Today’s oration, 11th Sunday after Pentecost, petitions God to “dismiss what our conscience fears and to add what our prayer dares not ask”. What does our conscience fear if not sin? When we take a look back, we can sometimes feel fear at the thought of the evil we have done, the people we have harmed or scandalised. When we look at the future, we may be afraid of falling back into past sinfulness or of doing still greater harm. By asking the Lord to do away with what our conscience fears, we are asking His omnipotent mercy not only to forgive our past offences, but also to guard us against future failings. In this way, the petition resembles the embolism of the traditional Roman Rite Mass: “Deliver us, O Lord, from every evil: past, present and to come….”.
When we beseech God to “add what our prayer dares not ask”, we are acknowledging our very limited capacity to even imagine the admirable goods that lie in store for those who fear and love God. “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, it has not entered into the heart of man what things God has prepared for those who love Him”, says the Prophet Isaiah in a passage that St Paul made his own centuries later. For sure, what God wants to give us is beyond our wildest dreams, and so we cannot possibly ask for it. Today’s oration does the asking, and as always, we see how Holy Mother Church always finds the right way to express our needs. How could it be otherwise when we know that her liturgy, which developed organically from the very sources of our faith, sanctioned by so many saints and handed down by Tradition, is guided by the Spirit of God Himself?
When we come to contemplate and understand, even a little, these truths, then can happen to us what happened to the deaf and dumb man of today’s Gospel. He was deaf, meaning he could not hear and understand the word of God; he was dumb, meaning he could not sing the praises of God. But when Jesus enters his life and pronounces the word of healing, he begins to hear, he listens, and then begins to sing the praises of God. His conscience has been unloaded of all fear, and his prayer begins to ask for the sublime, whose fulfilment will come in time, a very short time for those who love God, for this life is very, very brief…
Yes, He hath done all things well: He hath made the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak.