Translated by Fray Hubert Dunstan Decena, OAR
A. Invocation of 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. 128,4).
With the heart well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing yourself to be impressed by them.
The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them. When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to St. Luke.
What day is it today? – It is the day of birth. – Whose? –Of the Lord. –Does he have a day of birth? –He has. The Word who existed in the beginning, God with God, does he have a birthday? –Yes, he has. –If he did not have human generation, we would not have arrived at the divine generation: he was born in order that we might be reborn. Let no one doubt this rebirth: Christ has been born; he was engendered, but he did not have to be regenerated. Who was in need of regeneration but that whose generation was condemned? Let his mercy be present in our hearts. His mother carried him in her womb; let us carry him in our heart; The Virgin was pregnant for the Incarnation of Christ, let our hearts be pregnant of faith in Christ. She gave birth to the Savior, let us give birth to praise. Let us not be sterile; let us allow that God make our souls fertile. The birth of Christ from the Father was without a mother; his birth from the mother was without a father: both are awesome. The first was eternal, the second was in time. When was he born of the Father? What does “when” mean? Do you seek “when” there where you will not find time? Do not seek there a “when.” Seek it here. You rightly ask for the “when” referring to his birth from the mother, but wrongly referring to his birth from the Father: he was born, and he has no time; the eternal was born from the eternal, being coeternal. Why are you amazed? He is God! Consider that you are dealing with divinity and the motive for amazement disappears. You also marvel when we say that he was born of a Virgin. How prodigious! He is God, no cause for admiration, let admiration pass on to praise. Let faith be present; believe that it really happened. If you do not believe it, the fact nevertheless did happen, while you remain in your incredulity. He condescended to become man, what more do you want? Is it little that God humbled himself for you? He who was God became man. The stable was narrow, wrapped in swaddling clothes, he was laid in a manger. Did you listen when the Gospel was read? Who is there who is not amazed? He who filled the world could not find place in a stable; placed in a manger, he became food for us. Two animals approach the manger, that is, two peoples, because the ox recognized its owner and the donkey the manger of its master. Pay attention at the manger; be not ashamed to be a beast of burden for the Lord, You will carry Christ, you will not lose your way when you go by the road. The Way is seated on you. Do you remember the donkey offered to the Lord? Let no one be ashamed; we are that donkey. Let the Lord be seated on us, and let him call us to carry him wherever he wants. We are his mount, let us go to Jerusalem. When he is seated, he does not squash us, he lifts us up; with him as guide, we do not stray; travelling with him, we do not perish” (s. 189, 3-4).
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 or 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. “Mary for her part kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Lk. 2:19).
• What is needed so we can keep and meditate on the events of our life in our hearts?
• How can we imitate the example of the Virgin Mary?
b. “The shepherds returned glorifying and praising God for all that they had seen and heard” (Lk. 2:20).
• Why is it important to praise and glorify God?
• From the encounter with Christ and the Virgin Mary during this Christmas season, what do you take along for your life? What witnessing do you give?
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.
a. Contemplate how the Virgin Mary observes how the shepherds narrate all that had been told about the Child Jesus, and how she keeps and meditates on them in her heart. Contemplate Mary and learn in the school of silence, prayer and adoration.
b. Contemplate the euphoria and the joy of the shepherds. With them, live the happiness of Christ’s birth, and make this contemplation in the same manner as did the shepherds, a moment of praise and glorification of God for the marvelous things he does in the world.
Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially about the figure of Mary and the euphoria of the shepherds. The following points can help you as guide to share with your 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 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 predominant sentiment during this moment of prayer?
G. 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 by your power you may drive away the enemy from all our thoughts and actions; that you may increase our faith, govern our mind, 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, God, forever and ever. Amen (en. Ps. 150:8).