What this women teaches: Prayer should always accompany Fasting. St Vincent Ferrer wrties: At this Lenten Season, prayer and fasting are combined, as leading us onwards to a sincere repentance; they are combined because of our two-fold nature. We are all formed of the flesh, and the substance of the flesh, which belongs to earth, ever tempts us to sin; and also we possess a heart which, except it is hindered by the flesh, longs for things spiritual and heavenly…Because there is no peace between them, the Church seeing this controversy, helps the soul, and ordains these afflictions and fastings for the subjugation of the flesh. She brings before us today prayer, by means of which the soul is lifted up to God, and by such an ascension gains not only victory over the flesh, but also over all the powers of evil…By this one fast of forty days and forty nights, our Blessed Lord incites us to fast; Jesus fasted; and if Christ, who had no contradiction between the flesh and the spirit, did so, how much rather ought we”
Maldonatus: “We should pray with undoubting faith. Christ seems to have wondered at the faith of none except Gentiles-i.e., of this woman and of the Centurion. The faith of the Gentiles was greater than that of his own People.”
“O woman, great is thy faith!” St John Chrysostom: He had repelled her that the event of the matter might be suitable to this saying, that He might adorn the woman with a resplendent crown.
Prayer ought to be persevering~Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.
“Her purpose was unshaken, though she met with three discouragements. To her prayer Jesus ‘answered not a word,’ treating her with contumacy as if excommunicated, and, therefore, unworthy of any reply to her petition. She evidently continued in her request, as if to say, I may be excommunicated, but I fly to Thee alone for mercy, who hast the power of healing. ‘Have mercy on em, Lord.” Teh very disciples were moved with compassion for her, and the ‘besought Him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.’ O Lord, the nations may say indeed now that thou art cruel! Then Jesus, seeming on one side to be hard-hearted, yet on the other to be compassionate, said, repulsing the woman a second time, ‘I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ He came to bring man a universal redemption; He was sent to all, and He came to all, ‘That all through Him might be saved;’ but all shall not be saved, because they will not be so; as slaves, sometimes, when the price of their ransom had been paid, refused their liberty, saying, I would rather remain here, and as I am…In this sense Jesus Christ was sent to all men; but in anther, as to His bodily advent, preaching and working miracles, personally, as it were, He was sent only to the ‘lost sheep of the house of Israel….’ This being the case, the constancy of the woman becomes more marked; three times was she repulsed, and yet she ceased not to pray. In the issue of her prayer she could say with David, “Blessed be God, who hath not turned away my prayer, nor His mercy from me” (Ps 66:20). A story is told of a man visiting the Holy Sepulchre, and being preserved by daily continuous prayer, amidst infidels in whose possession it was. The journey homewards was accomplished, and the the pilgrim said, ‘I am safe now,’ and the prayer for protection was omitted. Alas! as he reached his home, a fire broke out, and several members of his family perished in the flames.” St Vincent Ferrer.
“It is recorded, that a certain soldier, much loved by his general, asked an apple of him as a token of his regard. The general, firstly, gave him the command of a fortress, then presented him with a war horse, and then with splendid armor. Still the soldier begged for the apple, which at last was given to him. Had it been given at first he would have lacked the other gifts. So was it with this poor woman; Jesus by keeping her waiting continuously, added to His gifts. He gave her faith, stability, humility, and love, first, and then granted her one petition after all. St Vincent Ferrer.
Prayer ought to be humble: “For our sakes, too, this answer was delayed; that we might humble ourselves in devoted prayer, and our souls so much the more ascend on high. They in a church who kneel afar off are sooner heard than they who, in their loftier notions, take up their station near the altar; humility adds to efficacy.” St Vincent Ferrer.
“It was and especially humble prayer that St Francis made, when he passed whole nights in repeating these words, ‘My God, what art Thou, and what am I?’ At the sight of a God so great and so good, he bowed himself down to the dust; thinking on his nothingness, he was penetrated by a contrition to which charity gave birth, and besought Him with tears to hasten to his help.” Dictionary of Christian Anecdotes.
St Ignatius was once traveling with many of his companions. Each of them carried on his shoulders a little bag containing what was most necessary to him; a good Christian perceived that they were tired, and was inwardly moved to relieve them by carrying their baggage; he offered his services, and conjured them to accept his offer, as if he had demanded a great favor of them; they yielded to his prayers. When they had arrived at the hotel where they were compelled to rest, the man who had followed them, seeing that the good fathers set themselves at some distance from one another to pray, fell on his knees at their example, and kept in that position as long as the fathers were praying. The space of time which they had fixed to devote to the exercise of prayer having expired, they rose, and what was their surprise to see that this man without letters and little instructed had prayed like them for a considerable time. They expressed this to him. ‘What have you done all this time?’ they asked of him. His answer edified them much, for he replied, ‘I had nothing to say but: those who pray so devoutly are saints, and I am their beast of burden; Lord, my intention is to do what they do, I say to you all that they say.’ This for the rest of the journey was his ordinary prayer, and he attained, by this course, to a sublime dgree of prayer.” Dictionary of Christian Anecdotes.
The efficacy and the consolation of prayer. “It is related of the virgins Flora and Mary, who were beheaded the 24th November, in A.D. 851, that they promised to pray as soon as they should be with God, that their fellow-prisoners might be restored to their liberty. Accordingly St Eulogius and the rest were enlarged (i.e., freed from their constraint) six days after there death. Lives Of The Saints.
“The life of St Cuthbert was almost a continual prayer. There was no business, no company, no place, how public soever, which did not afford him an opportunity, and even a fresh motive to pray. Not content to pass the day in this exercise, he continued it constantly for several hours of the night, which was to him a time of light and interior delights. Whatever he saw seemed to speak to him of God, and invite him to His love. His conversation was on God or heavenly things, and he would have regretted a single moment which had not been employed with God or for His honor, as utterly lost. The inestimable riches which he found in God showed him how precious every moment is, in which he had it in his power to enjoy the Divine converse.
“The immensity of God, who is present in us and all creatures, and whom millions of worlds cannot confine or contain; His eternity, to which all time co-exists, and which has neither beginning, end, nor succession; the unfathomed abyss of His judgments; the sweetness of His Providence; His adorable sanctity; His justice; wisdom, goodness, mercy, and love, especially as displayed in the wonderful mystery of the Incarnation, and in the doctrine, actions, and sufferings, of our Blessed Redeemer; in a word, all the incomprehensible attributes of the Divinity, and the mysteries of His grace and mercy, successively filled his mind and heart, and kindled in his soul the most sweet and ardent affections, in which his thirst and his delight, which were always fresh and always insatiable, gave him a kind of anticipated taste of paradise. For holy contemplation discovers to a soul a new, most wonderful world, whose beauty, riches, and pure delights, astonish and transport her out of herself. St Teresa, coming from prayer, said she came from a world greater and more beautiful beyond comparison than a thousand worlds, like that which we behold with our corporeal eyes, could be. St Bernard was always torn from this holy exercise with regret.” Lives Of The Saints.
This post was excerpted from SERMONS ANCIENT AND MODERN.