Lectio Divina - Broken Bay Institute

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Lectio Divina - Broken Bay Institute

Lectio

Divina

Praying the

Scriptures

in Advent

Year A


Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

Contents

Introduction .................................................................................................2

How to use this booklet ................................................................................3

Advent for Christmas Time:

the liturgical season of “something’s coming” ...............................................4

An Advent Psalm: Edward Hays ..........................................................10

Lectio Divina .......................................................................................11

Lectio Divina Alone .............................................................................14

Lectio Divina Together .........................................................................17

Memory Awakens Hope .............................................................................19

1 st Week of Advent: A Season of Hope ........................................................20

2 nd Week of Advent: A History of Salvation ..................................................25

3 rd Week of Advent: A Promise of Joy ..........................................................30

4 th week of Advent: The Word Made Flesh ..................................................35

Christmas: God’s Gift of Love ......................................................................39

Christmas in Eastern Catholic Rites ............................................................44

Christmas Prayer of Blessed John XXIII ......................................................47

Footnotes ...................................................................................................48

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

Introduction

A teacher spoke about her course as a process of opening

doors for the students to invite them into different rooms

where opportunities for discovery and learning were to

be found. I was reminded of a poster with a montage of

photos depicting endless rows of colourful doors – some

intricately carved, simple wooden doors framed in grey

stone, iron gated church doors, doors inlaid with frosted

glass. Their variety invited me to ponder what they share.

Doors may send mixed messages: protecting or welcoming,

withholding or revealing, dividing or joining. Locked, closed,

bolted; doors make powerful statements about the need to

separate ourselves from annoying salespeople, strangers, from

anyone who makes demands on our time. Unlocked and thrown

wide open; doors suggest how far we will go as they draw others

into their private space, to listen, to hurt, laugh, cry and heal.

Doors suggest mystery: In corners of musty basements,

among the boxes stored at the back of the garage or

garden shed, they tempt us to explore the unknown.

Doors invite hope: We sit expectantly, often anxiously, in

hospital waiting rooms for the news of a newborn babe or

the success of surgery. The door to the operating room or

emergency room becomes the focus of our gaze and attention.

Advent is also a door – a door to new

understandings and renewed memories through

our encounter with familiar faith stories.

As you enter through the door that leads to your sacred

place, and you break open the Advent Scriptures in your

daily lectio divina, open wide the door of your heart to

the possibilities of renewal and rebirth. Wait expectantly

and watch vigilantly as you quietly reflect on the Word

Made Flesh to be more visible in your daily life.

David L Walker

Bishop of Broken Bay

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

How to use this booklet

This booklet invites you to prayerfully and meditatively refl ect on the Sunday

readings during Advent and select readings of the Christmas season.

An outline of a meditative and prayerful reflection is offered on

the inside covers of both the front and back pages of this booklet,

which can be used as a bookmark throughout the period.

One cover highlights an individual’s lectio journey,

and the other is for the group experience.

This booklet is an instrument that can be used in a variety

of ways. Please use it in whatever way suits you best.

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Advent for Christmas Time:

the liturgical season of

“something’s coming”


Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

The musical, West Side Story, is touring Australia, bringing to another generation

the timeless story of self-giving love amid the conflict of cultural animosities: of a

love that appears doomed and crushed but in reality is victorious as it inspires us

all to search with hope for loving relationships, peace, for a future, for fulfi lment.

Tony is touched by anticipation, that perennial awareness in all human

beings, of a future, of something good coming. He sings… 1

Something’s coming, something good.

If I can wait!

Something’s coming, I don’t know what it is,

But it is

Gonna be great!

In this world of time and space, in this world of materiality and spirituality,

something is always coming, and after that, something’s coming still. And if

this might seem to overwhelm us, dragging us into a vortex, spiralling us out

of balance, we are blessedly protected by existing in a world of cycles and

memories: the cosmic cycle of evolution, time and seasons; the earth cycles of

growth, death, decay and germination; the creaturely cycles of birth, ageing,

death and resurrection. Something indeed is always coming, but we are

forewarned and prepared by the memory of the “something” that came before

and the “something” that we hold onto in the present moment. Cycles are

memory building blocks for wisdom, for nurturing, for ensuring that we can face

surprise, danger, transition and change with trust, that it is ”gonna be great”.

As Christians, people whose meaning and hope is founded and focused on the

God of self-giving love, our memories and our anticipations are locked together

into the cycle of the Liturgical Year. In tune with the planets, the earth, the

seasons, and all creation, the yearly story of what God has done for us helps

us to understand and be responsive to what God continues and will continue

to do for us. The Liturgical Year is an ordering of the celebration of feasts in

the rhythm of time. It is an expression, in this particular period of human

history, of the way we connect the rhythms of our daily living, of the natural

earth and cosmic patterns, with the great narrative of our Christian Faith.

Heortology is quite a word! It refers to the study of feasts and the yearly cycle of

celebration. Christian theologians involved in this area of work are increasingly

aware of the complexity of factors which have led to our present calendar

and the meanings and practices that we experience during its yearly cycle.

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

For example, some scholarly research is now concerned that assuming Jewish

origins and appropriation from pagan religions in the development of Christian

feasts, such as Christmas and Easter, and the development of the yearly cycle,

is problematic. Historical evidence indicates, rather, a parallel growth with

other religions, each affecting in various degrees the other’s development. With

this model in mind, Harald Buchinger, a German theologian, at a conference

in Sydney last year suggested that it is not only the origin of a feast that is

important, but the unfolding of the celebration of that feast and its growth

into a season (a number of associated weeks) that can tell us how the people of

the Christian community, across the years, understood the timely presence of

God in their lives. 2 Buchinger noted that scholars might approach this enquiry

“from the bottom up.” Rather than looking first at codes and regulations of

the liturgical feasts and year throughout the history of the Church, we have to

fi rst examine more clearly how the feasts of the Church in the rhythm of time

have actually expressed and influenced the life and faith of the Church.” 3

How might this approach affect you and I in this reflection on Advent and

Christmas Times It means that we can aim to live out the rhythm of these

liturgical seasons as our basic source and goal of meaning. The liturgical

seasons are serious life-defining times for us in our particularity as baptised

disciples. Another theologian, Vietnamese-American Peter Phan, writes of

the Liturgy of Life, which is source and summit for all peoples. “The liturgy

of life consists of experiences of God, available to all human beings, in the

midst of life and in all concrete situations. It is called liturgy because these

experiences are always sustained by God’s self-gift to the world.” 4 Daily life,

in our family, our culture, our work, our parish is sacred, is holy, and it is here

that God dwells with us. It is in, and from, our daily life then that we can

gather at Eucharist to nurture our journey of life. It is in, and to, our daily

life then that we go as disciples to nurture the journey of our neighbours.

How then, out of the days of our lives, in this place and time, can

we experience the Liturgical Season of “something’s coming”

We move, as summer starts in December into the Season of Advent and

thence to Christmas Time in January. The two Seasons can really be seen as

one, hinged perhaps around the memorial events of Christmas Day. But the

rollout of the special Sundays of Advent, the Christmas feast, the Epiphany and

fi nally the Baptism of the Lord, should also be understood as steps in a journey

where the “something coming” refers to ourselves: what we as baptised people

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

are becoming, and what we will prove to be by our lives in the year of 2011.

The only point in remembering the end time and the promise of the birth of a

saviour in Advent, is to look to what that Saviour Jesus Christ is revealed as,

and how he left it to us, in his Spirit, to be Epiphany people, baptised disciples.

In our Australian culture, the end of the work and school year is a time of

review, of checking the outcomes and result of the work done in the long months

since last Australia Day in late January. We take time off to celebrate, to rest

and to make new resolutions for the year; how we will eat, work, recreate, treat

each other… in other words, gearing ourselves up for something coming.

The hot weather helps us to rediscover ourselves, the real us, as we head

to the beach, to the local pool, the dam, to sluggish rivers and waterholes.

The smells are of sunscreen, watermelon and sweat, with the smoke of

the BBQ and the asphalt hinting at other fires and dangers, the cycle of

destruction as well as of lush bounty. Whatever comes in the summer,

the heat, the northern Wet, the browning-off and the drying-up, all can

be dealt with for this is what we have, and what we know we are.

And so, to our summer Christian feasts! What is coming is our yearly defi nition

of who we are as baptised people showing our God to the world (epiphany).

• The first Sunday of Advent in Year A focuses on the time that is to come,

the end time: the coming of the reign of God in its fullest experience.

And so, we are urged to consider our yearly performance, to ask if we

have “walked in the light of the Lord!”(Isaiah 2:5) 5 if we have “kept

awake” (Matt 24:42) and been attentive to our work. Then on the

Second Sunday, what will come is described… “a shoot from the stump of

Jesse… who will judge with righteousness and decide for the meek of the

earth”(Isaiah 11: 1, 4), and that the kingdom of heaven has come near in

the powerful one who “will gather his wheat into the granary”(Matt 3:12).

Something’s coming… and it’s gonna be great!

• Advent continues and we learn more about the one who is to come. “He

will come and save you—the eyes of the blind shall be opened…the tongue

of the speechless sing for joy…” (Isaiah 35:4-6). Jesus sends word to John

asking the question we are all to be asked. Is the Kingdom revealed by these

actions “the lepers are cleansed, the poor have the good news brought to

them” (Matt 11: 5), and is this assessment about life values … “yet the

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John, the prophet” spot on

If so, Jesus (and his followers in 2010) are indeed the one who is to come.

• And then the sublime feast of the Nativity of the Lord. Have you thought

of the connection between nativity (being born) and Native (born in a

particular place). This is the memory day of Jesus the Christ, native of

Palestine, native to the human world, native to the cycles and daily living

of us all. Christmas celebrates what all humanity in its nativeness becomes

because of this birth… native not just to this temporal earth, but to the

cosmos, to eternal fullness of life. The midnight Mass readings sing of the

wonder of the Son given us who will establish the kingdom “and uphold

it with justice and with righteousness from this time and forevermore”

(Isaiah 9: 7). The Lucan Gospel locates this nativeness within the story of

the census, “that all the world should be registered” (Luke 2:1), but rather

than registered with Rome, all are registered by the sign of the child in the

manger, for “peace among those whom God favours” (Luke 2:14). In this

nativity, we become at home, native to both created world and the eternal.

• Something’s coming! It is our Christian custom to announce on the Feast of

the Epiphany, the date of Easter a few months on in Autumn. Why Are we

in a hurry Well, Advent has suggested that we keep awake, the Christmas

vigils and Octave have revealed to us the Son whom we are to be as one

with and like, and now the Feast of the showing of the Saviour to the world

as the star and guide for which it searches, keeps us on the move. “Nations

shall come to your light… they all gather, they come to you.”(Isaiah 60:

3-4). And yet, amid this hope we have the dark shadow of Herod’s fear

and latent violence… “and having been warned in dream not to return

to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.” (Matt 2: 12).

In the reality of our daily life, fear, pain and conflict are present and like

the Magi, the three wise travelers, we have to be courageous, rational and

convinced that the vision of love is attainable. So, as the New Year comes

in, we take a resolution as sons and daughters of God, native to earth,

native to heaven, to let the neighbours know of God’s love for all. After

all, if we’re having them around for a barbie and a beer, why not And,

what fuller showing of that love can be found but in the memorial of Easter,

where lies the truth that in dying to ourselves we find the resurrection.

