Translated by Fray Hubert Dunstan Decena, OAR
A. Invoking the Holy Spirit
We invoke the Holy Spirit in 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. 128,4).
With heart well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing yourself to be impressed by them.
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert. He went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to St. Luke.
“You must be just with yourself, including punishing yourself; since the first justice of man consists on punishing the self, for being bad, and thus God will do good to you. And this first justice of man opens to him the road to God that he may come to you. Open the road to him by confessing your sins. This was how St. John acted when he was baptizing with water of penitence, and he wanted that those who repented of their past actions come to him, and he told them: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. If you, oh man, took pleasure in your sins, now abhor what you were that you may become what you were not. Prepare the Way of the Lord; let this justice precede, by acknowledging your sins; he will come to visit you, since he will put his steps on the road, because now he has where to put his feet and the way to come near to you. On the other hand, before confessing your sins, the road was obstructed for God to come to you. He had no path to come near. Confess your life and you will open the way, and Christ will come to you, he will put his steps on the road; then he will instruct you how to follow his footprints” (en. Ps. 84, 16).
John the Voice, Christ the Word.
I am the voice of one crying out in the desert. John was the voice; the Lord, however, was the Word that existed in the beginning. John is the temporal voice, Christ, the Eternal Word that existed in the beginning. Take out the Word; what becomes of the voice? When it signifies nothing, it is an empty noise. The voice without the word may move the air, but builds not the heart. But let us consider the order of things in the act of building our heart. If I think of something to say, the word is already in my heart; but if I like to speak to you, I think of how it can be also in your heart what already is in my heart. Seeking for a way to reach you and put into your heart the word that is already in mine, I assume the voice, and once assumed, I speak to you. The sound of the voice brings you to comprehend the word; and once this function is done, the sound passes away, but the word that the sound brought to you is now in your heart without departing from my heart. Once the sound has transferred the word to you, does it not seem to tell you: He must increase and I must decrease? The sound of the voice resounded to accomplish a service and it departed as if saying: My joy is complete. Let us retain the word; let us not lose the word conceived in the marrow of our being. Do you want to see the voice that passes away and the divinity of the Word that remains? Where today is the baptism of John? It completed its function and it disappeared; the baptism of Christ is what is repeated today. We all believe in Christ and we hope for salvation from him. The voice had said this. Yet how difficult it is to distinguish the word from the voice, even John was thought of as Christ. The voice was confused to be the word; but the voice recognized himself in order not to offend the word. He said: I am not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor a prophet. They replied: Who are you then? He said: I am the voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” The voice that cries in the desert, the voice the breaks the silence. Prepare the paths of the Lord: as if he were saying: “My sound is directed to let him enter the hearts; but he does not dare to come to a place where I do not want to let him in unless you prepare the road for him.” What does, Prepare the way for him, mean but: “Implore him as you ought?” What does, Prepare the way for him, mean but “Think thoughts of humility?” Receive from him the example of humility. They take him as the Christ, and he says that he is not what they think him to be; he does not appropriate the error of others, not even to nourish his pride. Had he said that he was the Christ, how easily they would have accepted him since they already believed it before he said anything. But he did not say it; he acknowledged who he was, he was not the Christ, he humbled himself. He saw where his salvation was; he understood that he was a lamp, and he feared that the wind of pride would put it out (s. 293,3).
Let us now pray from the depths of our heart using the text. I suggest to you the following phrases and questions that can awaken in you a dialogue with God, and at the same time elicit affections and sentiments in your dialogue with God. Do not move to the next phrase or question if you can still continue dialoguing with God in one of them. We do not try to exhaust the list, but to help you to pray with some points that better fits your personal experience.
- “Prepare the way of the Lord” (Lk 3:4).
- What does it mean to prepare the way of the Lord?
- How can you concretely prepare the way of the Lord in your life?
- “What does Prepare his way mean if not “Have thoughts of humility?” Receive from John the Baptist the example of humility”(s. 293,3).
- What does it mean for you to have thoughts of humility?
- How can you imitate the example of St. John?
I propose to you some points for affective interior contemplation. Once again, you do not need to follow all of it, rather you can choose what fits your personal experience.
- Contemplate John the Baptist, and how he proclaims the word of God with force and conviction. Contemplate and ask for the same enthusiasm and conviction for your life.
- Contemplate how Christ through his Spirit makes straight the paths of your heart. Contemplate what it is he has to remove to make them straight and smooth for him.
Think of everything that you can share with those around you on the experience you had with God, especially on preparing a way for the Lord. The following points can help you as guides to share with the community the experience of the lectio divina on this text:
- What have I discovered about God and about myself in this moment of prayer?
- How can I apply this text of Scripture to this moment of my life? What lights 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 predominant feeling during this moment of prayer?
G. Final Prayer of St. Augustine
Turning towards the Lord.
Turning towards the Lord,God, Father Almighty, with pure heart, as far as our littleness permits, let us give him our most devoted and sincere thanks, begging with all our strength from his particular goodness, that he may be pleased to hear our pleas according to his great goodness, that by his power he may drive away the enemy from all our thoughts and actions; that he may increase our faith, govern our mind, give us spiritual thoughts, and bring us to the happiness, through his Son JesusChrist, our Lord, who with him lives and reigns, in the unity of the HolySpirit, God forever and ever. Amen (en. Ps. 150:8).