This morning while praying the Office of Readings (from the Liturgy of the Hours, the Divine Office, the Breviary), a line from Revelation caught the mind and heart.
"Along with their harps, the elders were holding vessels of gold filled with aromatic spices, which were the prayers of God’s holy people."
To realize that our prayers are held before God in His throne--held by the saints in heaven, held in vessels of gold, filled with aromatic spices--profoundly affects the impetus and worth of praying, and of praising, and to strive in praying as God's holy people. We must pray not simply as people but as holy people belonging to His Real Presence.
For the past three days, the hymn "It Is Well With My Soul" has played over and over in the mind. Decided to do some research as to the author. Horatio Spafford lived in Chicago with his wife Anna and their five children. He was a successful attorney who invested heavily in real estate.
Soon, life trials beset the Spaffords. First, their young and only son died. Then within the year was the Great Chicago Fire. Spafford's real estate investments were destroyed. Within two more years, he and his wife decided to take a ship to England with their four young daughters to assist and be part of the Christian evangelist Dwight Moody's work there.
At the last minute, Horatio Spafford was detained by business but sent his wife and daughters on ahead of him; he was to join them within a few days. But their ship was struck by an iron ship from England, and within twelve minutes it sank. Only Anna, the mother, was pulled unconscious from the ocean. Their four daughters, ages 11 to 2, were lost at sea. Anna sent a telegram to her husband: "Saved alone. What should I do?" He left immediately for England to join his wife.
On the ship, as Horatio Spafford passed the general area in which his daughters drowned (along with over 200 others), he penned the words to "It Is Well With My Soul."
Within a few more years, the Spaffords had another son and two daughters. At age four, their son died of Scarlet Fever. The Spaffords were persecuted by their church [which happened to be Presbyterian but could as easily be Catholic or any other, even of Jesus' time on earth]. Part of the criticism included accusations that their sins had caused their misfortunes.
The Spafford's withdrew and formed a group of adults, and with their own two young daughters and another, moved to Jerusalem where they began ministering aid to Jews, Muslims, and Christian--those with any needs. They decided to not proselytize but to simply be as Christ-like as possible, and to share Christ's presence.
Although Horatio and his wife died in their later years, the group continued, including their two living daughters, and were instrumental in much-needed help in Jerusalem following World War One.
The hymn was put to music. It is beautiful, heartfelt, and true. An agonized expression from the heart of a man in his deep grief yet also a praise of God in deep faith, much good evolved from the tremendous trials that beset this family. And to think that persecution can also result in such goodness--well, we only need to think of Jesus Who Is the role model for us all regarding how to live through, react to, and rise beyond persecution.
Today's Gospel reading includes the Beatitudes. Jesus' words in Matthew 5:12 perdure:
"‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.'"
God bless His Real Presence in us! Let us love one another, little children! Remain in His love!