• And so Jesus went down into the waters of the Jordan. This feast of

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

the Baptism of the Lord completes what we started seven weeks before:

a time of anticipation, review, resolution and now, commitment.

Why do we have this feast of the Lord’s Baptism, he who

needed no cleansing, no immersion, no becoming

Again, the cycle of the liturgical year is for us. We are “the

servant whom I uphold, in whom my soul delights… he/she

will bring forth justice to the nations” (Isaiah 42:1).

We are indeed “the beloved in whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3: 17).

By the time we are into the middle of January, we know what

this “something coming” is: we are the something, people

anointed to stir up desire for the coming of the kingdom.

The Advent /Christmas season has run its course and we turn towards the new

school year, being back at work, trying to keep the resolutions, reconciling our

families, our nation, and marking our Sorry days of February amidst our general

“getting on with things”. We have waited, prepared, and thought about the

dying days of last year, seen a renewed vision of the kingdom in the memorial

of Christmas and we recognise again that this something is our baptism task

of being true disciples. All this celebration has been to take the one real

story, the Christ event, and make it our own, this year… and next year. That’s

what the Liturgical Year is about: it leaves the “financial year” for dead!

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

An Advent Psalm: Edward Hays

Antiphon:

Awaken, my heart, God’s reign is near;

The Peaceable Kingdom is in my hands.

All:

O God, awaken our hearts to your peace!

1. If the wolf can be the guest of the lamb,

And the bear and cow be friends,

Then no injury or hate can be a guest

within the kingdom of my heart.

2. Eden’s peace and harmony will only return

when first, in my heart, there hides no harm or ruin,

For the Peaceable Kingdom is in my hands.

1. Isaiah’s dream became Jesus’ vision:

“Come follow me,” Emmanuel’s echo rings.

Reform your life, recover Eden’s peace,

for only then will salvation appear.

2. For Advent’s dream is the healing of earth,

when the eagle and bear become friends,

1. Arise, awaken, my heart

the Peaceable Kingdom is in your hands!

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

Lectio Divina

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God

and the Word was God… and the Word was made flesh”

The Word of God is Jesus. He is the human face of God. It is Jesus who gives

meaning to the whole of God’s revelation, and brings to a climax the continuing

testimonies of God’s love for us. Any understanding of the expression “Word of

God” must be interpreted in the light of Jesus, the Word. The expression “the

Word” came to signify the message that Jesus preached, his whole approach

to humankind (Lk 8:12), and also the fledgling Christian movement as it

began to spread under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 12:24, 6:7)

The Church also acknowledges as the “Word of God” the inspired writings

recognised by the early Christian community. These inspired writings

are God’s gift to the Church, and in them God’s overwhelming love

shines through. They embody in human word what is embodied in the

divine Word who became flesh; and through this inspired human word

of the Scriptures we encounter personally the divine Word himself.

Since the beginning of the Christian movement, its members have read

the Scriptures as God’s Word speaking to them. They found in them who

their God is, the loving providence of their God, their own identity as

God’s people, and the responsibilities that go with God’s choice of them

to share the divine love with others. As Mary reflected on the unfolding

mystery of her divine Son, Christians have continued to refl ect on that

same mystery which comes to us in the Scriptures. (Luke 2:51)

The reflective reading of the Scriptures leads us to know, understand and

appropriate the fundamental Christian mysteries. It helps us to appreciate

what we need to do to respond to God’s approach in them, and holds up to us

a mirror of how we are responding and what we might need to do to improve

and deepen our response. It humbles us and makes us realise that we need

God to walk with us on this journey: we cannot walk it alone. It brings us to

prayer, in which we implore the divine help. It leads, too, to the transformation

of our life of response to God, and enables us, through our lives as disciples

of Jesus, to share the divine love we have known with those around us.

This meditative, prayerful reading of the Scriptures has been referred to as lectio

divina. It can take many forms, but it is necessary to keep in mind the essential

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

aspects of it, lest we read into the Scriptures what we want to hear rather than

hear from them what God wants to tells us. St Augustine’s words are relevant:

the one who serves you best is not the one who listens for what he wants to

hear, but the one who shapes his life according to what he hears. To help us

focus on the essential, we will adopt in this book the practice as described by

Guigo II, the fifth abbot of the Carthusan order, in his book “The Ladder of

Monks (A Letter on the Contemplative Life) and Twelve Meditations.”

Lectio divina then, is the meditative reading of a text of God’s Word, the

Scriptures, alone or with others, which leads to prayer, transformation of life,

and, through that transformed life, the sharing with others of the mystery

of God entrusted to us. This practice of prayer involves the whole person.

Through our senses we read, we meditate using our reason and imagination,

and we pray and transform our life with our will. It is not just an interior

practice but one that engages with the issues of our Christian life and prompts

us to work with them. At different times, the emphasis may be on different

aspects of the prayer. But it would be unwise to omit any of them altogether.

In the light of what has been said, we can look at the presuppositions

that underpin this form of Scriptural prayer. Firstly, it embraces the

Scriptures as God’s Word speaking to us. It emphasises that this practice

is a personal encounter with the eternal Word, who is Jesus. It sees, as

the source and goal of this prayer, the life of Christian discipleship.

The image of the arch is sometimes used to speak of prayer. Prayer is designated

as the keystone of the arch, the stone at the top which takes the strain, and stops

the sides of the arch from falling in. However, the keystone will not stay up there

by itself: it needs the sides of the arch. The sides of the arch are working with our

life; to root out the vices and to practice the virtues. The practice of lectio is not

a discrete or isolated event, totally sufficient in itself: it takes place within the

living of Christian discipleship. It arises out of the conscious determined effort to

live as disciples of Jesus and has as its goal to strengthen that determination and

effort. Transformation of life is an essential element of praying the Scriptures.

