Lectio Divina: Immaculate Conception of the B.V.Mary
a) Initial Prayer:
Rejoice, Oh Virgin Mary,
the star of Jacob is already arising,
The Scriptures are fulfilled today;
The Lord is coming like a promising cloud.
Our God is coming, He is not in silence;
be attentive to His greeting.
Sweet is the word of His lips,
noble the design of His heart.
It shines like the wings of the dove
the vestment of His messenger;
it descends like the zephyr in summer
on you, promising its comfort.
Our God displays His force,
in your flesh He finds repose;
in you He finds His sanctuary,
praise Him and love Him forever.
Behold, His retinue appears,
before Him, justice marches.
He will subdue the pride of the powerful,
and render vigor to the humble.
He will spread out His mercy
on the men who fear His name;
humble servant of the Lord,
weave the praise of Love.
b) Reading of the Gospel:
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in 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 He went in and said to her, 'Rejoice, you who enjoy God's favor! The Lord is with you.' 29 She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, 30 but the angel said to her, 'Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God's favor. 31 Look! You are to conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you must name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His ancestor David; 33 He will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and His reign will have no end.' 34 Mary said to the angel, 'But how can this come about, since I have no knowledge of man?' 35 The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. 36 And I tell you this too: your cousin Elizabeth also, in her old age, has conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, 37 for nothing is impossible for God.' 38 Mary said, 'You see before you the Lord's servant, let it happen to me as you have said.' And the angel left her.
c) A moment of silence:
so that the Word of God may enter into our hearts and enlighten our lives.
a) A key to the reading:
Though these themes are also in Matthew and Mark, the Gospel of Luke is an original composition in many ways. The Evangelist inserts into his narrative new material relative to the other Gospel narratives. In the first two chapters which deal with the infancy of Jesus, Luke follows the Jewish tradition, with many direct and indirect references to the Old Testament. The theology, the symbolism, and the whole of the account of the infancy of Jesus have, and find, their roots in the Semitic world, different in many ways from the world and Greek thought. The Evangelist places the beginning of his narrative in the milieu of the anawim, the poor of the Lord, who submit to God’s will, firm in faith that the Lord will send them salvation at the opportune time. To the anawim the Lord promises to send the Messiah, “sent to bring the news to the afflicted, to soothe the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, release to those in prison, to proclaim a year of favor from Yahweh and a day of vengeance for our God, to comfort all who mourn, to give to Zion’s mourners...” (Is 61: 1-3). This promise of God is fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth who, entering “into the Synagogue on the Sabbath day as He usually did” (Lk 4: 16), proclaims that the promise of God pronounced by Isaiah “has been fulfilled today” (Lk 4: 21) in Him. Only the anawim can accept from the Son of Joseph the carpenter, and of Mary (Lk 4: 22; Mt 13: 53-58; Mk 6: 1-5; Jn 1: 45), the Good News of salvation, while the others are unfortunately scandalized because of Him. The Messiah is humble and sweet, His mouth pronounces “words of grace” (Lk 4: 22), and this is why, in order to accept Him, it is necessary to prepare oneself and enter into oneself to accept the promised One of Israel. This is why the Lord admonishes by means of the Prophet: “Seek Yahweh, all you humble of the earth, who obey the commands. Seek uprightness, seek humility: you may perhaps find shelter, on the Day of Yahweh’s anger” (Zp 1: 3).
In this context, “In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary” (Lk 1: 26-27). This virgin is one of the anawim to whom the Lord reveals His salvation. With her are found two other anawim “who were advanced in years” (Lk 1: 7), a priest called “Zechariah” and “Elizabeth who was childless”, and therefore had no children (Lk 1: 5-7). The salvation of the Lord is also announced to these two (Gen 30: 33; I Sam 1: 5-8); 2 Sam 6: 23; Ho 9: 11). Unfortunately, in the temple, during the liturgy, which is a place of the revelation of the power and the glory of God, this Good News was not accepted by the priest (Lk 1: 8-23). But the Word of God is not bound, and it cannot be limited. In fact, the Holy One of Israel says “for as the rain and the snow come down from the sky and do not return before watering the earth, fertilizing it and making it germinate to provide seed for the sower and food to eat, so it is with the word that goes from My mouth: it will not return to Me unfulfilled or before having carried out My good pleasure and having achieved what it was sent to do”. (Is 55: 10-11). This is why Elizabeth “in her old age has conceived a son and, she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God” (Lk 1: 36-37). This will be the event offered to Mary as a sign of the “power of the Most High” (Lk 1: 35) which will come down upon her like a shadow to conceive the Son of God through the power of the Holy Spirit (Lk 1: 34-35). The Son who will be named Jesus “will be great and will be called Son of the Most High; the Lord God will give Him the throne of His ancestor David; He will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and His reign will have no end” (Lk 1: 31-33). These words of the angel echo those addressed to Ahaz : “the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold: the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, whom she will call Immanuel” (Is 7: 14).
