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Sheer prayer: more McCabe

March 22, 2010

What I really like about this next quote is the way he thinks theologically about prayer, similarly to how I recently was struggling to think theologically about church… I also like the way he links prayer and eucharist (“The Mass”) christologically. What do you think?

He [Jesus] is not first of all an individual person who then prays to the Father. His prayer to the Father is what constitutes him as who he is. He is not just one who prays, not even one who prays best. He is sheer prayer. In other words the crucifixion/resurrection of Jesus is simply the showing forth, the visibility in human terms, in human history, of the relationship of the Father which constitutes the person who is Jesus. The prayer of Jesus which is his crucifixion, his absolute renunciation of himself in love to the Father, is the eternal relationship of Father and Son made available as part of our history part of the web of mankind of which we are fragments, a part of the web that gives it a new centre, a new pattern.

All our prayer, whether the Mass itself or those reflections from the Mass that we call our prayers, is a sharing in the sacrifice of Christ and therefore a sharing in the life of the Trinity, a sharing that is the Spirit. All our prayer is, in a very precise sense, in Spirit and in truth. For us to pray is for us to be taken over, possessed by the Holy Spirit which is the life of love between Father and Son….

So our stance in prayer is not simply, or even primarily, that of the creature before the Creator but that of the Son before the Father. At the most fundamental level, the level which defines prayer as prayer, we receive from the Father not as creatures receiving what they need to make up their deficiencies, but as the Son eternally receives his being from the Father. Our prayer is an expression in history of our eternal triune life…

18 Comments leave one →
  1. March 22, 2010 2:26 am

    McCabe is not my favorite. The Trinitarian life is always Christological for the believer, (Eph. 2:18).And the Atonement is also always penal, and it moves out of the position of satisfaction. There can never be a conflict between justice and mercy in God however. And the Atonement is always “objective’! Something both effected in God, as well as by God. (2 Cor.5: 20-21) This is also “our” Gospel ministry also!

    • March 22, 2010 7:09 am

      Looks like we see atonement quite differently then. For me the atonement is objective but not penal and precisely because of how I read 2 Cor 5: 21. Perhaps I should post on that. Must check to see if I haven’t already.

      • March 22, 2010 2:59 pm


        Indeed there are so many Atonement theories today. And the Church, at its Councils has never made a definte pronouncement on this doctrine and subject.It has to be experienced to be understood and interpreted really. This is the basis however of the whole biblical revelation! And this is the reality with all living truth. Truth has to be lived thru, before it can be understood. And here interpretation is dependent on life itself. I think we are on safe ground to insist that we must approach the Cross and Death of Christ from the point of view of this sense of experience, of a living emotional and regenerative experience. Perhaps we can say, it is better to experience the Atonement than to fully try to understand it. Having said that it is the tendency in our day to rationalize, to ethicize the Atonement, etc. But in my opinion the moral influence theories need to be checked and balanced by the judicial aspect, from which the whole of the Law & Gospel flows. And here again, we come back to a doctrine of God. Of which, we simply must begin, for the Death of Christ is always first God’s act and action! (Rom. 3:25-26)

  2. March 23, 2010 12:45 am

    Christ’s life is God’s action, but that does not mean that every action committed against Christ is also God’s action does it? Christ’s life is theoformm as cruciform. That does not mean that those who crucify Christ also image God in the same way and that their actions are God’s in the same sense. God’s agency is clear. As triune God, God lives the life of the Son in conformity to ‘the will of the Father’. God also raises Jesus and thus completes the revelatory victory over sin and the devil which frees us from sin. The resurrection of the crucified is the ultimate act of grace, making available to us Christ’s faithfulness for the sake of our faithful participation in him by the Spirit. Ecce homo, ecce dei (scuse me if my Latin is incorrect).

    • March 23, 2010 1:33 am

      But note St. Paul in Gal. 3: 13, in connection with verse 14. And again, the Trinitarian life is centered in Christ, the Mediator. And we must not stray from the biblical epistemology, its limits and validity.

  3. Ann permalink
    March 23, 2010 1:04 am

    Just so you know, it’s a funny conincidence, by that’s my painting on this post (and I’m happy it’s here so that’s not a complaint.)
    Not the point. The point is that our relationship with God should be at a minimum (and should be more) than our relationships with others. Certainly our relationships with other are not just penal based; they are humorous, sad, frightening, tender, erotic, etc., etc.
    We limit our relationship with God to narrow “theological” bands. So we don’t think to complain about mosquitoes, or cats that bother us all the time for attention (line one of mine does). But we also don’t ask God for help with solving project problems at work, and we should.
    What part of life is not relevant to God? None. What part of God is not relevant to life? None.
    We do not make that real but should.

    • March 23, 2010 1:39 am

      Ann, I am speaking to the “theological” nature of the Atonement, both in the Law and forensic…the satisfaction & penal, unto the grace of God and the “Eternal Law.”

    • April 5, 2010 3:06 am

      where can we se more of your paintings?

    • April 5, 2010 3:08 am

      @ Ann, where can we see more of your paintings?

  4. March 23, 2010 1:37 am

    Thanks so much Ann for allowing your wonderful painting to be stolen all over the internet by people like me and whoever I stole it from.
    If you get a hold of the original article by McCabe in his book God Still Matters you will note he makes a similar point later in the article. Prayer is about learning to desire well, and that means beginning with the everyday desires we have now, not just the ones we think we should have.

  5. March 23, 2010 3:48 am

    Irish, I am wondering about how this thread developed from the post. I think McCabe has a thoroughly Christological account of our participation in the triune life – cf in relation to prayer above. Is it the participationary nature of our relation to Christ (rather than penal) which concerns you?

  6. March 23, 2010 4:52 am

    No, I have no problem with our relationship and participation in Christ (2 Pet. 1:4). Though I see this more as covenantal than ontological in the quote from 2 Peter. I just see that Christ is/as the center & Medatior within the life of the Triune God for the Christian. And as I have said, the Law of God (Theonomy somewhat) is overlooked in the Church now. And McCabe? Well again, just not my cup of tea.

    • March 23, 2010 2:50 pm

      When I speak of Theonomy, I am not so much advocating every modern aspect in certain theology. It was Tillich that first used the word I believe?

  7. mary somerville permalink
    March 29, 2010 11:59 pm

    I especially like the line that says “Jesus is sheer prayer” 🙂

  8. jamesr permalink
    October 24, 2012 3:32 am

    To me this is a picture that represent Jesus’ Incarnation (him Being all man and all God “word made flesh”) His left side represents manly side and right Godly side…12th grade theology swag

  9. December 17, 2012 1:37 am

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