How we read the Scriptures will depend on how we understand them. If we

recognise them as coming from the God who loves us, we could liken reading

them to the beloved reading letters from her lover. It is the one who loves

God deeply who is the most likely to appreciate the deepest dimension of

the Scriptures. The Scriptures are not just a book, but a library, with many

authors. Any one author may not have known the writings of any other.

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

However, there is a unity here. This is the story of God’s love for us, and this

is so because the unifying author of all of the Scriptures is the Spirit of God.

This means that in reading the Scriptures we do need to appreciate that there

are two senses: that of the historical author and that of the Spirit. The historical

critical method helps us to appreciate the historical meaning, but we need

another methodology to appreciate the “Spiritual” sense: the message that

transcends the historical sense, and gives the Scriptures their unique character.

Unless we recognise this divine spiritual sense, the Scriptures can be seen as

a book of the past, just an historical work, to be explained simply in human

terms. Lectio divina is always a theological reading of the text of Scripture.

The Scriptures, through the Spirit, emerged from the early Christian community.

It was the Church that brought together these disparate books into one canon

to make the Scriptures. The life of the early Church was the matrix into which

the Scriptures were born. The Scriptures need to be understood and interpreted

within the life of the Church. The covenant that God offers in the Scriptures is

not with the individual, but with the people. The Church is the community of

believers, the community of those who respond to the love of God. It is those

that have faith, and are living a loving response to God’s love, who can be most

open to the divine message of the Scriptures. Just as the Church was the matrix

in which the Scriptures were born, so it needs to be the matrix within which we

interpret them. The Scriptures need to be read within the faith community.

Lectio divina arises out of a faith relationship with Jesus and reaches its fulfi lment

in the transformation of that faith relationship. The Scriptures are more open to

those active disciples who love God and who are endeavouring to transform their

life in conformity with their faith. It is the heart filled with this loving faith that

will be most open to the spiritual message of the Scriptures. Active effort to live

a life of Christian virtue is an important preparation for reading the Scriptures.

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

Lectio Divina Alone

It is our life as disciples of Jesus that brings us to lectio: the desire to deepen

our intimacy with Jesus in our common journey to the Father. As we begin our

lectio, we set the scene with a prayer. It can be any prayer. Guigo’s prayer was:

“Lord Jesus, you who are the Son of the Living God, teach me to listen to

what you tell me in the holy Scriptures, and to discover your face there.”

Reading

We begin by focusing all our attention on the text: the whole text, not just

any one word or phrase. We should try to know the text well. The reading

can be done in a variety of ways: repeated, aloud, with a pencil in hand if

it helps. Look at the characters, their actions and words; note the context,

related texts and any quotes that might occur. Here, we are focusing on

the text in itself, what the author is presenting. We are gathering food

for thought. The reading is just the beginning of a process: it is meant to

lead to meditation and prayer. It is their necessary presupposition.

Meditation

Meditation brings to bear our reason on the text. We look at the text in terms of

ourselves. It is here that we come to understand, appreciate and appropriate the

divine mysteries that we read about in the Sacred Scriptures. In Meditation, the

divine Word and our personal faith life come together. There is an interaction,

and integration, of the Word and the person. We not only learn about God but

also about ourselves. Here we can learn about the God who loves us and calls us

to love in return. Here we can look at our own life in terms of the expectations

of our divine lover, and see what we need to do to transform our life.

We can ask four questions to help us in our meditation:

What does the text tell me:

• about the God who speaks to me

• about how I should respond to that God

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

• about my faith life

• about what I need to do to transform my faith life

The outcome of our meditation is what we need to do to transform our

life according to the expectations of God. We are humbled in realising

that we cannot do it without the help of God. Thus, the meditation

fl ows naturally into prayer. Meditation moves the will to prayer and

strengthens its resolve to transform the life of discipleship.

Prayer

The prayer arises from our reflection on the text. It is focused particularly on what

we need to do to transform our life. We humbly ask God to give us the grace to

do what needs to be done. This prayer is the climax of the process that began

with the reading. It is this reading, meditating and prayer that are the normal way

that God draws us to contemplation. The author of the Cloud of Unknowing,

writing about the way to contemplation, looks to the teaching of Guigo;

“So I want you to understand clearly that for beginners and

those a little advanced in contemplation, reading or hearing

the word of God must precede pondering it and with out time

given to serious reflection there will be no genuine prayer.”

Contemplation

Since the word “contemplation” is used in a variety of ways, it is necessary to

defi ne it when we use it. We are following Guigo, for whom “contemplation”

refers to a gift of God that is beyond what we can do by ourselves. We cannot

alone achieve this contemplation; therefore we should not expect it to happen,

as if it were a natural outgrowth of our own spiritual progress. It is a gift of God

given when, where, and to whom God chooses to give it. If God bestows this

gift, it will break into our prayer: God rushes to us as the father of the prodigal

rushed to meet his son. We should not stop or dwell here, unless God intervenes.

Action

Lectio leads to transformation of life. Guigo puts it well, “What use is it to anyone

if he sees in his meditation what is to be done, unless the help of prayer and the

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

grace of God enable him to achieve it” Our lectio needs to carry over into our life

and affect it in the areas that have arisen in meditation. To achieve this it can

be helpful to select from the text a word, phrase or sentence that can be repeated

throughout the day. It reminds us of the experience of our prayer and helps us

especially when the particular issue that arose is present. This simple practice

extends our prayer throughout the whole day. It fulfils the advice given by John

Cassian; “ Daily and hourly till the soil of the heart with the Gospel plough.”

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

Lectio Divina Together

Lectio is especially useful when it is shared with others. The basic pattern is the

same, but it is enriched by the sharing of the members of the group. It is still

a uniquely personal thing, but there is an appropriate sharing of the personal

experience. The following suggests a way of sharing lectio, but it should be

applied according to the desires of the group. Groups will fi nd their own unique

way of doing lectio together. The following suggestions may be of assistance.

