Friendship with God: Day 2

DAY 2

 

Lent is an invitation. We are invited to walk with Jesus as he did during the forty days and forty nights he wandered in the desert. We are invited to accompany our Lord as he withdraws into a lonely place. Imagine then, that God is extending an invitation to you to join him in the cloister garden of your heart that we entered yesterday. Have you taken the step of inviting him in?

 

Lent is a time for us not to be afraid of choosing to be alone, but to trust that, even in our loneliness, indeed especially there, there is space for Jesus to dwell with us, drawing us ever closer to himself.

 

Take these few minutes to be alone with Jesus. Let him speak to you through his word. Read the story of the garden of Eden in Genesis 3. After a day of labor, God walks “in the garden at the time of the evening breeze” (Genesis 3:8). Imagine this scene as a regular occurrence. Picture the cloister garden in your heart. God and human beings, after a day of work, get together in the cool of the evening to walk and talk. This is an image of friendship and intimacy, of cooperation in creativity and in relaxation. Let yourself bask in this image-“inhabit it.” Walk with God in the cool breeze of your own cloister garden. Pay attention to how you react as you do.

Note this in your prayer journal.

 

Read Matthew 13:31. Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, “the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants…so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” Margaret Silf, the British Christian author of many bestsellers about the spiritual journey, argues that when we make this journey inwards, allowing God to penetrate the center, our hearts, to inhabit our garden, a powerful creative act takes place. She calls this the germination of the Godseed.

mustard_seed_flowers_

Our Godseeds are nothing less than the immanent (present to us individually and collectively in our hearts and in our human experience) God, locked up in our hearts, waiting to be set free in an act of germination, an act of resurrection. When this happens, we can say that not only has God touched us, but has “taken root” in our lived experience. It is God’s dream to plant this seed within us and allow it to flourish into a deep and abiding friendship.

 

We might reflect at this point on Mary’s response to the Annunciation. Imagine God saying to you: “Are you willing to bring me to birth in your own life, in the cloister garden of your heart?” And you can respond as Mary did: “Let it be done to me according to your will.” (Luke 1:38)

 

In your prayer, invite Jesus to come into your garden and walk with you. Ask him to germinate the Godseed within you and pray with Mary, “Let it be done to me according to your will. “



Day 26: Friday

Friday:  Rest in Prayer and Thanksgiving. Read the passage (Luke 2:25-35) of the Nunc Dimittis, or Simeon’s song one final time. Recall the word of phrase that stood out to you. Allow God to speak in the silence. Rest in God. Simply “be with” God’s presence as you open yourself to a deeper hearing of the Word of God. If you feel drawn back to the scriptures, follow the lead of the Spirit.

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After Simeon had seen and held Jesus, he broke out in the song we still sing: “Lord, now you let your servant depart in peace, according to your Word.  For my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Your people Israel.” (v.29-32)
Depart in peace” is the dismissal at the Lord’s Supper. It is also the closing words of the Benediction that sends us back out into the world after “holding Jesus” – receiving His life-strengthening Word and Sacrament: “…the Lord lift up His countenance (face) upon you, and give you peace.”

 

Peace” in found with God, “peace” in whatever circumstances comes our way, as long as we live them with Jesus. Yet, we all, in various ways, try to live without this peace of salvation through Jesus. We turn away from the hope to which he has called us. So we pray, like the Apostle Paul: “… that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints.”  (Ephesians1:18)

 

The peace of Christ Jesus doesn’t simply come TO us. It is meant to be a living light, to go THROUGH us. Having seen and received Jesus, we are changed people, baptized into the light. It seems apparent from the text that even the devout Simeon was never the same again.  He left the Temple having “seen and held” Jesus! Think of how Simeon must have shared this with everyone he met!  God’s peace and presence in us moves us to be positive witnesses.  For Jesus came for “all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles; and for glory to God’s people, Israel.”  May God, the Holy Spirit, so fill us; enlighten us; empower us as He did to Simeon, that we not only receive God’s peace but that God’s peace go through us – to our family, friends, neighbors and co-workers.
Listen to this beautiful version of the Nunc Dimittis by Arvo Part, a contemporary Estonian composer of classical and sacred music (wonderful for contemplation). Reflect on the following questions. Note your responses in your journal.

  • Consider the word or phrase which stood out to you. What might God be saying to you throughout your study of the Nunc Dimittis?
  • Consider your own calling: to what hope has he called you? How will you use “his glorious inheritiance” for the life of the world?
  • How might this peace and presence of Christ move you to be a positive witness?


