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!