From the Vatican Information Service:
During Mass yesterday [Tuesday 28 January] at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis reflected on the proper attitude of Christians at prayer.
Reflecting on the reading from the Second Book of Samuel, in which “David danced with all his might before the Lord,” Pope Francis recalled that the whole people of Israel were celebrating because the Ark of the Covenant was returning home. He went on to say that David’s prayer of praise, “led him to move beyond all composure,” adding, “this was precisely a prayer of praise.”
Explaining that the passage caused his thoughts to turn to Sarah, Abraham’s wife, who, after giving birth to her son, Isaac, said, “The Lord made me dance with joy.” He said that it is easy to understand a prayer of petition – asking something of the Lord – and prayer of thanksgiving, as well. Even prayer of adoration, he said, “is not so difficult,” to understand. Prayer of praise, however, does not come to us so easily. .
“‘But, Father! This is for the Renewal in the Spirit folks, not for all Christians!’ No: prayer of praise is a Christian prayer, for all of us. In the Mass, every day, when we sing the Holy, Holy, Holy … This is a prayer of praise: we praise God for his greatness, because He is great. We say beautiful things to Him, because we are happy for His greatness
“‘But, Father! I am not able…I have to…’ Well, you’re able to shout when your team scores a goal, and you are not able to sing praises to the Lord? To come out of your shell ever so slightly to sing His praise? Praising God is completely gratis. In it we are not asking him to give us anything: we are not expressing gratitude for anything; we just praise!
“..a good question for us to pose to ourselves today: ‘Do I know how to praise the Lord? Do I know how to praise the Lord when I pray the Gloria or the Sanctus? Is my whole heart really in it, or do I merely mouth the words. What does David dancing here say to me, and Sarah, dancing for joy? When David enters the city there begins another thing: a party!”
“The joy of praise,” said Pope Francis, “leads us to the joy of the feast – the feast of the family.” The Pope went on to recall how, when David returned to the palace, Michal, the daughter of King Saul, scolded him and asked him if he did not feel ashamed for having danced like that in front of everyone, he, who is the king. Michal “despised David”
“I wonder sometimes how many times we despise good people in our hearts, good people who praise the Lord as it comes to them, so spontaneously, because they are not cultured, because they do not follow the formalities? … The Bible says that, because of this, Michal remained sterile for the rest of her life. What does the Word of God mean, here? [It means] that joy, that the prayer of praise makes us fruitful! Sarah danced in the great moment of her fecundity – at the age of ninety! The fruitfulness that praise of the Lord gives us, the gratuity of praising the Lord: that man or that woman who praises the Lord, who prays praising the Lord, who, when praying the Gloria is filled with joy at doing so, and who, when singing the Sanctus in the Mass rejoices in singing it, is a fruitful person.”
On the other hand, warned Pope Francis, “Those, who are closed in the formality of a prayer that is cold, stingy , might end up as Michal, in the sterility of her formality.” The Pope asked, then, that we imagine David dancing, “with all his might before the Lord,” and that, “we think how beautiful it is to make the prayer of praise.” It will do us good, he said, to repeat the words of Psalm 23, which we prayed today: “Lift up your gates, O ye princes, and be ye lifted up, O eternal gates: and the King of Glory shall enter in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of Glory.”
Here is some praise of God. The words are directly from Holy Scripture, put to music by Handel and sung by some happy Christians (probably not Catholics). But, if we put into practice what Pope Francis has just said, this is what we Catholics should be like when we sing the Sanctus (Holy Holy) and the Gloria (Gloria to God in the highest) at Mass. If we really believe in what is happening at Mass we have cause to be even more joyful, exultant and demonstrative in our praise than these people. English decorum and reserve have no place when it comes to the praise of God as the story of King David illustrates and Pope Francis clearly teaches:
The very word Alleluia means “Praise the Lord”
“Praise is the form of prayer which recognizes most immediately that God is God. It lauds God for his own sake and gives him glory, quite beyond what he does, but simply because HE IS. It shares in the blessed happiness of the pure of heart who love God in faith before seeing him in glory. By praise, the Spirit is joined to our spirits to bear witness that we are children of God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2639)
Of course, you cannot praise him unless you know him:
In the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI ” being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a definitive direction.” That person is Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God. He is the Lord. When we encounter him and realise what he has done for us, we want to praise him because he is quite simply, worthy of our praise.
Again, in the words of Scripture put so magnificently to music by Handel, we want to proclaim with all the angels and saints in heaven:
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by his
blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour,
and glory, and blessing. Blessing and honour, glory and power, be unto
Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever.