted sons, in the power of the
Lord’s Prayer? Every prayer in spirit and in truth, especially infused prayer in all its
degrees, proceeds in the power of the Lord’s Prayer.
Prayer without words is itself founded on the Word who is Christ. It is founded on
the Prayer of Jesus. The soul formed by the Lord’s Prayer prays—with or without
words, in the murmur of words as in the bosom of the silence of pure contemplation—in
the spiritual straightforwardness of the Lord’s Prayer, in the imitation of Jesus.
In wordless contemplation the Credo is always there, in the depth of the soul. And
one can say that it is in its light and its power that the soul passes to a knowledge or
experience which proceeds from faith and from the union of love, and in which all
concepts are silent (then the light of faith passes through them without awakening them,
or while scarcely stirring them, so as to go toward the Reality which is its object, and
which it makes the soul suffer through love, under the inspiration of the gifts of the
Likewise one could say that it is in the élan and the power of the Lord’s Prayer
that arise the desire, and the prayer, and the petition, however unformulated, which are
immanent to wordless contemplation, in which they have no other voice than the breath
of love. The seven petitions are always there, in the depths of the soul, but there is no
longer need to articulate them in words; it is their spirit which the Spirit makes mount
toward God.
If from the point of mystical experience it were possible, without interrupting that
experience, to re-descend toward words, it is the words of the Lord’s Prayer that one
would find at the base, since, to tell the truth, it is in starting from them, according as
they are imprinted in the soul, that the soul has been elevated toward wordless union.
When the soul, to seek Him whom it loves,

Having no guide nor light

Save for the heart’s ardent flame,

experiences the blessings of the night,

O Night that was my guide!

O Night fairer than dawn
O happy Night which joined
The lover to his bride5

then it is as if the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, or the one or the other of them, or even
at times the first beginnings of some fulfillment, had let fall the weight of human formulas
so as to be no longer anything but the respiration of love.
One sees thus that from the busy man who can only recite Our Fathers (but
perhaps he has already passed under the regime of the Gifts, perhaps he is farther
advanced than one might think in the life of the spirit) to the contemplative who is drawn
with closed lips into union with God known as unknown, and who in those moments has
no longer but a sigh of the heart with which to make the petitions taught by his Master, it
is by a single and same way that all those go to God, whoever they may be, who in no
matter what corner of the world hear the call of love and do their best to imitate Jesus.

Saint Thomas recalls (but without accepting, it would seem, responsibility for it)6
that according to Saint Augustine7 there is a certain correspondence between the petitions
of the Lord’s Prayer and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. To the first petition would
correspond the gift of Fear of the Lord, to the second the gift of Piety, to the third the
gift of Knowledge; to the fourth, the gift of Fortitude; to the fifth, the gift of Counsel; to
the sixth, the gift of Understanding; to the seventh, the gift of Wisdom.
In a matter which after all is a matter of opinion, and however unimportant one
may be, is it permitted, while retaining the principle, to apply it differently than did the
great Doctor of Hippo?
It seems to us that this correspondence is more satisfying for the mind if one
establishes it in the following manner8: To say “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed
by Thy Name,” this is particularly appropriate to the gift of Wisdom—and it is
preeminently the prayer of the Peaceful, to whom it has been promised that they shall be
called the sons of God.
To ask that His Kingdom come, this is particularly appropriate to the gift of
Understanding—and it is preeminently the prayer of the Pure of Heart, to whom it has
been promised that they shall see God.
To ask that His Will be done on earth as it is in heaven, this is particularly
appropriate to the gift of Knowledge—and it is preeminently the prayer of those who
mourn, to whom it has been promised that they shall be comforted.

To ask that He give us today our daily bread, this is particularly appropriate to the
gift of Fortitude—and it is preeminently the prayer of those who hunger and thirst for
justice’s sake, to whom it has been promised that they shall be filled.
To ask that He forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against
us, this is particularly appropriate to the gift of Counsel—and it is preeminently the
prayer of the Merciful, to whom it has been promised that they shall obtain mercy.
To ask that He lead us not into temptation is particularly appropriate to the gift of
Piety—and it is preeminently the prayer of the Meek, to whom it has been promised that
they shall possess the earth.
To ask that He deliver us from evil, this is particularly appropriate to the gift of
Fear—and it is preeminently the prayer of the Poor in Spirit, to whom it has been
promised that the kingdom of heaven shall be theirs.

1. Cf. Saint Thomas Aquinas, ST I-II, q. 68, a. 6. In his treatise on The Gifts of the Holy Ghost (Cursus
theol., t. VI, disp. 18, a. 3, par. 77–79), trans. from the Latin by Dominic Hughes, O.P. (New York:
Sheed & Ward, 1951), John of Saint Thomas writes: “The vision of God in heaven ... is twofold” (p.
109). “The light of glory elicits the beatific vision of God before there is any love, since it regulates and
arouses love. The gifts of understanding and wisdom are knowledge founded upon and following after
the love and taste of divine union with the soul and its being connaturalized with God through love” (p.
114); “From this vision comes love, and intimate affection and a fruition of God. From the fruition comes
a loving and experiential knowledge both of God as He is in Himself—this the vision itself gives—and of
God as He is attained and experienced within the soul” (p. 116).

2. Raïssa Maritain, “La Couronne d’épines,” fragment in Lettre de Nuit. La Vie Donnée (Paris: Desclée de
Brouwer, 1950).

3. Cf. Saint Cyprian, De Orat. Domin., n. 8, P.L., 4, 524.

4. “Nobis formam orandi tradens, per quam maxime spes nostra in Deum erigitur, dum ab ipso Deo
edocemur quid ad ipso petendum sit” (“To give us a form of prayer that raises our highest hopes to God,
God himself taught us what we ought to request from him”). Saint Thomas Aquinas, Compendium
Theologiae, II, ch. 3 (Marietti), n. 549.

5. Saint John of the Cross, Canticles of the Soul (The Dark Night), str. 3, 5.

6. ST II-II, q. 83, a. 9, ad 3. “Ad tertium dicendum quod Augustinus, in libro De serm. Dom. in monte,
adaptat septem petitiones donis et beatitudinibus, dicens…” (“Augustine [De serm. Dom. in monte]
adapts the seven petitions to the gifts and beatitudes. He says…”)

7. De Serm. Domini in monte, book II, ch. 11, P.L., 34, 1286.

8. In this enumeration we depart partially from Saint Augustine (ibid.) in what concerns the correspondence
between the Petitions of the Lord’s Prayer and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. But we agree with him in
what concerns the correspondence between the Gifts and the Beatitudes (Cf. ST I-II, q. 69, a. 3, ad 3;
II-II, q. 8, a.7; II-II, q. 9, a.4; II-II, q. 45, a. 6; II-II, q. 52, a.4; II-II, q. 121, a. 2; II-II, q. 139, a. 2).


Title Page 3
Copyright Page 4
Contents 5
Publisher’s Preface 6
Prayer and Intelligence 8
Part I: On Sacred Doctrine 9
Part II: On the Spiritual Life 12
Part III: Notes 24
Liturgy and Contemplation 29
Part I: On Liturgy 30
Part II: On Contemplation 37
Part III: Against Some Misconceptions about Contemplation 48
Notes on the Lord’s Prayer 61
Preface 63
Chapter 1: The Lord’s Prayer 65
Chapter 2: The First Three Petitions 70
Chapter 3: The Last Four Petitions 89
Chapter 4: The Prayer of Jesus 107