Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Fr. Faber on Aridity in Prayer

Frederick Faber, the great hymn writer of Faith of Our Fathers fame, wrote on many topics.  Earlier today, I ran across some verses he wrote on aridity in prayer.  Aridity is the demon that is always lurking for those of us who attempt to keep some regular discipline of the Divine Office and/or mental prayer.  There are the days when prayer is easy and full of consolation and then there are those when dry words stick to the roofs of our mouths and mental prayer seems to be no more than an echo chamber of our jumbled thoughts.

Faber was neither a systematic nor an ascetic theologian.  He wrote practical advice for those living in the world, often in the forms of hymns that served as catechesis on various aspects of the Christian life.  He once said, “Faith is letting down our nets into the transparent deeps at the Divine command, not knowing what we shall take.”  His advice on aridity in prayer is very much in the same spirit, seeing what seems to us to be fruitless as an opportunity for grace.

O for the happy days gone by,
When love ran smooth and free,
Days when my spirit so enjoyed
More than earth's liberty!

Then, when I knelt to meditate,
Sweet thoughts came o'er my soul,
Countless and bright and beautiful,
Beyond my own control.

What can have locked those fountains up ?
Those visions what hath stayed?
What sudden act hath thus transformed
My sunshine into shade?

This freezing heart, O Lord! this will,
Dry as the desert sand,
Good thoughts that will not come, bad thoughts
That come without command,—

But if this weariness hath come
A present from on high,
Teach me to find the hidden wealth
That in its depths may lie.

Thrice blessed be this darkness then,
This deep in which I lie,
And blessed be all things that teach
God's dear supremacy!