— The Lord’s Day —

Sunday Week III

Pondering Jesus’ victorious Word

εὐαγγελίζω (euaggelizo)
“to announce the Good News of victory in battle”

“Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice in the Lord always.
I shall say it again: rejoice!
Your kindness (ἐπιεικὲς, epieikes) should be known to all.
The Lord is near (ἐγγύς, eggus).
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer (προσευχῇ, proseuche) and petition (δεήσει, dehsei), with thanksgiving (εὐχαριστίας, eucharistias),
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

θεωρέω (theoreo)
(“to perceive, discover, ponder a deeper meaning”)

In his Letter to the Phillippians, Saint Paul offers a response to the Gospel question, “What should we do?” It begins with ἐπιεικὲς (epieikes), translated here at “kindness” and as this Year of Mercy unfolds, one might consider "kindness" in terms of the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy (grounded in Matthew 25:31-45, see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2247). In present times and in many situations of tragedy and grief, we instinctively provide for one another. One’s presence to and with another, a hug, food, running errands, shopping for essentials – all sort of acts – flow one to another to provide comfort. Often these actions are couched in silence and tears as no human word provides any adequate insight. As used in Saint Paul’s day, ἐπιεικὲς speaks of ‘what is fitting or appropriate for life in a reasonable and useful way.’ In other words, there is ‘balance’ or ‘moderation’ that is brought to life as tragedy generally slams us to either side of life’s pendulum.

Yet it is still fair to ask, “how?” In the face of great tragedies and heartaches in life, one may legitimately wonder whether or not one has the necessary strength. Pauline teaching directs one to “prayer (προσευχῇ, proseuche) and petition (δεήσει, dehsei).” It is interesting that even here in the translation, it appears that while “prayer” and “petition” certainly are related, they are not necessarily synonyms, although some scholars debate this point. When these nouns are viewed from their counterparts as verbs, the distinction becomes not only clearer, but helpful for Christian living. δέομαι (deomai) is the Greek verb “to ask” or “to petition.” When ‘prayer’ takes on more of a petitionary character, that is, specifically asking for something, δέομαι appears to be the preferred verb. However, when there is nothing specifically requested, προσεύχομαι (proseuchomai) appears to be the preferred verb. So if ‘praying’ (προσεύχομαι) is the activity and this activity is not about asking, what action best describes praying as προσεύχομαι? Saint Paul actually responded to that question earlier: “The Lord is near (ἐγγύς, eggus).”

Throughout the New Testament, ἐγγύς is often used to indicate the ‘nearness’ of the Kingdom of God or the ‘proximity’ of the Lord’s rule in one’s life or throughout the cosmos. ἐγγύς conveys the image of ‘being present to’ or ‘being in the company of another.’ As such, when Saint Paul directs the Philippians “to pray,” it does mean something different from ‘voicing petitions,’ an action that he specifically states following the directive “to pray.” One could conclude then that when Saint Paul speaks of ‘praying’ in the sense of προσεύχομαι, it has everything to do with being drawn into the presence of Jesus Christ. This is prayer that is wordless. This is prayer that is not directed by my present concerns, real as they are in the moment. This is a ‘being with’ that is made possible by the Spirit, a grace that draws us into communion with the Divine Persons and deepens peace-filled bonds of human interaction.