Friday, June 1, 2012

Scripture Hidden in Prayers

 Scripture is obviously the basis for many prayers: the Psalms themselves are prayers, the Our Father are the exact words of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the first half of the Hail Mary is directly from Scripture.  Many prayers in the liturgy are taken from Scripture as well: the Sanctus is from Isaiah, the Agnus Dei is based in the preaching of John the Forerunner and the Book of Revelation, and the prayer immediately before receiving the Eucharist are derived from the words of the faithful centurion.  Many other prayers, from all traditions, have their basis in Scripture, though the passages are not always as well known.  Below are just a few of these.

Openings to the Liturgy of the Hours.  Two short prayers of opening,  used at different Hours, are taken directly from the Psalms: "Lord, open my lips / And my mouth will declare Your praise" (Ps 51:15) and "God, come to my assistance. / Lord, make haste to help me" (Ps 70:1).

The Franciscan Blessing.  A blessing used by Franciscans all the way back to St. Francis (he wrote it on a short manuscript given to Br. Leo, which is the only piece of writing we have in Francis' own hand) seems to be merely a part of Franciscan tradition.  However, the three-fold blessing was not created by St. Francis, but instead derives from the words of God Himself, spoken to Moses. 

"The Lord said to Moses, 'Say to Aaron and his sons, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,

The Lord bless you and keep you:
The Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you:
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.

So shall they put My Name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them"
 (Num 6:22-27).

Prayer to the Venerable Cross.  This prayer, a popular prayer used before sleep in the Eastern Church, derives its opening from the Book of Numbers: "Arise, O Lord, and let Thy enemies be scattered; and let them that hate Thee flee before Thee" (Num 10:35).  The prayer is as follows:

Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered; and let those who hate Him flee before His Presence.  As smoke vanishes, so let them vanish; and as wax melts before the fire, so let the demons perish before the presence of those who love God and who sign themselves with the Sign of the Cross and say in gladness: Hail, most precious and life-giving Cross of the Lord, for You drive away the demons by the power of our Lord Jesus Christ Who was crucified on You and Who went down to Hell and trampled on the power of the devil, and gave us You, His venerable Cross, for driving away all enemies.  O most precious and life-giving Cross of the Lord, help me, with our Holy Lady, the Virgin Mother of God and with all the Saints throughout the ages.  Amen.

These are only a very few examples of the countless prayers in the Catholic tradition that derive from Scripture.  As Scripture is the basis of our faith (for even Tradition grew out of the events related in Scripture and out of the words of Scripture), it follows that it would be the basis of our prayers as well.  Though Christianity is a "religion of the 'Word' of God," and not a "religion of the book," that does not mean that we are not devoted to Scripture (vid. CCC #108).  Let us always remember the reverence we owe to the Holy Scriptures.

Nota Bene: The "Prayer to the Venerable Cross" is taken from p. 69 of the Publicans Prayer Book by the Melkite Catholic Eparchy of Newton, published by Sophia Press.

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