As a result of Saint Benedict Center’s present situation, we Brothers and Sisters have been compelled to travel a bit to find reverent Masses. When a Traditional Latin Mass is not available, we find ourselves at an Eastern Rite.
This morning, we all assisted at the Maronite Divine Liturgy. One prayer of the Liturgy, which I must have heard many times before, particularly struck me this morning. It’s from the Anaphora of Saint Sixtus, just after the Our Father and shortly before the “Invitation to Holy Communion”:
O Lord, hasten to transform all that is harmful and detrimental into that which will help and benefit us, that we may raise glory to you, now and for ever.
For what it’s worth, this is what that prayer looks like, with its preceding rubric, in Arabic (click on the image to see a larger version):
A passage from Saint Paul came to mind as I meditated on the liturgical text after Mass: “Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good” (Rom. 12:21).
Then came to mind my next-favorite thing to hear from the priest in the confessional (after the words of absolution, naturally):
Passio Domini nostri Jesu Christi, merita Beatae Mariae Virginis et omnium sanctorum, quidquid boni feceris vel mail sustinueris sint tibi in remissionem peccatorum, augmentum gratiae et praemium vitae aeternae.
May the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the merits of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of all the saints and also whatever good you do or evil you endure merit for you the remission of your sins, the increase of grace and the reward of everlasting life. Amen.
The Maronite liturgical text, the Pauline verse, and the prayer from the Roman Ritual for Penance all have the idea of good overcoming evil. What I like about the Maronite prayer is three things: First, that it shows that this “transforming” of an evil into a good is something Our Lord Himself does; second, that we have the Christian audacity to ask him to “hasten” to do it; and third, that it gives as the reason Our Lord should do so, “that we may raise glory to you, now and for ever.” This is our very purpose in life, to glorify God; to present Him with His own glory as the reason He should hasten to transform our evils into goods puts Him in the first place, where He belongs. Moreover, the “now and for ever” part includes, under the rubric of giving God glory, a prayer for our own eternal salvation. We are in second place to be sure, but we’re not out of the picture! For Our Lord is, as the Eastern Liturgies tell us, the “Lover of mankind.”
The text also gives us clear hope that what is harmful and detrimental — whether temptations to sin, physical evils, or emotional suffering — can indeed be turned into something that will both help and benefit us. God’s grace indeed does this, and because it does, the prayers that we too often make that some “bad thing” just go away or be taken from us are often wasted efforts. We should instead resign ourselves to God’s Holy Will and embrace the Cross, asking for God’s transforming grace to work in us. In his Agony in the Garden, Jesus gave us a prayer to utter in such occasions:
My Father, if this chalice may not pass away, but I must drink it, thy will be done. (Matt. 26:42)
Thus, the “Problem of Evil,” which has vexed so many minds for so many ages, becomes what Joe Sobran called, “The Problem of Good.” Here is how the great man said it:
How can God be both good and omnipotent, when there is so much evil in the world? I can’t answer this one, and it has tormented believers so deeply that the Scriptures themselves ask it many times. It’s known as the Problem of Evil. I can say only that it’s trumped by the real mystery, the Problem of Good.
How Evil gets “trumped” by Good is part of the mystery of divine grace, which is a pure mystery we cannot adequately comprehend. But we know by faith that it exists, and we are enjoined to pray for it, thereby making ourselves receptive to the gift of God when it comes.
Now, thanks to our dear Maronites, I know a wonderful prayer for that very thing, and so do you!