God the Father
Although the theology of Fr Preca is Christo-centric, he never sidelines the mystery of the Triune God. He achieved this balance because his spirituality was not of a pietistic nature but based on the Church's creed.
The theology contemporary to our Founder emphasized Christ's mystery. Not that God the Father and the Holy Spirit were not mentioned, but the necessary balance was missing. Today Pneumatology (theology about the Holy Spirit) has flourished substantially. However, theologians lament that the theology about the Father is still incomplete.
Fr Preca has important intuitions as regards to the theology about God the Father. It is our task to scrutinize the patrimony left by our Founder - using the tools provided by today's theology - to bring to the surface his theology about the First Person of the Holy Trinity.
In order to understand the theology of Fr Preca about God the Father, it is imperative to know the fundamentals of dogmatic theology. We have to accept the limits of human language, which has the difficult task of trying to describe divine realities. Although the Father is equal to the Son and the Holy Spirit, he is mentioned first. He is eternally un-begotten. Understanding himself from eternity, he begets the Son, although coeternal with him. The eternal love between these two divine Persons is the Holy Spirit. So one understands why Fr Preca addresses most of his prayers primarily to the Father. Almost all his prayers in The Watch are directed to the Father. He evidently follows the pattern we find in liturgical prayers.
When Fr Preca addresses his prayers to the Father, his main intention is to acknowledge Him as the beginning of everything. But our Founder was very precise about the Holy Trinity. He also mentions the other Persons of the Triune God. The Morning Prayer that is found in The Watch, ends thus:
"Holy Father, Lord of heaven and earth, grant me your Holy Spirit through this same Jesus Christ. Amen"
It is important to underline that in this prayer he connects the work of the Father with that of the Holy Spirit when he says that "to glorify You I, your creature, need your Holy Spirit". Here comes to mind the comment made by a modern theologian:
"As God, the Father is absolute being; as Father, he is relational being for he exists as Father only through his relationship with the Son, and also in relationship to the Holy Spirit"
Jean Galot, in Gregorianum, 1998, 4
We have already mentioned The Watch. Perhaps the most beautiful writings of the Founder about the Father are to be found in this booklet, in the form short prayers. It is interesting to study their structure. Fr Preca offers to God the Father the wounds of Jesus Christ and then he puts his asking for a spiritual or a temporal grace.
In this regard, one can understand that the passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ was a sacrifice offered to the Father for the expiation of our sins. These prayers mention only the wounds of which Fr Preca had special devotion since they are the visible signs of the passion left on the risen Christ. Before his passion, Christ offered bread and wine not merely as signs but as an anticipation of the passion in which his flesh and blood were offered to God the Father. In fact the word Eucharist in Greek means thanksgiving.
Thus we may say that Jesus offered his thanksgiving to God the Father for his imminent sacrifice on the cross for mankind.
The Founder urges us to offer to God the Father, together with the wounds of Jesus our Saviour, all our sufferings, joys, achievements, failures and actions. God the Father responds to this attitude by bestowing on us the Holy Spirit to guide us towards truth and holiness.
Perhaps, Christ's self-offering as a sacrifice to the Father, is best reflected in the prayer of The Victim (The Watch - 3:15pm). Here the Founder is very innovative. It may be that he is reproducing some reflections from the Fathers of the Church. He speaks of Christ's blood praying the Father for peace, forgiveness of man's sins, and for eternal glory.
In another prayer published in the booklet, A Penitent Soul Speaks to God, the Founder imagines Christ's blood verbally interceding for us: "0 God, Father of the blessed Jesus Christ, the victim of all us sinners, look upon him and out of respect listen to his blood and save us". In this and similar prayers he speaks about Christ's blood offered to the Father for the remission of our sins. We note that Fr Preca makes the same affirmations when he mentions the wounds of Christ. Particular insistence on the idea of Christ's shedding of his blood as a divine requirement for the remission of the sins of mankind and satisfaction of God's anger is not so much in line with significant modern theology. But we are to remember that Fr Preca necessarily reflected his times and the theology he studied for the priesthood.
As Christians and SDC Members, we ought to understand the fact that our life should be an offering to the Father, following the example of our Saviour. Our intention should not be mainly that of self-realization. Today, theologians such as Bernard Haring, criticize the notion of self-realization, because in this approach to Christian life, the end would be the self and not God. In his writings and especially in his prayers, Fr Preca insists that we should offer our lives to God, in order to glorify the Father in his goodness and immensity. In our concrete situation, we can say that we should submit our will to God by being obedient to our legitimate superiors.
Again, in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus used the word Abba , which is the Aramaic word which children used to address their father. This same word is used once again in the letter to the Romans. St Paul says that we can use the word, Abba to address our Father in heaven:
"For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of adoption. When we cry, 'Abba!, Father!', it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. If, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him"
Rom 8, 15-17
When we are praying The Watch, we are addressing our Father in heaven. With this conviction, we can pray The Watch in a better way, conscious of being the children of God.
Fr Preca also mentions the relationship between the Father and the Virgin Mary. In the prayer Honour to the Blessed Virgin Mary (The Watch - 4:15pm) he says that "God the Father gave you (Mary) heaven and earth" .In the prayer Thanksgiving for the Blessed Virgin (The Watch - 4:45pm) he give thanks to God the Father for all the gifts he showered on the Virgin Mary , especially the privilege of the Immaculate Conception. In the Salve Filia Patris (Hail Daughter of God the Father), Fr Preca describes Mary as the privileged daughter of God the Father.
As a last reflection, it is also worth noting that Fr Preca, although he followed the Church tradition and addressed most of his prayers to the Father, he did not devise any programme in his honour, when we know that he made special programmes in honour of the Son, the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. But also here, he followed the example of the Church, which addresses her prayers to God the Father, but does not hold specific feasts in his honour.
May this year, dedicated to the First Person of the Holy Trinity, serve as a golden opportunity to reflect on what our Founder wrote about God the Father and apply it in our lives.
Angelo Xuereb sdc
Qala - Gozo
Preca Calling - Issue 42 (1999)