Day 25: Thursday

Thursday: Respond (Act)

 

What does this mean for me? For the life of the World? For my role in the world?  As you meditate on the song of Simeon, the Nunc Dimittis today (Luke 2:25-35), consider what kind of transformation Jesus is highlighting for you. Reflect back on your journal notes and on the word or phrase that stood out to you in this song. Consider the relationship between that word or phrase and transformation.

 

In today’s reflection, following the progression of the four “movements” in the Lectio Divina method of spiritual reading, or reading with God (Read, Reflect, Respond and Rest), we will consider not only the movement within our own hearts, and what Simeon’s song means for us, but we will explore what it means for the life of the world and our role in the world. Lectio is a way of listening to the texts of Scripture as if we were in conversation with Christ and He was suggesting the topics of conversation. Yesterday, our response took the form of prayer for guidance. As you study today, consider what it is that Christ may be leading you to do and how you will Respond to his leading.

presentation
Simeon’s song by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn

 

Did you know that during the Reformation Calvin’s church sang Simeon’s song during communion? Today you’d be hard pressed to find many churches singing it.  Consider this and reflect on why this text might have been chosen.

 

We have seen that the song of Simeon is a prayer rooted in the words of scripture, prophecies woven together from pieces of 2nd Isaiah (40:5; 42:6; 46:13; 52:10). Isaiah 52:10 says, “The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” Simeon says, “Mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all the peoples.” What was only implicit in the song of Zechariah—namely, that the beneficiaries of God’s salvation are not Jews only but also Gentiles—this now becomes explicit in the song of Simeon. Jesus is the Jewish Messiah who comes to bring glory to Israel, but the mercy shown to Israel over-swells the banks of Israel and brings revelation to all the nations. Isaiah described the mission of the Messiah like this: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (49:6; cf. 42:6).

 

In the gospel message it foretells, there is an intertwined narrative of judgment as well as of salvation. Simeon illustrates that Jesus will be both a great light to the Gentiles, as a well as a sword that would pierce our hearts. We can never experience the joy of Jesus without first facing the sinful thoughts and actions of our own hearts. Part of the good news of the gospel is that it helps us understand the horror of our sin as we find ourselves in the arms of our loving Savior.

 

Musical settings of this text often only focus on the blessing of verses 29-32, leaving out the beauty and covenantal completion of verses 34, and 35.  Some have viewed the blessing at the close as a kind of poetic meditation, which might go like this:

Behold this child will pierce your heart

His Word will be a sword

A sign opposed to hearts concealed

And grace for heaven’s adored

 

Today, 20 centuries later from the Christmas story, our days are no less dark than those of the first Christmas songs. What can we do? Simeon is surely a model for us. First, we can live as salt and light for our time, as Simeon did. Like Simeon in his dark day, we can choose to live for God, to find our ways into the courts of God. Let the Spirit of God rest upon us and fill our lives. Then, we can choose to live expectantly. “Shiloh will come.” This holy season — and in every season “May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

 

Listen to this madrigal of the Nunc Dimittis by the English composer William Byrd (1540 or late 1539 – 4 July 1623, by the Julian calendar, 14 July 1623, by the Gregorian calendar). As you do, reflect on these and note your responses in your journal:

 

  • Consider the sword Simeon references. How does his Word pierce your heart and show you the areas of your life that are not fully redeemed in grace? Where might God be suggesting you release the chains of sin in your own heart?
  • How might you live as Simeon did, as salt and light for the world?
  • How might you choose to live expectantly, as SImeon did, even in dark days, as light in the darkness?
  • How will this change how you choose to live and what you choose to do?

Prayer:

Ask God for the grace of a heart open to the piercings of his Word and to show you how you, like Simeon, might be salt and light for the life of the world.


Day 24: Wednesday

Wednesday: Reflect (Pray), part II.

Presentation
The Presentation of Christ in the Temple, Andrea Mantegna, 1460, Staatliche Museen, Berlin
Today, before we explore another theme from the Nunc Dimittis, we will stop along our journey and read a poem by one of the great poets of Anglican spirituality, TS Eliot (1888-1965). He was one of the major Christian poets of the 20th century His poem Ash Wednesday (1930), was written to mark his baptism and confirmation as an Anglican three years earlier in 1927. The Song of Simeon is one of four poems by Eliot published between 1927 and 1930, known as the Ariel Poems. In Journey of The Magi and A Song for Simeon, Eliot shows how he persisted on his spiritual pilgrimage. He was baptised and confirmed in the Church of England on 29 June 1927. Journey of the Magi was published two months later, in August 1927, and a few months later Faber, for whom he worked, published A Song for Simeon  as part of a series of Christmas booklets. In all, Eliot wrote four poems for the series.

