Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Invocation: Beginning Aright

O God the Father, Creator of heaven and earth, Have mercy upon us.

O God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy upon us.

O God the Holy Ghost, Sanctifier of the faithful, Have mercy upon us.

O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, one God, Have mercy upon us.

The Litany begins with an Invocation of the Holy and Undivided Trinity. This is as it should and must be, for the revelation of One God in Trinity of Persons is at the core of all Christian prayer, thought, and practice. By locating this fact at the head of this great offering of intercession, we make clear our appeal to the True God. It also reminds us that we are not “making” anything happen in this or any other prayer; we are responding to the work of God in us and through us. This is central to a healthy, scriptural, and balanced understanding of Christian intercession.

It is God who “creates, redeems, and sanctifies.” Christ is the Great High Priest, through whom all our intercessions find their meaning, validity, and power (indeed, the entire Litany is addressed to the Second Person of the Holy Trinity). The Holy Spirit activates our intercession, giving us the intention and words. The Father’s Life passes through the Son by the Spirit into us, bringing us into our appointed place as participants in the Divine Life of prayerful communion – a communion of wills. The final petition of the Invocation, addressed to the “holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, one God” is an explicit affirmation of this implicit understanding of what it means to pray in a deep unity with God “on behalf of all mankind” as a Christian.

How many times are we encouraged to “name it and claim it” in our American Christianity, approaching God as one would anyone else? In so doing, we mistake what is in fact a privilege and gift for a personal right. The gift of knowing God in Trinity is a revelation from the Divine to us. We could never reason our way to it. It is a Holy Mystery. That mystery of the Divine must be at the center of our intercessions. We must not delude ourselves into attempting to “control outcomes” or form a self-concocted picture of what God “must do.” Rather joining Christ at Gethsemane, we must lay all our intercessions, all our prayers and desires at the feet of the Holy God whose “never failing care and love” will do “better things than we can desire or pray for.”

It is precisely for this reason that we begin this and most Litanies with an invocation of God the Holy Trinity.

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