If the members of the group have done a lectio on the text before the group

meeting, the following suggestion could be followed. If not, there would need

to be some times of silence for each member to process the particular stages.

1. The opening prayer could be said by all.

2. In the reading, it would be helpful for each member to

comment on what they have seen in the text. It often happens

that an individual see something that others have missed.

It can help to get a better appreciation of the text.

3. In the meditation, it would be helpful to respond to the four questions

proposed in this section. The comments of each should be seen as a

personal sharing of faith, not a contribution to a discussion. A prayerful

atmosphere needs to be maintained. Care needs to be taken that members

of the prayer group are not pressured to share beyond what they wish to.

4. The prayer of each person is naturally very personal, but even

that can be shared if the members of the group choose to do it.

It can move the group to a deeper bond and create a context

in which the group can more easily engage in lectio.

5. In the action stage, the members of the group could share

the word, phrase or sentence they have chosen. It would

not be necessary to explain why they have chosen it.

6. A concluding prayer could be shared by all.

A necessary foundation to prayer is meditating and thinking on the great truths which

God has revealed. We should be familiar with all the mysteries of Jesus Christ and the

truths of his Gospel. Our souls should be coloured by them and penetrated by them as

wool is by dye. These truths should become so familiar to us that we acquire the habit of

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forming no judgement except in their light, that they may be our only guide in what we

do, as the rays of the sun are our only light in what we see. It is when these truths are

inwardly incorporated in us that our praying begins to be real and fruitful.” (Fenelon)

Meditation sustains our quest for spiritual growth by keeping before us the divine

initiatives which draw us on, the essential truths that are the context of our journey,

and the goals that are the object of our spiritual journey. Through meditation we deepen

our understanding of and appreciation of, the mysteries of the Christian faith.”

There are two ways in which we can find answers to our questions and

guidance when we are alone with God in such a place as this. First, we can

consider again His mysteries, rest in them, and humbly bathe our souls in

their light. Secondly, in the light of the mysteries of God and His demands

and love, we can overhaul our own religious and moral practices in order to

discover our slack and disproportionate ways of life….(Evelyn Underhill)

“Seek by reading, and you find meditating; cry in prayer, and the

door will be opened in contemplation.” (John of the Cross)

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

Memory Awakens Hope…

“Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope

which is so necessary to man. Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound

and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who

became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope. The purpose of

the Church’s year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories,

to awaken the heart’s memory so that it can discern the star of hope.…

It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories

of goodness and thus to open doors of hope.”

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Seek That Which Is Above,1986

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1st Week of Advent:

A Season of Hope


Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

The First Sunday of Advent is the first day of the new Church year. It is

our New Year’s day. Secular New Years are celebrated with parties, music,

merriment, meals and fireworks. People gather to say goodbye to the

year past and hello to a fresh start. Sometimes they reflect on what went

wrong in the past year and how they can do better in the year ahead.

They make New Year’s resolutions and embark on the new year, filled with

ambition and hope that this year they will actually do what they have

resolved to do, or perhaps not do what they have resolved not to do.

Our Church celebrates the new Church year slightly differently.

Instead of parties, meals and fireworks we celebrate with Mass, the

Eucharist and the Word, which can be just as fulfilling, colourful and

explosive. Often the readings which we proclaim at that Mass call

on us to reflect on how we are going in our journey with Christ, and

what we can do to make the next year a more Christ-centred year.

Our first reading is taking from the Book of Isaiah. We hear from First

Isaiah who is asking his people, the Jewish community in 8 th Century

BCE Judah, to repent, to be true children of God, to honour the

covenant Abraham, Isaac and Moses made with God. Today’s passage

sets out why they should do that. Because God is the main game. At the

end of time all nations will turn to the One True God who will judge

them, settle their disputes and teach them God’s way. The way of love.

Nations will stop killing each other. They will work together under God’s

Law, the Law of Love. They will be God’s people. People of Love.

Why should we strive to be better Christians, better disciples

of Jesus the Christ, the son of the Living God Because

Christ will lead us to God of whom Isaiah writes. God who

is pure love and who will teach us how to love purely.

Our second reading is from Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul

hoped to visit Rome to teach the Way to the fledgling Christian

Church. He got there, but as a prisoner not as a preacher.

Paul’s words are very fitting for our New Year celebrations. Wake

up! Why Because salvation is near, the night is almost over and

the day is almost here. What should we do Put aside the deeds

of darkness and clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

There we have it. To celebrate our New Church Year we are called

to put aside our deeds of darkness, those things we do which keep us

from God, from being people of God, people of love. We are called

to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. How By living as Jesus lived. By

loving as Jesus loved. By dying as Jesus died, to self for others. What

a way to live our lives! What a year we will have if we do.

When should we become as Jesus the Christ Now! Why Because as

Matthew recounts the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel, “you do not

know on what day your Lord will come.” No one knows that except

God the Father. What we do know is, “the Son of Man will come at an

hour you do not expect him.” Let’s not wait for tomorrow to take up

the challenge to be as Christ for others. Tomorrow may never come!

So as we celebrate another year of giving praise and glory to God, let

us put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us resolve that this will be the

year that we will live as true disciples of Christ, loving and serving

the God within everyone we meet. Why Because that is something

worth celebrating, to be the children God created us to be.

Isaiah 2:1-5

The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be

established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be

raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it.

Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain

of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach

us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall

go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for

many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and

their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword

against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD!

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

Psalm 12

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the

LORD!” Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.

Jerusalem built as a city that is bound firmly together. To it

the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for

Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD.

For there the thrones for judgment were set up, the thrones of the house

of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love

you. Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers.”

For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, “Peace be within you.”

For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.