 

Read the poem slowly and carefully twice. Many consider it a kind of prelude to Simeon’s song. As you read, consider what Eliot is saying about his spiritual journey. The poem can be read as a song for Simeon to sing, or as a song to be sung for Simeon. We can imagine ourselves listening to Simeon’s prophetic voice, or imagine the voice of a poet singing on Simeon’s behalf or in his honor at a later age, from a viewpoint and with insights denied to Simeon himself. After you have read it, think about what it might be saying to you about your own spiritual journey.

 

A Song for Simeon (TS Eliot)

 

Lord, the Roman hyacinths are blooming in bowls and

The winter sun creeps by the snow hills;

The stubborn season had made stand.

My life is light, waiting for the death wind,

Like a feather on the back of my hand.

Dust in sunlight and memory in corners

Wait for the wind that chills towards the dead land.

 

Grant us thy peace.

I have walked many years in this city,

Kept faith and fast, provided for the poor,

Have given and taken honour and ease.

There went never any rejected from my door.

Who shall remember my house, where shall live my children’s children

When the time of sorrow is come?

They will take to the goat’s path, and the fox’s home,

Fleeing from the foreign faces and the foreign swords.

 

Before the time of cords and scourges and lamentation

Grant us thy peace.

Before the stations of the mountain of desolation,

Before the certain hour of maternal sorrow,

Now at this birth season of decease,

Let the Infant, the still unspeaking and unspoken Word,

Grant Israel’s consolation

To one who has eighty years and no to-morrow.

 

According to thy word.

They shall praise Thee and suffer in every generation

With glory and derision,

Light upon light, mounting the saints’ stair.

Not for me the martyrdom, the ecstasy of thought and prayer,

Not for me the ultimate vision.

Grant me thy peace.

(And a sword shall pierce thy heart,

Thine also).

I am tired with my own life and the lives of those after me,

I am dying in my own death and the deaths of those after me.

Let thy servant depart,

Having seen thy salvation.
“At the very end of the poem, we seem to have arrived at the start of Nunc Dimittis. All that we have read so far is now seen in a new light, as a prelude to the canticle. The poet, now baptised, has the hope of a greater hope, having seen his salvation. He is tired of his former life, there is consolation as derision turns to glory. Baptised into the death of Christ, he has been born into new life.”  –Canon Patrick Comerford, Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute
  • How has this poem helped you understand your own life in a new light?  Your spiritual journey?
  • Like the poet, do you have the hope of a greater hope, having seen your salvation for the here and now? For the life you live today?  How does this relate to what you learned from the first two themes of the Nunc Dimittis: the light of salvation which is for all people?
  • What then, will you do with this glorious new life?
Prayer:  Offer a prayer, using the words at the end of the poem, and ask God to show you how to use his glorious gift of salvation for the life of the world.


Day 23: Tuesday

Tuesday: Reflect  (Think)

As God speaks to us, we reflect on his Word by “ruminating” on it in our minds. Read the passage of the “Nunc Dimittis (Luke 2:29-32) for the third time. Relish the words. Let them resound in your heart. Be attentive to what speaks to your heart.

 

Yesterday, we examined two interrelated themes in the Nunc Dimittis: sight “My eyes have seen”), and the light of revelation. Today, we move on to the second theme in Simeon’s song, which is that of his inclusion of both Gentiles and Israelites as recipients of Jesus’ salvation: “My eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared before the face of all the people, a light for the revelation of Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel.” This, too, is a theme that we have already touched on in other canticles.

