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Luke 18:9-14 in the Catechism

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Catechism References to Luke 18:9-14
Luke 18:9-14 2559, 2613
Luke 18:    9 588
Luke 18:   13 2631 2667 2839
The whole parable is alluded to in par. 2559 which contains a definition of prayer from John Damascene (De fide orthodoxa 3, 24) and ends with a famous Augustinian passage on the theological motivation for prayer:  "Man is a beggar before God"  In between these two patristic texts, the aspect of prayer as rising from human creatureliness and as a gift of grace is highlighted with references from Psalm 130:1 and Rom. 8:26.
Psalm 130 is popularly known as the De profundis.  The first line is referred to because of its poignant description of a man calling upon God from "the depths" which can be anything from "depths of sorrow" to "depths of Sheol".  This is combined with the passage from Luke 18:14 "He who humbles himself shall be exalted…".  The combination of passages warranted the author of the Catechism to write "Humility is the foundation of prayer" which is recalled in the Augustinian phrase at the end of the paragraph.
Rom. 8:26 is the famous Pauline passage about  the Holy Spirit as the one who prays in and with us whenever we do not know how we ought to pray.  The passage serves to highlight the theological conviction that even prayer is a gift from God.
Paragraph 2613 presents the Lucan parables on prayer:  the "importunate friend", the "importunate widow" and the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector.  This latter — the author writes — concerns "the humility of the heart that prays".  While no reference is given, the idea of the parable as having to do with humility seems to be derived from the saying "He who humbles hijmself shall be exalted."  A patristic example of  the idea that the publican’s humility is the well from which his prayer springs is found in Augustine’s Sermon 115 where the pride of the Pharisee and the lowliness of the publican are compared.  A key idea in this comparison is a citation from Psalm 138:6  "For the Lord is on high and looks on the lowly and knows the proud from afar."  God knows the proud Pharisee "from afar" and does not forgive him; though the publican stood "a long way off" God watched him closely.  "Listen to some more of the tax collector’s humility" Augustine invites his audience.  What follows this is a description of the way the publican prayed:  he didn’t look up, he beat his breasts and he asked for forgiveness.
The paragraph ends with the declaration that the Church continues to make its own the prayer of the publican in the petition "Kyrie eleison".  I think this is inexact since the publican does not use eleeo but hilaskomai.  To be more exact, it is the prayer of the lepers "… have mercy on us" (cf. Luke 17:11-19) which is more akin to the prayer of the Church.  But the association with the prayer of the publican is more appropriate since the lepers were not asking for forgiveness but rather for a benign regard towards their condition as people needing to be restored.
Paragraph 2631 has for its context the prayer of petition.  The prerequisite for a prayer of petition, it states, is asking for forgiveness.  Paragraph 2667 is about the invocation "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners" as handed down through the Eastern spiritual writers.  Finally, 2839 links the prayer of the publican with the petition "Forgive us our trespasses" in the Lord’s prayer.

Update: October 23,2010

A Tagalog ng translation of the above paragraphs in the Catechism is available at Bibliya Tagala.

Originally posted 2007-10-23 21:44:50. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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