Romans 13:11-14

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for

you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when

we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then

lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; let us

live honourably as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not

in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy.

Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no

provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Matthew 24:36-44

“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels

of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of

Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking,

marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the

ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them

all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man.

Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two

women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left.

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what

part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed

awake and would not have let his house be broken into.

Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of

Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

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2nd Week of Advent:

A History of Salvation


Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

In the playground, at day care, standing in line at the supermarket

checkout—it’s the little children who bind us together with their antics,

their guileless questions, their uncanny ability to name the truth. Isaiah

paints a harmonious world where wolves lie down with lambs. How

about Muslims with Christians, conservatives with liberals, the entitled

with the disenfranchised Maybe we will see that day, but only if we are

guided by the wisdom of “the little child,” who teaches us a better way.

In today’s Gospel we hear of John the Baptist preparing the way for

Jesus. John was baptising people in the Jordan River as a sign of a new

life; people were sorry for what they had done previously and wanted to

start again. Water was used – as a sign that the lifestyle, and things of the

past, were being washed away and we were ready to start again. Water

is still used today in the sacrament of Baptism – as a sign of cleansing,

starting again and welcoming a person into a new way of life.

What John was doing was very powerful and important, though some mistook

him for the Messiah. He rightly corrects them and says that although he

can Baptise them with water, the Messiah, Jesus, will come and Baptise

them with the Holy Spirit. Jesus indeed was also Baptised by John – but for

what point Jesus did not need to be Baptised, but he so wanted to share

his humanity with us that he was also Baptised in the Jordan River.

We are now into the second week of Advent – how are you preparing

No doubt you are aware of the commercialisation of the Season

– Christmas decorations have been on sale for months now – most

houses would have a Christmas tree up or will do so in the next few

days. How many houses would also have a Nativity scene

So John tells us to prepare – but for what We are preparing for the

birth of Jesus. Are we going to do it any different from all the other

Advents we have had Jesus’ message is one of love. How are you

going to show this love to each other this Advent, in preparation

of the arrival of Jesus, God made man, this Christmas

Isaiah 11:1-10

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,

and a branch shall grow out of his roots.

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of

wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might,

the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes

see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the

poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth

with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and

faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the

calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down

together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the

weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.

They will not hurt or destroy on my holy mountain; for the earth will

be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the

nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19

Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son.

May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.

May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness.

May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give

deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.

May he live while the sun endures, and as long as

the moon, throughout all generations.

May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,

like showers that water the earth.

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

In his days may righteousness flourish and peace

abound, until the moon is no more.

Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.

Blessed be his glorious name forever; may his glory

fi ll the whole earth. Amen and Amen.

Romans 15:4-13

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that

by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.

May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony

with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, that together you may

with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has

welcomed you, for the glory of God.

For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf

of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to

the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his

mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles,

and sing praises to your name”; and again he says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles,

with his people”; and again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all

the peoples praise him”; and again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse shall come,

the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope.”

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so

that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 3:1-12

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea,

proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he

said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare

the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’”

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist,

and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and

all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and

they were baptised by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said

to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to

come Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves,

‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these

stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is lying at the root

of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down

and thrown into the fire. “I baptise you with water for repentance, but one

who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his

sandals. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fi re. His winnowing

fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his

wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fi re.”

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3rd Week of Advent:

A Promise of Joy


Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

This year’s readings for the third Sunday of Advent are quite overwhelming.

Isaiah, the Psalmist, James and Mark proclaim the reign of God with

passion and excitement. The authors place before us no ‘ordinary’ picture

of heaven complete with angels and a crusty old white haired elderly

gentleman surrounded by lots of white fluffy clouds. In their collective

picture, they use strong everyday language: deserts bloom abundantly,

burning sands are replaced with pools of water, people are singing

– overcome with joy, the blind see, the deaf hear, the disabled don’t just

walk – they leap! Everyone feels safe, there is no need to be sorrowful

any longer, and there is no fear…. Life is simplified, pathways are made

straight for easier access – available equally to all God’s people.

What is expressed is no cool, intellectual proposition – total gift

is offered, a present/presence that is characterised by extravagance

and over abundance – such, they indicate, is the love of God for all

creation. God’s mercy, and compassion and love are wide and wild,

and contrast sharply with our apparent need to manage and control,

and even limit, both our definition of God and our understanding.

John the Baptiser is the prophet chosen to point the way to what is pure

freedom. John, not of the establishment, is on the edge, from where

he can see the broader perspective. This ascetic, living wildly in the

wilderness, is practising what he preaches – we have to let go, and let

God. John wants us to repent, to let go of our sin – and the sin of others.

But he assures us that we don’t have to do this by ourselves. The Spirit

will blow open any door with fire and passion, and that Spirit of Christ,

once allowed inside, heals us, opens us out to live life to the full, liberated

and free. We grow into wholeness and holiness. There is no longer need

for pretence and shame; our lives will become real – truth will shine

through and we will have the necessary courage to open ourselves out

to the honesty and discipline required to move on from our disabling

personality defects and shortcomings. If we let God be God in us, then

we will be at home, and God’s reign will be activated here and now.

The writers are full of hope. The Messiah will come.

God is in control. Things can, and will, change.

God is at home, it is we who have gone for a walk. The door

is unlocked and God lost the key a long time ago.

Why is it so hard for us to believe in a God whose love knows no boundaries

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

Is there anyone in your life who acts as a ‘John the Baptiser’

– challenging you to find your better selves

What does my life proclaim to the people around me

Isaiah 35:1-10

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and

blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy

and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel

and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees.

Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not

fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with

terrible recompense. He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf

unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue

of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the

wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become

a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals

shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way;

the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God’s

people; no traveller, not even fools, shall go astray.

No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;

they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there.

And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion

with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall

obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Psalm 146:5-10

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is

in the LORD their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea,

and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who executes

justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry.