That is why, after John was conceived (Lk 1: 26), the Good News was received “in a city of Galilee called Nazareth” (Lk 1: 26) by a young girl, a “virgin promised to a spouse” (Lk 1: 27). “Nazareth” and “Mary” are in contrast to “Jerusalem” and “priest”; just as the phrase “he went in” is with the word “temple”. The Lord reveals himself in humble places and is accepted by humble people from whom, in the judgment of men, “nothing good can come” (Jn 1: 45). Mary is invited to rejoice: “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you” (Lk 1: 28). The presence of the Lord in the midst of His people is the occasion for joy because the presence of the Lord bears salvation and blessing. The invitation of the angel is addressed to the whole People of God in the person of Mary. That is why the whole People of God are called to rejoice and be glad in the Lord their Savior. It is the Messianic joy which is announced to all: “Cry out and shout for joy, you who live in Zion, for the Holy One of Israel is among you in His greatness”(Is 12: 6); “Rejoice, exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem! Yahweh has repealed your sentence; He has turned your enemy away. Yahweh is king among you, Israel, you have nothing more to fear...” (Zp 3: 14-15); “Rejoice, exult daughter of Zion, because, behold, I come to live among you” (Zc 2: 14).
The conception of Jesus is a new event, the primacy of the future new creation brought about by the generating power of God who comes to counter the impossibility of Mary’s conceiving because she knows no man (Lk 1: 34). The shadow which the Most High extends on Mary recalls the cloud which accompanied the people in the desert during the day (Ex 13: 22) which overshadowed Mount Sinai revealing the Glory of the Lord during six days (Ex 19: 16; 24: 17). It is also a sign of the protection of God, extended to the just, who invoke the name of the Lord and place themselves in the hands of God during trials (Ps 17:8; 57:2; 140:8). In creation, the Spirit of God blew over the water, the sign of the creating power of the word of God (Gen 1:2).
God exceeds every human capacity. Nothing is impossible for Him (Lk 1:37; Gen 18:14; Jer 32:27). Before the Lord of joy, life and salvation, Mary accepts His generating and creative word: “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done to me according to Your word” (Lk :38).
b) Questions to orient the meditation and make it relevant:
● The Lord reveals Himself to the anawim of his people. Who do you feel are the contemporary anawim among us today?
● Many times we feel that we are in a world hostile to God’s revelation. It also seems that He has become silent and no longer reveals His word. Is this true? If He still speaks to us, where can I find His life giving word? How can I accept it?
● The power of evil seems to envelop our restless world. The many means of oppression seem to oppress the God of joy, freedom, and mercy. How do you feel about this? Do you feel that today’s text inspires you while facing a seemingly impossible situation?
● What do you think is Mary’s attitude? Does this reveal something of your own life?
a) Canticle of Mary:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
because He has looked upon the humiliation of His servant.
Yes, from now onwards all generations will call me blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is His name,
and His faithful love extends age after age
to those who fear Him.
He has used the power of His arm,
He has routed the arrogant of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones
and raised high the lowly.
He has filled the starving with good things,
sent the rich away empty.
He has come to the help of Israel his servant,
mindful of His faithful love
- according to the promise He made to our ancestors -
of His mercy to Abraham and to His descendants for ever.
b) A moment for a prayerful silence
For here men of strong will can enter into themselves and remain there as much as they like, diligently cultivating the seeds of virtue and eating the fruits of paradise with joy.
Here they can acquire the eye that wounds the Bridegroom with love, by the limpidity of its gaze, and whose purity allows them to see God himself.
Here they can observe a busy leisure and rest in quiet activity.
Here also God crowns his athletes for their stern struggle with the hoped-for reward: a peace unknown to the world and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Such a way of life is exemplified by Rachel, who was preferred by Jacob for her beauty, even though she bore fewer children than Leah, with her less penetrating eyes. Contemplation, to be sure has fewer offspring than does action, and yet Joseph and Benjamin were the favourites of their father. This life is the best part chosen by Mary, never to be taken away from her.
(From the Letter of Saint Bruno to Rudolph il Verde).
(The author’s translation:
[In the contemplation], in fact, to strong men it is granted to recollect themselves when they desire to remain with themselves, to assiduously cultivate the sprouts of virtue and nourish themselves, happily, from the fruits of Paradise. Here the eye of the serene gaze, is acquired, which wounds the Spouse with love, and through its transparency and purity God is seen. Here is practiced a laborious leisure time and the rest in a quiet action. Here, because of the tiredness of the struggle, God gives to his athletes the desired reward, that is, the peace which the world ignores, and the joy in the Holy Spirit.
This is that Rachel who is coming, of a beautiful aspect, which Jacob, even though less fertile of children, loved more than Lia, certainly more fecund but of bleary eyes. In fact, the sons of contemplation are less numerous in regard to those of the action; nevertheless, Joseph and Benjamin, more than the other brothers, are loved by the father.
This is that best part which Mary has chosen and which will not be taken from her.)