Praying in the style of Mary – reflecting on God’s Word: Lectio Divina
Christmas is almost here. Most of us are very tempted to get caught up in the rush of it all.
We are very blessed that Mother Church gives us Mary in the season of Advent as a model to help us be open and prepared for Jesus’ birth.
Mary, in Luke’s Gospel, experienced the powerful presence of the angel Gabriel that announced her own motherhood of the Messiah, God’s Son. She experienced the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. And, following the birth of Jesus, Scripture says that Mary and her child were visited by shepherds who told her about the wonderful vision of angels and the words that were spoken about her new born Son.
For our spiritual fitness in preparing for Christmas, what Mary did next is very important. Scripture says that she kept these things and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19).
This month let us walk with Mary and pray as she did. When we ponder God’s word, meditating on it slowly with thought and prayer in our hearts, we are practicing the spiritual exercise known as Lectio Divina (pronounced lex-ee-oo div-ee-nah).
Lectio Divina literally means “Sacred Reading.” Christians and our Hebrew ancestors have been practicing this kind of prayer for thousands of years. To practice this, we read sacred Scripture, either the Old or New Testaments, in a slow, prayerful way. We read it slowly with self awareness. What words, phrases, or images touch our hearts as we read? We think about how the sacred text connects to what is going on in our life.
The important part of this exercise is not in how much we read, but in how we savor the word we are reading. This exercise is not about gaining information about the text, but about meeting God. “It is undertaken not with the intention of gaining information, but of using the texts as an aide to contact the living God. Basic to this practice is the eventual union with God in faith which, in turn, finds continued nourishment and development in further reading.” (Taken from the Lectio Divina Web site at: www.sp.uconn.edu/~salomon/ld/lectio.html)
For this exercise, let’s begin by asking for Mary’s intercession:
Dear Mary, my mother and Mother of Jesus, your Divine Son, help me now to meditate and ponder on God’s word with a loving heart. May I take in God’s word so much that I, too, like you may give Jesus birth in our world. May I be transformed by God’s word into the image of the Eternal Word through whom I have been created.
1 Suggested Readings:
Genesis 1 (created by God’s Word in God’s image and likeness)
Luke 1 :46-56
You may have other favorite Scriptures. “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord!”
2 As you read whatever passage you have chosen, reflect on how the words of sacred Scripture are touching your heart. You may need to read the passage a number of times. We are trained at reading the text to gain information, but the goal in this exercise is to meet God in faith in the depths of our heart and soul. How am I encountering God now? What is God saying to me? “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”
(1 Samuel 3:10)
3 Keep whatever word God has spoken to you in your heart. Let yourself ponder it ... treasure it like Mary. God has spoken to you. Believe it! Savor it! Let it linger like honey on your lips. “When I found your words,
I devoured them; they became my joy and the happiness of my heart, because I bore your name, O Lord, God of hosts.” (Jeremiah 15:16)
4 Live the word that is within you. When we eat food, we digest and assimilate it, and it literally becomes a part of our body. When we eat God’s word, we also must savor it, digest it, and assimilate it into our lives. To do so, we must live it. Then we, too, like Mary will be giving birth to Jesus. His living word will have become flesh in us.