St. Anthony – Monthly Meditation
by Fr. Roger A. Synek
As Christmas is just around the corner, let’s use one of St. Ignatius’ meditation techniques and ponder what that first Christmas might have been like.
St. Ignatius advises that before we start our prayer, we should always prepare ourselves by asking for grace from God that our whole being (words, thoughts, actions, etc.) is attentive to God and that we are open to receive anything God wants to give us or do with us so we can serve God and Praise God more abundantly after this meditation. This is important because this prayer helps us to be attentive to the subtle movements that many times accompany God speaking to us.
It is now time to read the Christmas Story in Scripture (Lk 2:1-20). Don’t be afraid to read it two or three times to get the details of the story readily present in your mind. It is also wise to even read the Christmas Story found in the other Gospel (Mt 1:18 – 2:12) because this gospel recalls the adoration of the Three Wise Men.
Now it is time to contemplate or meditate on the Christmas Story. Be sure you are in a place where you are not distracted or could be disturbed. We want a space where we can discern and receive what God wants to show us, give us, or do with us.
As St. Ignatius directs, use your imagination and let your mind’s eye replay the Christmas Story. Visualize all the events as if you are watching a movie. Pay attention to the details. Use the five senses to fill in the details: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Imagine what the characters are thinking and feeling. Loose yourself in the story. Imagine what they may have said that is not recorded in Scripture. At some point, place yourself in the scene. You can become a bystander or one of the characters in the story. Being an animal or object in the scene can be fruitful as well.
As an example, let’s focus on Joseph as he sees Jesus for the first time. What does he see? Mary and Jesus, what do they look like? Where did they get the “swaddling clothes?” Did Joseph get them? Did Joseph help with the birth of Jesus? Where are the animals in the stable? Where is the manger? Is the light from the Bethlehem Star entering the stable?
What does Joseph hear? Is Jesus crying? Are the animals making any sounds? Is the wind blowing? Is Mary saying anything? Can he hear angels singing?
What is Joseph feeling? Is he feeling joy? Is he feeling awe? Is he feeling the urge to give praise and thanksgiving to God for allowing him to witness the birth of the Messiah? Is he feeling overwhelmed? Is he feeling sad that he could not find a better place for Mary to give birth to Jesus? Is he feeling helpless?
And now place yourself into the scene. Imagine you are the owner of the stable. You come in to check on the couple. Can you see Jesus? Is he in Mary’s arms? Where is Joseph? What are you going to say? Will you go over and look at Jesus? What are you feeling? Will you get on your knees and worship Jesus? Do you have anything to say to Mary or Joseph? Do you have anything to give Jesus? Does Mary offer Jesus to you to hold in your arms? Are you crying? Are you overwhelmed? Are you in awe?
As you let your imagination go, trust that at some point God begins to touch you. It could be that as you imagine yourself knelt in front of Mary and Joseph holding Jesus in your arms with tears running down your cheeks, you actually are crying. This is God communicating with you. It could also be that you imagine Mary speaks to you and says something like “Jesus is pleased that you are here.” This could be Mary or God communicating with you.
This is the goal of contemplation – God communicating with you. Thus, when you are about to end your time of contemplation, St. Ignatius advises us to first thank God for the graces we receive during this time of prayer. It may be that we couldn’t perceive anything, but we confidently trust that God did give us something. Then, right before we leave, we ponder these questions: What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What ought I do for Christ?
If we meditate on the Christmas Story like this every day throughout Advent, I guarantee you will celebrate Christmas a little differently this year.
Fr. Roger A. Synek
St. Anthony Catholic Church