Prayer is our response to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who speaks to us in every moment of our existence. His word reaches us in many and various ways: through the created world of nature, through the Old and New Testaments and through the multitude of people who touch our lives for better or for worse. Christians believe that God speaks most fully in the person and work of Jesus Christ his Son and Word, whom he sent into the world to redeem us and lead us to himself. Jesus, God’s Word-made-flesh, is the light that helps us find the face of God, the path we must follow if we are to grow into likeness with God himself, the vocation of all human beings.
In prayer we make our response of thanksgiving and praise, acknowledging God’s goodness. It addition we bring the needs of the whole world and of all who suffer before God’s face, asking for his mercy and confiding them to his care. This is done in union with the great family of witnesses who have heard God’s voice and responded to his will throughout the ages: Mary the mother of Jesus and the angels and saints.
Christians express their worship most perfectly when they gather to celebrate the Eucharist (Mass). The Mass is the Church’s primary act of praise and thanksgiving, and is celebrated daily at Glenstal. The monastic community gathers with our guests and visitors to be fed from the table of God’s Word and from the table of his Body and Blood. Uniting ourselves with Christ’s offering of himself, made present under sacramental signs, we receive a foretaste and pledge of the heavenly banquet in which we one day hope to fully share.
In Christian tradition, the two most cherished times for prayer are in the morning (Lauds) and in the evening (Vespers). At Lauds we consecrate the day to God, recalling and celebrating the light of Christ who visits us like the dawn from on high. At Vespers, remembering that Christ’s light will never die, we give thanks for the day that is past, praising the God who has done great things for us. The tradition of the Church has also given us the beautiful office of Compline, in which we commend ourselves to God’s protection before we go to sleep.
Each of these offices is made up almost entirely of scripture. The major part always consists of psalms. The Book of Psalms is the Bible’s hymn-book, in which the people of Israel found words to express their joys, sorrows, praise, thanksgiving and needs to God. In their turn, Christians have always accorded the psalms a central place in their prayer and worship. One of the ways in which they made the psalms their own was to see Christ himself present in them. And so as we chant the psalms together in the Abbey Church several times throughout each day we are joining ourselves to the prayer of the whole Church – the Body of Christ worshipping the Father in communion with Jesus, its Head.