This week we enter the final few days before Mary gives "birth" on Christmas Eve. My hope is that you have entered deeply into Mary's Song, found in Luke 1:46b-55, called the Magnificat, a Latin word which literally means “exalt, glorify, magnify.” And that she does!
Before we enter into prayer with the Magnificat which is also called the Canticle of Mary or Mary's Song, read this Commentary from The Voice Bible: Stepping into the Story of Scripture.
Mary’s response to God can’t be contained in normal prose; her noble soul overflows in poetry. And this poetry isn’t simply religious; it has powerful social and political overtones. It speaks of a great reversal— what might be called a social, economic, and political revolution. To people in Mary’s day, there is little question as to what she is talking about. The Jewish people are oppressed by the Roman Empire, and to speak of a King who will demote the powerful and rich and elevate the poor and humble means one thing: God is moving toward setting them free!
Take a deep breath and prepare your heart to listen to Mary, the theotokos (which means Mother of God) as her song of praise pours forth ...
You may want to begin with a breath prayer to sing the song of your soul as Mary has done ... Use this one or create your own (6-8 syllables is an optimal prayer for breathing) ...
Breathe in … O God, my Liberator (pause) Breath out … my spirit celebrates you (pause)
When you feel centered on God and ready to move into Mary's Song, pray:
My Soul praises you and lifts you up, O God my Liberator.
As I bask in Mary's Song may I feel your Presence as she did. Amen.
My soul lifts up the Lord!
My spirit celebrates God, my Liberator!
For though I’m God’s humble servant, God has noticed me.
Now and forever, I will be considered blessed by all generations.
For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
holy is God’s name!
From generation to generation,
God’s loving-kindness endures for those who revere Him.
God’s arm has accomplished mighty deeds.
The proud in mind and heart,
God has sent away in disarray.
The rulers from their high positions of power,
God has brought down low.
And those who were humble and lowly,
God has elevated with dignity.
The hungry— God has filled with fine food.
The rich— God has dismissed with nothing in their hands.
To Israel, God’s servant, God has given help,
As promised to our ancestors,
remembering Abraham and his descendants in mercy forever. (VOICE)
After reading, spend 10 minutes in the silence OR as long as you are able ... I invite you to pray with music and chant as you listen to The Canticle of Mary, offered by "Our Lady, Mary Mediatrix of All-Grace." Close your eyes and just listen, and you may want to re-play and chant with them. Is there a word or phrase that is singing in your soul?
Finally, here is a thought to close our 4-week immersion in The Magnificat from Meister Eckhart, 14th century German mystic and scholar:
"What good is it to me if Mary gave birth to the Son of God fourteen hundred years ago and I do not also give birth to the Son of God in my time and in my culture? We are all meant to be Mothers of God."
When you are ready to move on ... pray: O God my Liberator, set my mind free and give me the gentle strength to give birth to the Son of God in this time and in this culture as I embrace my role as "Mother of God." Amen.
This week's Image: Феодоровская икона со сказанием. Кострома. Вторая половина XVIII в. Музей-заповедник «Коломенское»
Icon: Feodorovskaya ikona so skazaniem. This image is in the public domain; PD-OLD; PD-ART, Transferred from ru.wikipedia
This week we enter the third week of exploring Mary’s song, found in Luke 1:46b-55, called the Magnificat, a Latin word which literally means “exalt, glorify, magnify.” And that she does!
We enter this third week much like we experience the 3rd movement of Lectio Divina ... Oratio, Prayer. First, we join Mary in prayer with a version I have not seen before, called The Passion Translation (TPT).
“My soul is ecstatic, overflowing with praises to God!
My spirit bursts with joy over my life-giving God!
For he set his tender gaze upon me, his lowly servant girl.
And from here on, everyone will know
that I have been favored and blessed.
The Mighty One has worked a mighty miracle for me;
holy is his name!
Mercy kisses all his godly lovers,
from one generation to the next.
Mighty power flows from him
to scatter all those who walk in pride.
Powerful princes he tears from their thrones
and he lifts up the lowly to take their place.
Those who hunger for him will always be filled,
but the smug and self-satisfied he will send away empty.
Because he can never forget to show mercy,
he has helped his chosen servant, Israel,
Keeping his promises to Abraham
and to his descendants forever.” Amen.
Is there a word or phrase from Mary's Song that draws you closer to God ... one that you could carry in your heart this week?
With the beauty of Mary's prayer singing in your soul ... I invite you to enter into a time of prayer with this stunning icon, the "Mother of God of Czestochowa" through "gazing." Praying with this Icon while both holding your word or phrase but letting go at the same time can be a challenge. Simply sit in the silence until you find silence within, then rest before the icon in a position of comfort so you are able to gaze into it. You may want to light a candle to illuminate this time of prayer. Over time the icon will begin to examine you as you gaze into it. As you come to "know" Mary, you may find that she speaks to you through the image in ways that words cannot ... Amen.
As you emerge from your time of Prayer with this Icon, you may want to create a breath prayer that brings your experience to a close, or you can use this one:
Breathing in ... Life-Giving God
Breathing in ... My soul longs for You
When you are ready to close your time of prayer ... My Soul longs for you, praises you and lifts you up, Life-Giving God. Help me feel your Presence in my daily life as I do when I am in prayer! Amen.
Image: Mother of God "Czestochowa"
Iconographer: St. Luke the Evangelist,
Date: 1st c.
Location: Jasna Gora Monastery,
Each week of Advent this year I'm exploring Mary’s song, found in Luke 1:46b-55, called the Magnificat, a Latin word which literally means “exalt, glorify, magnify.” And that she does!
This week we weave together the ancient spiritual practices of Lectio Divina with walking the Labyrinth. Do you have easy access to a Labyrinth that you could walk? If not, you can take this Link to a finger Labyrinth that you can download and print: PDF File/Labyrinth.
Both Lectio Divina and Walking the Labyrinth are ancient spiritual pathways to God. Beginning in the middle ages, Christianity adopted the Labyrinth as a symbol, changing the design to permeate it with specifically Christian meaning. For almost a thousand years there has been an identifiable Christian labyrinth tradition.
Although there are essentially 4 movements in the prayerful reading of the sacred text known as Lectio Divina, lectio (read), meditatio (reflect), oratio (respond), and contemplatio (rest) there truly are as many ways to creatively engage the biblical text through lectio divina as there are creative people who read the bible with not just their mind but their entire being. Indeed, as we are walking the way of Lectio & the Labyrinth, we'll add a movement in the center this week.
I'll guide you gently but I encourage you to surrender to God and listen to what you are "hearing with the ear of your heart." You can create your own way ... as you read the text let the Spirit guide you!
Light in the Center of the Labyrinth
This week we enter the narrative and walk with Mary, the Theotokos, which literally means "god-bearer" in Greek. More basically, Theotokos means "mother of god."
How appropriate to walk the Labyrinth with Mary as she awaits the birthing ... some persons image the Labyrinth as the "womb of God."
To prepare our hearts, we read of the Angel's visit to Mary (Luke 1:26-38) and then her subsequent visit to her cousin Elizabeth (Luke 1:38-45) which seems to strengthen her in her inner being.
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.” Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.
Image: The Annunciation of Ustyug Icon 12th century State Tretyakov Gallery Moscow Provenance Yuriev Monastery Novgorod
A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”
What a blessing, these words of the older mother-to-be, Elizabeth, to the younger mother-to-be, Mary! After all of these events and this beautiful blessing, perhaps Mary is prepared to make the long, arduous journey to and through motherhood all the way to the cross. The Magnificat is Mary's Song of Praise to God in response to all she is experiencing.
Pray for Illumination: God of Advent, shine your light upon my heart and mind as I explore the biblical text. As I read and reflect on your holy Word, fill me with desire to respond to you with the grace that Mary and Elizabeth had when they experienced the surprise of motherhood each with their own issues of "Who, me???" Amen.
Movement 1: READ The Magnificat (Luke 1:46b-55) slowly and let the words wash over you ... listen ... consider where God is calling your attention ... stop ... turn a focus word or phrase around and around, over and over in your mind. Take a deep breath, wait in the silence ... then take your word or phrase with you as you walk on a Labyrinth with your body or with your finger. Perhaps you might simply spend some time outside in nature. Or find a place to sit quietly. Let the Spirit of God guide you in your time of reflection.
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.
Movement 2: READ the text slowly again and let the words flow into your spirit ... Has a different word or phrase called to you? That's ok. REFLECT on your chosen word or phrase. How does this passage illuminate your life? What is God's invitation to you through the text? Is there a "word" you may enter into the labyrinth as you walk with Mary? As you walk (or if you choose to simply sit in the quiet) continue to focus on your word or phrase. Let God speak into your heart as you listen and walk the path of the womb. Take time to "RELEASE" anything that emerges that you need to let go of in order to move on in your prayers.
Movement 3: As you pause at the center of the Labyrinth or at the apex of your walk, take time to READ the passage again as you wait in prayer and let the words sink deep into your soul. "RECEIVE" and welcome God's word for you. Consider these questions or others that may arise in your time of pause: Where is God speaking into my life through my word or my verse? How is my prayer life touched by my word or my verse?
Movement 4: When you are ready to move on and travel the pathway out of the labyrinth, RESPOND to God's invitation with prayers of praise, adoration, confession, gratitude, discernment, petition, intercession, and/or commitment ... whatever emerges from within you, express it in the form of a walking prayer until you exit the labyrinth or end your walk or sit in the quiet.
Movement 5: And now there are no more words. Remember that God is as close to you as your very own breath. Breathe and REST in the gentle silence of God's presence ... breathe in the peace that emerges from God's presence and provision ... as you move on and re-enter the world from which you came, breathe out the love of God upon the world you live in. Choose this one or allow one to emerge from within your soul ...
Breath Prayer of Rest:
Breathing in … God of Mary, Theotokos
Breathing out … My soul magnifies your Presence!
This week we enter the second week of exploring Mary’s song, found in Luke 1:46b-55, called the Magnificat, a Latin word which literally means “exalt, glorify, magnify.” And that she does!
Remember from last week, Mary had been visited by the Angel Gabriel and told she would bear the Son of God. After her initial questioning and confusion, she answered, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.” She immediately set out to see her older cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant with John (the Baptist) who would journey with Jesus until his death, “preparing the way” as he had from before his birth.
mit blauem TuchBallenstedter Jahre OEL 25 x 29
[CC BY-SA 4.0
via Wikimedia Commons
Mary’s song is deceptively sweet as she exalts, glorifies, and magnifies God’s glory but look closer! Mary’s message is as much of a song of justice as it is of mercy! Her poetic song has powerful social and political overtones. It speaks of a great reversal— what might be called a social, economic, and political revolution. To people in Mary’s day, there is little question as to what she is talking about. The Jewish people are oppressed by the Roman Empire, and to speak of a King who will demote the powerful and rich and elevate the poor and humble means one thing: God is moving toward setting them free! And yet, knowing the end of the story as we do … freedom has a high price and is not always manifested in the ways we desire.
I invite you to consider entering into the text via paraphrasing. I find that the spiritual practice of paraphrasing poetic passages of scriptures, most often found in the Psalms, helps me to go deeper into meaning and to internalize its message. We paraphrase in much the way we engage in Lectio Divina yet we do it putting our words to paper. Make sure to have your journal with you this week as you explore Mary's song. As we begin, we read the passage to get a sense of Mary's underlying feelings. If you haven't already read the text via the link above, take it and read the Magnificat. What overall message do YOU hear Mary trying to convey through her words? How would you express her feelings in your words?
Read the text a second time and explore each of the the images you are drawn to in the psalm. Seek new ways of proclaiming the message of in words and phrases that translate to the situation you find in our world today. Be creative and think not in words but in ideas.
Begin writing in your journal via stream of consciousness with new images, words, and phrases. Let the images grow and become. and then as you write, let your words flow from your mind onto the paper as you give your writing a expansive form. Let the words and phrases emerge to translate the psalm anew in your own prayer language, a new song! Feel free to share your paraphrased psalm via the comments or if you prefer, email me. I would love to hear where Mary's song is taking you ...
After you finish your own paraphrase, I invite you to read this beautiful paraphrased version of Mary’s Song. The original source has been lost to me but my recollection is that it was from a John Shelby Spong website that transitioned after his retirement to https://progressingspirit.com.
THE MAGNIFICAT: Mary's Song!
My soul sings in gratitude.
I’m dancing in the mystery of God.
The light of the Holy One is within me
and I am blessed, so truly blessed.
This goes deeper than human thinking.
I am filled with awe
at Love whose only condition
is to be received.
The gift is not for the proud,
for they have no room for it.
The strong and self-sufficient ones
don’t have this awareness.
But those who know their emptiness
can rejoice in Love’s fullness.
It’s the Love that we are made for,
the reason for our being.
It fills our inmost heart space
and brings to birth in us, the Holy One.
If music is a pathway to God for you, listen to the Magnificat (All That I Am) a lovely arrangement by David Haas based on Mary's song. The link will take you to YouTube where you will find a video with lyrics written and song clearly sung. I invite you to simply rest in its beauty as you listen.
You can simply say “Amen” now but if you would like to spend time in prayerful reflection with Mary’s Song, the Magnificat, I invite you to engage in the spiritual practice of Breath Prayer.
Breath Prayer: Take a deep breath and prepare your heart to listen to Mary, the theotokos (which means Mother of God) as her song of praise pours forth. You may use this one or create your own from your response to the Magnificat: 6-8 syllables is an optimal prayer for breathing your prayers.
Breathing in … Mysterious God
Breathing out … Dance with Me
Sometimes you find an image that strikes you so deep in your soul that it captivates you for a very long time. I have a mountain of art journals that I am going through ... I'm not an artist but you don't have to be in order to explore your inner life with art that you find and that you create. In my art journal it is about process not product. just tried to let the original image inspire me ... Anyway, here is my interpretation of a captivating staircase. I realize it isn't really a spiral staircase but as I drew it, there is a kind of spiral at the bottom of the railing. The poetry emerged from my ponderings on the image.
Secrets of Spiral Staircase
Round and round I go up the stairs
Round and round I go down the stairs
Round and round I go one step up
up to the sun
Sharp blades of light
A golden explosion
I’m blinded by the light
Round and round I go one step down
down in the dark
Mystery and pain
I’m blinded by the night
Fingers of madness tickling my mind
I’m stuck in the middle
Of my own spiral staircase
Can't go up
No solace in the light
Can't go down
No comfort in the dark
O my soul ... I'm trapped
round and round I go
falling into the Heart of God
©2008 Cindy Foster Serio & revised 2009
Originally posted on imamosaic.blogspot.com on December 4, 2009