 

Simeon is the first character in Luke’s gospel to understand and proclaim this integral theme, giving evidence to the spiritual understanding attributed to him above. One major way in which Luke develops this theme is through the ministry of Saul in the book of Acts. As the Lord tells Ananias in chapter 9, “[Saul] is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (v. 15). Another way in which Luke develops the theme of Gentile inclusion is his description in Acts 15 of the Jerusalem council held to determine whether Gentile converts to Christianity should be circumcised as their Jewish counterparts were. One of the elders, James, refers to Simeon’s words in the Nunc Dimittis in his speech to the council:

 

“And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and

brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did

visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this

agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return,

and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I

will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of

men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name

is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are

all his works from the beginning of the world. Wherefore my sentence is,

that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to

God.” (Acts 15:13-19)

 

James’ speech is the turning point in the council, and it leads to greater acceptance of the Gentile community into the new Christian faith. From this example and others, we have seen that Simeon’s Nunc Dimittis serves as an exposition of two themes that Luke develops in his Gospel: spiritual sight and revelation, as well as the inclusion of all peoples in God’s plan for human salvation.

 

 

The Taizé Community is an ecumenical monastic order in Taizé, Saône-et-Loire, Burgundy, France. It is composed of more than one hundred brothers, from Catholic and Protestant traditions, who originate from about thirty countries across the world. It was founded in 1940 by Brother Roger Schütz, a Reformed Protestant. Guidelines for the community’s life are contained in The Rule of Taizé, written by Brother Roger and first published in French in 1954.

The community has become one of the world’s most important sites of Christian pilgrimage. Over 100,000 young people from around the world make pilgrimages to Taizé each year for prayer, Bible study, sharing, and communal work. Through the community’s ecumenical outlook, they are encouraged to live in the spirit of kindness, simplicity and reconciliation.

Listen the Taizé singing of the Nunc Dimittis with a quiet heart. As you do:

  • Ask God to speak to your heart about the inclusion of all peoples in his plan for salvation. What comes to mind?
  • How does the concept of spiritual sight and the light of revelation inform this plan for salvation? Consider your own spiritual sight: how has the light shone by studying God’s word in this study been a light of revelation for you?
  • How might God be leading you to shine this light of revelation for the life of the world? Consider the word of phrase that has stood out to you in this passage. What might God be suggesting to you?

 

Prayer:

Ask God to help you see how you, like Simeon, might proclaim his salvation for all people.


Day 22: Monday

Monday: Read

the Scripture Passage of Simeon’s song slowly (Luke 2:29-32). Listen with the “ear of your heart.” What phrase, sentence or even one word stands out to you? Allow that phrase or word to settle deeply in your heart. Let an attitude of quiet receptiveness permeate your prayer time.

 

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The Nunc Dimittis from Les Tres Riches Heures de Duc de Berry

 

  • What Phrase or Word stands to you?

 

As we explore the themes from Simeon’s song, we will first examine two interrelated themes in the Nunc Dimittis: sight “My eyes have seen”), and the light of revelation. In Simeon’s hymn, he “sees” God’s salvation both with his physical eyes (he holds the Christ Child) and with spiritual eyes (he understands the theological implications of Christ’s salvation). Christ’s salvation also gives light to

spiritual understanding, as Simeon notes in calling salvation “a light for revelation to the Gentiles.”

 

Describing spiritual understanding in terms of sight, light, and revelation is a theme that Luke carries through his gospel, as we saw in the Gloria when Jesus weeps over the Jerusalem inhabitants’ lack of spiritual “sight” (Luke 19:42), and in the story of the men on the road to Emmaus who do not truly “see” Christ until he is revealed to them in the breaking of sacramental bread (Luke 24:31). Luke develops this theme again in Acts 9, when Saul loses his physical sight so that his spiritual sight might be made clear:

 

“On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He said, “Who are you, sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could see no one. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus. 9  For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank. (Acts 9:3-9)

 

In this passage, Luke brings together the three elements of light, sight, and revelation to comment on Saul’s receiving of spiritual understanding. Surrounding the revelation of Jesus’ identity (“I am Jesus who you are persecuting”) is a “light from heaven,” and Saul’s loss of physical sight is indicative of his loss of spiritual sight. Later in the chapter, Ananias, the man sent to lay hands on Saul, reveals to him why he is subsequently healed from his temporary blindness: “Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the holy Spirit” (Acts 9:17). In this verse Luke connects the receiving of sight with the receiving of the Holy Spirit, pointing to the greater “sight” or wisdom that comes from the Holy Spirit’s revelation. Following Ananias’ words, “Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. He got up and was baptized.” (Acts 9:18). In this sentence, Luke connects spiritual sight with baptism into the Christian faith.

