No one can long endure self-imposed seclusion. From the disgrace of our hiding places, our hearts beseech God ...
I gained new insight into prayer through a book by Tomáš Halík. In Night of the Confessor, the Czech priest writes: “To pray means to be aware that I can be seen. The awareness of living in ‘unhiddenness’ (this is an exact translation of the Greek word for ‘truth’) transforms people.”
After the Fall, shame drives Adam and Eve into hiding: The man and the woman hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden (Gn 3:8). Aware of their own nakedness, they cannot bear the gaze of God who calls out to them, Where are you?
But no one can long endure such self-imposed seclusion. From the disgrace of our hiding places, our hearts beseech God, “Look toward me, and have pity on me, for I am alone and afflicted” (Ps 25:16). The theme recurs throughout the Psalms: “From you my groaning is not hid. … My faults are not hid from you” (Ps 38:10; 69:6). A core human plea begs for God’s care and protection: “O Lord of hosts, look down from heaven, and see” (Ps 80:15). What better way to describe God’s glory than to declare, “The Lord looked down from his holy height, from heaven he beheld the earth, to hear the groaning of the prisoners, to release those doom to die” (Ps 102:20). We long to surrender the covert and live unhidden before our God.
The salvation brought by Jesus Christ releases us from our hiding. Jesus brings us close to his Father “who sees what no man sees” (Mt 6:6). The Gospel assures us that “nothing is concealed from him; all lies bare and exposed to the eyes of him” (Heb 4:13). The tax collector in the Temple, overcome with remorse (Lk 18:13-14) and the poor widow giving alms in the Temple (Lk 21:1-4) are alike in this: They both act with the assurance that God is seeing them … and that being seen will lead to transformation. Even when guilt-ridden Zacchaeus tries to hide in a sycamore tree, Jesus sees him, discovering in him his deeper desire for Jesus. That awareness animated Zacchaeus and prevented him from ever hiding again.
By prayer we yield to the liberation of being seen by God. We quit our hiding places to hear Jesus say, Where are you? I mean to stay with you. By the way, the word “unhiddenness” is an exact translation of the Greek word for “truth”— aleteia.
Follow Fr. Cameron’s series on prayer here.
See some of the earlier pieces below: