Going into the wilderness

LECTIO DIVINA: Holy Reading

Sunday, December 9th, 2012 is the Second Sunday of Advent, Year C.

Lectio: Read the Gospel from 3:1-6

Meditatio: Some background to the text, so that we understand its meaning. John the Baptist has received the prophetic mission to proclaim the coming of the Messiah, and thus the long-awaited day of Salvation for all humankind.

Like all prophets before him, he is a target of persecution, and eventually is beheaded during the ministry of Jesus. 

His teaching is about the repentance of sin, and the call to baptism. One monastic writer shares on the “wilderness” of John the Baptist: “His was the happiness of the aged Simeon, of seeing all the scriptures being fulfilled…and of contemplating the dawning of the world’s salvation. Having received no other ministry…he offered himself in the silence of contemplation. 

Indeed, as friend of the Bridegroom, he too was the Bride, and from the Visitation onwards, had never left the bridal chamber, where the word filled him with light. 

John believed in his mission…he did not seek his own advancement; he did nothing to leave his solitude and slip into the privileged company of Jesus. 

Friend of the Bridegroom, he rejoiced in the Bridegroom’s joy, happy to endure the terrible loneliness of the dungeons of Machaerus, which he was never to leave until face to face with God forever. He wasn’t called to the Apostolic College, or to the founding of the Church…and yet none of the Apostles was to receive higher praise from Jesus than John the BaptiSt” (adapted from “John The Baptist’s Wilderness” by an Anonymous Monk).

Spend quiet time with this text. Go to a remote corner of the garden. A seat by the Sea. Visit a quiet corner of a Church which is open for prayer. Hear the words: BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD. Allow the Holy Spirit to play on the fibres of your heart like a harpist in order to bring forth the most beautiful melody of your response to God.

I share my response in Evangelizatio No. 1.

Evangelizatio is my LIVED RESPONSE to the sacred scriptures given to me each week by the Church for my formation as a Christian. If I don’t respond, they are merely texts on a page. When I do respond, they are my life.

I hear a call to go into the wilderness, into eremitical space where I can be quiet for long enough to hear the call of God – the call to enter more deeply into the silence of contemplation, as did John the Baptist. The wilderness is where the Word will fill me with Light, Divine Light for my daily journey. 

The wilderness of silence and contemplation is the real bridal chamber. St John of the Cross wrote in his poetry, that we are meant to know every aspect of Divine Light, and that we do this when we quiet ourselves, and go inside of ourselves and touch God. St Gertrud of Helfta, one of the Rhineland Mystics wrote in her Spiritual Exercises: “When I return into my heart, I find You there.” The call of the wilderness is the call to touch God.

– Sr Hildegard Ryan OSB, Jamberoo Abbey 

(Lectio Divina is Holy Reading, that is, reading of the Sacred Scriptures. It is a way of life, not a method of prayer. It is about reading (and listening), reflecting, praying in tune with the Holy Spirit within me, resting in God, responding in the way I live, and continually pondering on the Scriptures).

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