LECTIO DIVINA: Fourth Sunday of Advent, Cycle B

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Lk. 1:26-38.

A. Invoking the Holy Spirit.

We invoke the Holy Spirit using the words of St. Augustine.

          Come, Holy Spirit, by whom every devout soul, who believes in Christ, is sanctified to become a citizen of the City of God! (en. Ps. 45:8) Come, Holy Spirit, grant that we receive the motions of God, put in us your flame, enlighten us and raise us up to God. (s. 128,40) Amen.

B. Lectio.

With heart well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing yourself to be touched by them.

          26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, 33 and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” 35 And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.36 And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; 37 for nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

C. Meditatio.

Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to St. Luke.

“The angel himself said to the Virgin Mary: Hail, full of grace; the Lord is with you; he is already with you who will be within you. Blessed are you among women.

To Zechariah as well as to Mary a son is promised, and she repeats almost the same words as Zechariah. What did Zechariah say? How does this happen to me? I am an old man, and my wife is barren and advanced in years. What did Blessed Mary also say? How will this happen? The words are similar but the hearts are distinct. Let us listen to the expressions similar for the ears, but let us verify the different disposition of the heart in face of the words of the angel… Man hears the words, but God scrutinizes the heart. By removing his speech and condemning his incredulity the angel saw and indicated that in those words of Zechariah there was no faith, but doubt and desperation. On the other hand, Blessed Mary said: How can this be since I have no relations with man? Recognize here the vow of the Virgin. If she had thought of having relations with a man, would she say: How will that happen? She would not have said: How will that happen? in the case that her son would be born like other baby boys. But she remembered her promise, and was conscious of her vow. Because she knew what she had promised and because she knew that sons are born to married women who have relations with their husbands, something that was outside of her intention. Her question: How will that happen? would refer to the manner,  without including any doubt on God’s omnipotence. How will that happen? How will it happen? You announce to me a son; you count on my availability; then tell me the manner. The Blessed Virgin could have felt fear or ignorance of the plan of God on how he would let her have a son, as though implying disapproval of her vow of virginity. What would have happened if he had said: “Get married and unite yourself to your husband”? God would never speak that way in so far as God accepted the vow of the Virgin. And he received from her what he had gifted her. Tell me then, oh messenger of God: How will that happen?  Take note that the angel knows it, and she asks him without the least distrust. Since he saw that she was asking without doubting the fact, he did not hesitate to instruct her. Listen how. “Your virginity shall remain intact; you only have to believe the truth; keep the virginity and receive the integrity. Since your faith is whole, your integrity shall also remain intact. Finally, listen how that will happen: The Holy Spirit shall come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. That shadow does not know the heat of concupiscence. You shall conceive, because the Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, because you conceive thanks to your faith, believing, not having relations with man: That is why the child to be born from you shall be holy and shall be called Son of God” (s. 291. 4-5).

D. Oratio.

With the text, let us now pray from the depths of our heart. I suggest the following phrases and questions that can awaken in you dialogue with God, and at the same time can give rise to affections and sentiments in your dialogue with God. Do not move to the next phrase of question if you can still continue dialoguing with God in one of them. It is not a matter of exhausting the list, but of helping you to pray with some points that better fit your personal experience.

          a. “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you” (Lk. 1:28).

  • What importance do you give to “happiness” in your life?
  • What does it mean for you that the Lord be with the Bl. Virgin Mary, and he be also with you?

b. “Fear not, Mary, you have found favor with God” (Lk. 1:30).

  • How do your fears condition you?
  • How is your trust in the grace of God?

E. Contemplatio.

I propose to you some points for affective interior contemplation. Once again you need not follow all of it, rather you can choose what fits your personal experience.

a. Contemplate Mary receiving the greeting of the Angel. Contemplate her humility, her purity, her simplicity. Ask God to give you a pure heart like Mary’s.

b. Contemplate Mary receiving Jesus in her womb and completely trusting in the plans and designs of God, without asking for explanations, rather only trusting.

F. Communicatio.

Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially about imitating the virtues of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. The following points can help you share with your community the experience of the lectio divina on the text.

  • What have I discovered about God and about myself in this moment of prayer?
  • How can I apply this text of Scripture at this moment of my life? What light does it give me? What challenges does it put before me?
  • What concrete commitment does this text of Scripture ask of me in my spiritual life, in my community life?
  • What has been my dominant sentiment during this moment of prayer?

Final Prayer of St. Augustine.

Turning towards the Lord: Lord God, Father Almighty, with pure heart, as far as our littleness permits, allow us to give you our most devoted and sincere thanks., begging with all our strength from your particular goodness, that you deign to hear our petitions according to your goodwill, that by your power you may drive away the enemy from all our thoughts and actions, that you increase our faith, govern our mind and give us spiritual thoughts and bring us to your happiness, through your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who with you lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen (en. Ps. 150:8).

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Fray Dunstan Huberto Decena, OAR

Fray Hubert Dunstan Decena, OAR

Priest/Religious/Bible Professor of the Order of Augustinian Recollects in the Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno.