In the Office of Readings for Friday in the Eighteenth week of Ordinary Time, we find these penetrating words of St. John of the Cross, “O my soul, created to enjoy such exquisite gifts, what are you doing, where is your life going? How wretched the blindness of Adam’s children.”
According to St. John of the Cross, the Father has bestowed upon souls the same love that he has shared with the Son from all eternity. Through the inexhaustible grace of the Triune God, we have been made to “possess the same goods by participation that the Son possesses by nature.” But it is precisely these goods that we forfeit when we, like Adam, go after things too great and marvels beyond us. Giving ear to the crafty serpent, we too seek the knowledge which puffs up, when the Lord has fashioned our souls to dwell in the silence and peace of communion with Him.
Blinded by vain ambition and disordered appetites, we children of Adam often prefer the fleeting pleasures of sin to the beneficence of the God who created us from dust in order that we might reign with Him in glory. How wretched the blindness of Adam’s children.
Thanks be to God that, in the fullness of time, the eternal Son of the Father became man to wipe clean the record of our ancient sinfulness so that we could share in His redeeming work, give perfect glory to the Father, and enjoy the exquisite gifts of His friendship and love. In order to extend these graces of the incarnation, Christ also left to His Church a sacred liturgy – which is nothing less than the fullness of divine worship and the extension of his life on earth. Indeed, He did so in order that, even after ascending to the Father, He could continue to be present to us and make us possess the same goods that He possesses by nature (again, to use the words of St. John of the Cross).
Most Catholics know that the Sacred Liturgy includes the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass along with the Sacraments. But what many do not realize is that it also consists of the Divine Office (or the Liturgy of the Hours). While we partake of Christ’s body and blood and are thus united to Him in the Holy Eucharist, it is in the Divine Office that we are made sharers in His priestly prayer and extend His sacrifice of thanksgiving to the hours and work of each day. This is what it means, in the words of St. John of the Cross, to “join in the work of the Trinity… in a real and perceptible way.” It is to be made sharers not only in Christ’s work of redemption, but in His work of offering perfect glory and praise to our Father in heaven.
In making us sharers in the unceasing prayer of Christ, the Divine Office also helps us avoid the primordial temptation of Adam by fixing our eyes on Heaven routinely throughout the day. The truth is that we are fickle creatures who are far too easily storm tossed by the bellows of sinful desires and the winds of temporal affairs. We therefore have constant need of being drawn back to our true anchor, which is communion with God. This is the genius of the Divine Office. In calling us to prayer at different times throughout the day and by making us sharers in the very prayer of Christ Himself, it guards against temptation and orients our entire life not around the temporal opus hominum (the work of man), but around the eternal and unchanging opus Dei (the work of God).
This is precisely how we enter into God-like union and share in the exquisite gift of divine love that Adam had forfeited. It is through participation in the fullness of divine worship – the Sacred Liturgy of the Catholic Church. Praised be Jesus Christ that He has not left us, the children of Adam, in our wretched blindness and waywardness, but instead has given us the means to change Adam's course and walk the narrow path of divine sonship with the light of Christ leading the way.