LECTIO DIVINA: 4th Sunday of Advent, Cycle A
Translated by Fray Hubert Dunstan Decena, OAR
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, 2). Amen.
With the heart well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing yourself to be touched by them.
18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his motherMary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. 20 Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. 21 She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel.” which means “God is with us.”24 When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.
Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to Matthew.
“And when the Word took on flesh in time in order to enter into our temporal life, not only did he not lose eternity upon assuming it, but also that he guaranteed for it immortality. In this way, he like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, exulted like a giant ready to run his course, he who, existing in the form of God, did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at, rather to make himself for our sake what he was not, emptied himself; not losing the form of God, but taking the form of a slave; and thanks to it, being born in the likeness of men, he was known to be of human estate, not in his own substance. Everything that we are, either is body or in soul, is our nature, in him it is estate; if we are not that we do not exist; he, even though he were not, he would certainly be God. And when he started to be what he was not, he became man while remaining God, in such a way that in all truth, not only one side of the equation is affirmed but both. Because he became man it is affirmed with all truth: my Father is greater than I, and because he remains as God: The Father and I are one, because God and the man are not one and the same. Perhaps it could be said: “I and the Father we were one, but we are not” because what was and left behind certainly is not, but was. Now, however, thanks to the true form of servant that he has received, he spoke the truth when he affirms: The Father is greater than I and by the true form of God that remained, he also said it in affirming: The Father and I are one. Thus he emptied himself before men; but this emptying did not consist in becoming what he was not, to put aside what he was. Therefore, since the Virgin conceived and gave birth to a son, given his visible form of servant, to us a child is born. As the Word of God who remains forever, he became man to live in our midst, given the hidden form of God, but inalienable, we call him by the name of Emmanuel as Gabriel announced. Remain-ing in his Being, God became man, so that the Son of Man can be properly called God with us: he is not on the one hand God and on the other man” (s. 187, 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.
- “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her” (Mt. 1:20).
- What importance do you give to the Holy Spirit in your life?
- What happens in your life when the plans of God are different from your own personal plans?
- “She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Mt. 1:21).
- How is your devotion to Mary, Mother of Christ the Savior?
- What does it mean that Christ is your Savior?
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 Joseph receiving the message of the angel and his surprise at his words. Contemplate and adore.
- Contemplate Joseph receiving Mary into his home and contemplate how he knows that in her womb the Son of God is made flesh and is developing. Contemplate and adore.
Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially concerning the birth of Christ and the attitude and reactions of Joseph. 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 a 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, one God, forever and ever. Amen (en. Ps. 150:8).
“The womb of the Virgin Mary was like the nuptial bed where he became the Head of the Church, and from there he came out as the Spouse from his Chamber” (cons. eu. 2,1).