In the reading we heard about the shepherds who visit Mary, Joseph, and Jesus on the first Christmas. In it, we find a familiar, recurring phrase in the gospel of Saint Luke, “And Mary pondered all these things in her heart.” Throughout the gospel of Luke, this sentence appears four times: at the annunciation, the nativity, the presentation in the temple, and at the finding of the child Jesus in Jerusalem. In a historical sense, this is evidence that Luke obtained most of his information about Jesus’ life from Mary, but in a moral sense, this exemplifies an important focus of prayer and meditation: contemplation.
Mary is our role model for how to live our lives as Jesus’ followers, and this instance is no exception. Contemplation, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, means ”concentration on spiritual things as a form of private devotion.” But it also gives a second definition, “a state of mystical awareness of God’s being.” This second definition shows that, through contemplation, we can become aware of God’s presence in our lives. Nobody knew Jesus better than Mary, in part because she watched Jesus’ actions, remembered them, and meditated upon them. As Pope Saint John Paul II wrote in the apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, “No one has ever devoted himself to the contemplation of the face of Christ as faithfully as Mary. The eyes of her heart already turned to him at the Annunciation, when she conceived him by the power of the Holy Spirit” (§11). If we follow her example we may grow closer to God as well.
But how can we meditate upon the mysteries of Christ? We can do this is through the Lectio Divina, the prayer that many of you already pray through Tutoria. Latin for “divine word”, the benedictine tradition is focused around trying to find the messages in the Word of God. This can be done on a passage, or even center around a single word. The Word of God is not only a reference for us, but is both alive and God speaking directly to us, through the holy spirit.
Another way we can meditate, like Mary, on the word of God, is through the rosary. Some of you may have noticed that the places in the bible where Mary pondered in her heart were four of the five Joyful mysteries of the rosary. This is no coincidence. In the rosary we meditate directly on these mysteries of christ, all the while seeking guidance from Mary. This is the most important devotion we have as Catholics, where we join fully into the meditation of Mary throughout the scriptures. In every apparition Mary has ever made to us, she has stressed the importance of praying the rosary. I urge you all to try and find time in your lives to pray the rosary, as it does wonders. Fr. Bede once told me that if you pray the rosary every day, you will never have to worry about a thing in your life. These words have rang true for me; I tried to pray the rosary as much as I could in October and I found myself more calm, peaceful, and growing closer to God, the focus of our prayer life.
If we imitate Mary, our prayer can become more meaningful and powerful, bringing us closer to God and improving our lives, both now and after our death. I will leave you all with a beautiful poem my younger sister wrote about prayer:
A powerful thing, Prayer
You Speak, He listens
Prayer doesn’t have to be big
As long as its there
And if you pay close attention
As long as you listen back