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens

the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are

bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.

The LORD watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan

and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion,

for all generations. Praise the LORD!

James 5:7-10

Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord.

The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being

patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.

You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts,

for the coming of the Lord is near.

Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may

not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors!

As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take

the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

Matthew 11:2-11

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing,

he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the

one who is to come, or are we to wait for another”

Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the

blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the

deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought

to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John:

“What did you go out into the wilderness to look at A reed shaken

by the wind What then did you go out to see Someone dressed in

soft robes Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

then did you go out to see A prophet Yes, I tell you, and more than a

prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ‘See, I am sending

my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’

Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than

John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

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4th week of Advent:

The Word Made Flesh


Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

I was fascinated to read an author suggesting we’re born with a God-shaped hole

in our hearts – a space for God alone. When that space is not recognised for what

it is, the author said, is to force the wrong piece of a jigsaw puzzle into a space

not meant for it. We don’t know why we’re not satisfi ed, so we search for novelty

in the things we cram into the hole. Yet nothing but God fi ts into that hole.

Advent offers us the time to clear out that hole. What obstructions are

blocking the space we give to God in our lives Are we offering him a

temporary parking place until Christmas, or a permanent dwelling

Our faithfulness to this Advent Season, year after year, enables something

wonderful to happen. We want to give God more and more room. The feeling

lasts longer and longer after Christmas. The God-shaped hole enlarges! Each

year it widens. Like a dilated pupil in the eye, people see more and more of

God in us, and less and less of our own wilfulness. We’re able to say with John

the Baptist and the great saints, ‘He must increase and I must decrease.’

One day we suddenly realise that when Mary said, “My soul magnifi es the

Lord,” the God-shaped hole in her heart was the largest of all. Not only

could people see God in her life, they could see him magnifi ed, enlarged!

Let’s place ourselves into today’s Gospel. It is the day of God’s glory

becoming manifest. God’s messengers, the angels, are breaking into

people’s everyday lives, bringing the Good News of Christ’s arrival.

What else could anyone be besides awestruck

God’s glory revealed leaves us in a state of prayer. We realise,

in every part of our being, that God is great and we are small.

Let all things be done according to God’s will. Rejoice!

Isaiah 7:10-16

Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the LORD

your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.

But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.

Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you

to weary mortals, that you weary my God also Therefore the Lord

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and

shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and

honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.

For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good,

the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.”

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a fl ock! You

who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim and

Benjamin and Manasseh. Stir up your might, and come to save us!

Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers

You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given

them tears to drink in full measure.

You make us the scorn of our neighbours; our enemies laugh among themselves.

Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand,

the one whom you made strong for yourself.

Then we will never turn back from you; give us

life, and we will call on your name.

Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Romans 1:1-7

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the

gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in

the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended

from David according to the fl esh and was declared to be Son of God

with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the

dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and

apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles

for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

Jesus Christ, To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Matthew 1:18-25

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When

his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived

together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to

expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.

But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared

to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take

Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus,

for he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through

the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they

shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”

When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord

commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations

with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

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Christmas:

God’s Gift of Love


Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

Our Advent journey is ended. Like Zechariah, if we reflect on what

God has done for us, we will spill out songs of praise. A faithful God

will never forsake us, for we have entered into a covenant that demands

faithfulness on our part and on God’s. Dark days notwithstanding,

God promises to be a Dayspring to us. As Thomas Merton says:

“Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no

room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited. But because he cannot

be at home in it, because he is out of place in it, and yet he must be

in it, his place is with those others for whom there is no room. His

place is with those who do not belong, who are rejected by power

because they are regarded as weak, those who are discredited, who

are denied the status of persons, tortured, excommunicated. With

those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in the world.” 6

One door has closed but another bursts open as we

move confidently in the way of peace.

Yes, the wait of Advent is over, but the wait for the return of Jesus goes

on. As we begin our celebration of Christ’s birth, continue to nurture

a sense of joyful hope as a Christian anticipating the Second Coming.

An active prayer life, daily lectio, regular participation in the sacraments

and service to others will help ease the wait. So will our knowledge that

the Season of Christmas, with its quiet miracle of God become flesh,

will one day give way to a Christmas that will last for all eternity.

Isaiah 62:6-12

Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, I have posted sentinels; all day

and all night they shall never be silent. You who remind the

LORD, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes

Jerusalem and makes it renowned throughout the earth.

The LORD has sworn by his right hand and by his mighty arm:

I will not again give your grain to be food for your enemies, and

foreigners shall not drink the wine for which you have laboured;

but those who garner it shall eat it and praise the LORD, and

those who gather it shall drink it in my holy courts.

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

Go through, go through the gates, prepare the way for the people; build up,

build up the highway, clear it of stones, lift up an ensign over the peoples.

The LORD has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say

to daughter Zion, “See, your salvation comes; his reward

is with him, and his recompense before him.”

They shall be called, “The Holy People, The Redeemed of the LORD”;

and you shall be called, “Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.”

Psalm 97

The LORD is king! Let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!

Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and

justice are the foundation of his throne. Fire goes before him, and

consumes his adversaries on every side. His lightnings light up the

world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax

before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth. The heavens

proclaim his righteousness; and all the peoples behold his glory.

All worshipers of images are put to shame, those who make their boast

in worthless idols; all gods bow down before him. Zion hears and is glad,

and the towns of Judah rejoice, because of your judgments, O God.

For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far

above all gods. The LORD loves those who hate evil; he guards the

lives of his faithful; he rescues them from the hand of the wicked.

Light dawns for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart. Rejoice

in the LORD, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name!

Titus 3:4-7

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour

appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness

that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the

water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our

Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might

become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Luke 2: (1-7), 8-20

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus

that all the world should be enrolled.

This was the first enrollment, when Quirin’i-us was governor of

Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to

the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and

lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she

gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and

laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch

over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and

the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.

And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you

good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is

born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.

And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling

cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a

multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in

the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds

said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing

that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

And they went with haste, and found Mary and

Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

And when they saw it they made known the saying which

had been told them concerning this child; and all who

heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.

But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for

all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

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Christmas in

Eastern Catholic Rites


Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

Preparing for Christmas

The Christmas Season is without doubt one of the most loved feasts in the

Church. It appeals to both the young and old and Christmas time is recognised

for its Christmas Carols, tinsel, Christmas trees and warm wishes. However

culturally Christmas is also celebrated with unique features depending where

you are and which Church you are affiliated to. In Australia the Roman

Catholic Church is the feature of the day. However in Australia one also

fi nds other Catholic Rites that have their own special take on Christmas.

The Maronite Catholic Church commences its Christmas preparations in

November, which begins the official ‘Season of the Birth of Our Lord.’ In the

Maronite Lectionary the Season commences immediately after the Renewal

and Consecration of the Church. The Sunday Gospel passages recount week

by week, the announcements leading up to the Birth of Christ. They include:

Announcement to Zechariah – Lk 1:1-25

Announcement to Mary – Lk 1:26-38

Visitation of Mary – Lk 1:39-45

Birth of John the Baptist – Lk 1:57-66

Revelation to Joseph – Mt 1:18-25

Genealogy of Jesus – Mt 1:1-17

Birth of the Lord – Lk 2:1-20

In preparing for the coming of the Lord, these Gospel passages offer deep

refl ection on the why and how of Jesus’ coming and what it means for us.

When Christmas does finally come around, there is held in the Maronite

churches the nine day Christmas novena that includes Eucharistic adoration,

litanies and Maronite chants. Christmas Mass is celebrated at midnight.

Christmas for Maronites is about nativity scenes, new clothes, visiting

relatives and Buche de Noel (a Christmas cake shaped as a log). Although

Christmas trees are put up, Christmas cards are not a tradition. On the day

of Christmas people visit one another and are served liqueur with sugar

coated almonds (remember most Eastern Catholics come from the Middle

East where Christmas is celebrated in winter). And the needy often wake up

to fi nd new clothes and food placed at their doorstep by kindly people.

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

After Christmas

The days after Christmas follow the early life of Jesus. In particular to

the Maronites, the next day is denoted as the Praises to the Mother

of God. Mary holds a significant place in Eastern Liturgy. She is the

Theotokos, the God Bearer, the one who gave flesh to the Son of God.

The following sequence of events is then celebrated in the Church:

Worship of the Magi – Mt 2:1-12

Flight to Egypt – Mt 2:13-18

Return to Nazareth – Mt 2:19-23

Word became flesh – Jn 1:1-18

New Year’s Day of Peace – Jn 14:27-31

Presentation in the Temple – Lk 2:21-24

Finding the Lord in the Temple – Lk 3:15-22

Anna the Prophetess – Lk 2:36-40

Eve of the Epiphany – Lk 3:1-6

The Season of Epiphany

Following on from the Season of the Glorious Birth, the Maronite Catholic

Liturgy celebrates the Season of Epiphany, which falls on the 6th of January.

For the Eastern Churches, the Epiphany is the Baptism of Jesus. ‘Epiphany’ as

‘Manifestation’ is common to both West and East Churches. The Season of

Epiphany in the Maronite Lectionary runs for 1-7 weeks, depending on when

Lent commences. The Epiphany (Lk 3:15-22) is celebrated with a midnight Mass.

During the celebration there is the blessing of water that the faithful bring in

bottles and place on the altar. The Lebanese Maronites also have the custom of

making puffed pastry cooked in oil and then dipped in syrup (known as zlebye or

ymet). There is a tradition in which one of these has an almond in it. The one

who receives it is the ‘King’ or one of the ‘Magi’ that visited the child Jesus.

So events leading up to Christmas, events following on and taking

us into the Epiphany, and the cultural and social engagements

celebrated by Maronites, all combine to create an atmosphere of

joy, gatherings and memories. It affords opportunities to show love,

hospitality and kindness, for that was the purpose of Jesus’ coming.

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

Christmas Prayer

of Blessed John XXIII

O sweet Child of Bethlehem,

grant that we may share with all our hearts

in this profound mystery of Christmas.

Put into the hearts of men and women this peace

for which they sometimes seek so desperately

and which you alone can give to them.

Help them to know one another better,

and to live as brothers and sisters,

children of the same Father.

Reveal to them also your beauty, holiness and purity.

Awaken in their hearts

love and gratitude for your infinite goodness.

Join them all together in your love.

And give us your heavenly peace. Amen.

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Lectio Divina Praying the Scriptures in Advent Year A

Footnotes

1

Lyrics, Stephen Sondheim, West Side Story, Leonard Bernstein Music

Publishing Company, Boosey and Hawkes: North America.

2

Harald Buchinger, On the Origin and Development of the Liturgical

Year: Tendencies, results and Desiderata of Heortological

Research, translated Robert J. Daly, S.J., paper delivered at the

XXII Conference of Societas Liturgica, Sydney, 2009.

3

Ibid, 7

4

Peter Phan, Liturgy of Life as Summit and Source of Eucharistic Liturgy, in

Being Religious Interreligiously, New York: Orbis Books, 2004, 269.

5

Scriptural quotations are from the NRSV Catholic Edition, National Council

of the Churches of Christ USA, Nashville:Thomas Nelson Inc, 1993.

6

Kenneth Leech, The Tablet, 19/26 December 1998

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Written by Bishop David Walker DD, with the support of the

Australian Catholic Bishops’ Commission for Mission and Faith Formation.

Produced with support from the Bible Society NSW

www.bbi.catholic.edu.au

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