"Prayer Becomes Desire, Thirst and Hunger"

John Paul II Reflects on Psalm of "Mystical Love"

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VATICAN CITY, APR. 25, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Man´s thirst for God is a need he feels almost physically, John Paul II said today as he continued a series of talks on the Psalms.



When he met this morning with thousands of pilgrims who attended the general audience in St. Peter´s Square, the Holy Father reflected on the mystical dimension of the faith, something which has interested him since his youth.

The Pope focused on Psalm 62, which he said is centered on "mystical love" and "celebrates total adherence to God, beginning with an almost physical longing until it reaches its fulfillment in an intimate and everlasting embrace."

Prayer, he said, "becomes desire, thirst and hunger, because it involves the soul and body." The Pope quoted St. Teresa of Avila, who once described her need for God as a thirst from which we die "if we are deprived of it."

John Paul II thus continued the reflections he began before Easter on the Psalms of the Jewish people, which became part of the prayer of the Church from its early years. The Pope has proposed these poetic compositions as a unique aid to prayer.

Thirst and hunger are terms often used in the Old Testament, as well as by Jesus in the Gospel. They help to understand "how essential and profound is the need for God; without him breath and life itself come to naught," the Pope said. "The Psalmist goes so far as to put physical existence itself in second place, if it means he will be deprived of union with God."

In prayer and the sacraments, "the soul is clasped" to God, the Holy Father said. Indeed, the Psalm speaks of "an embrace, ... an almost physical clasping: Now God and man are in full communion," he added.

"Even when undergoing the dark night," he continued, "we feel protected by the wings of God, as the ark of the covenant was covered by the wings of the cherubim."

"Fear vanishes, the embrace does not clasp the void but God himself," the Holy Father concluded.