 

“The spiritual significance of a Jewish rabbi’s being physically blinded by the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ is not lost on Saul or Luke (2 Cor 4:4-6). Major themes in Luke-Acts are God’s final salvation as a recovery of sight to the blind and as a light to the nations (Is 40:5/Lk 3:6; Is 61:1-2/Lk 4:18-19; Is 42:6/Lk 2:30-32; Is 49:6/Acts 13:47; compare 26:23; Lk 7:21-22; 18:35-43–last miracle before the cross; 14:21; Acts 26:18-23). The Jews, especially the rabbis, used the image “guide to the blind” to describe their God-given role among the Gentiles (Rom 2:19). As Saul meditates on the light during those three days of darkness, then, the greatness of the divinely promised final salvation available only in the last person he saw must become more and more clear and precious (Acts 26:18).

 

What is Saul to make of his blindness? It is not a punishment, nor an indication of divine disfavor, nor simply a concrete proof of the vision. An acted parable, it shows Saul the spiritual bankruptcy of his pre-Christian condition. The hostility to Christianity of pre-Christian Saul presents both challenge and hope to any non-Christian. The hope is that if God can turn the fiercest opponent of the Lord into his most willing servant, he has the ability to save anyone. The challenge is not to be deceived by self-satisfaction. Saul was quite content with his life spiritually. But God’s sovereign grace arrested him.” (Paraphrased from IVP New Testament Commentary)

 

 

  • How is the gift of sight a kind of baptism? Reflect on your own walk with Christ. How does the light he casts on your heart offer you new life?
  • Why is life without this light of heaven, this sight, a form of bankruptcy? Are there areas of your own life that are still bound in this bankrupt state?
  • In what ways is Jesus suggesting your eyes be opened? Are you deceived by self-satisfaction with your spiritual state? How might God’s sovereign grace be arresting you?
  • How does this light to the blind offer hope for the life of the world? How might it strengthen your own faith in God’s ability to change the hearts of even his “fiercest opponents”?

 

Prayer:

Pray Simeon’s hymn to God as if it were your own prayer, asking God to grant you the grace of the sight that brings new life.


Day 21: Sunday

Week Four: The canticle of Simeon (the Nunc Dimittis) – Luke 2:29-32

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Nunc Dimittis, Simeon’s Song of Praise, by Aert de Gelder (or Arent, 26 October 1645 – 27 August 1727), one of Rembrandt’s last pupils while in Amsterdam (1661 to 1663).

 

The names given to each of the canticles are from the first word of each Latin Vulgate translation. Therefore the Nunc dimittis from Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine, or “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart…”

 

The circumstances under which Simeon uttered his song-petition, thanksgiving, and prophecy are narrated by Luke (2:21-35). The words following those quoted above, “according to thy word in peace”, are explained in Luke 2:26: “And he had received an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.” Brief though the Canticle is, it abounds in Old-Testament allusions. Thus, in the following verses, “Because my eyes have seen thy salvation” alludes to Isaiah 52:10, rendered afterwards by Luke (3:6), “And all flesh shall see the salvation of God”. Verse 31, “Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples” accords with the Psalmist (97:2); and verse 32, “A light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel”, recalls Isaiah 42:6.

 

“And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon…” (Luke 2:25). The name Simeon in Hebrew means “hearing” or “one who hears” from the verb shema. In the Hebrew language, hearing is deeply connected with obedience. Recall the shema in Deuteronomy 6:4-5: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” When someone was said to “hear” the voice of God in the Old Testament, it was implied that this person also heeded that voice. Simeon, in his name and in his character as presented in Luke’s Gospel, embodies the obedient man praised in the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings of the Old Testament. He also symbolizes all of the Jewish people, who have waited for the Messiah since the promise was first given in Genesis 3.

 

The song of Simeon has also played an important role in Church liturgy through the ages. The text of the Nunc Dimittis is given in full in the brief evening prayer found in the Apostolic Constitutions. In the Catholic church’s office, the daily cycle of monastic prayers, the canticle is assigned to Complin. If St. Benedict did not originate this canonical Hour, he gave to it its liturgical character; but he nevertheless did not include the Canticle, which was afterwards incorporated into the richer Complin Service of the Roman Rite, where it is preceded by the beautiful responsory, “In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum” (Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit) etc., with the Antiphon following, “Salva nos, Domine, vigilantes, custodi nos dormientes” (O Lord, keep us waking, guard us sleeping) etc., all this harmonizing exquisitely with the spirit of the Nunc Dimittis.

 

Read Simeon’s Song and the narrative context around it. (Luke 2:21-35). Augustine argued that the Lukan canticles themselves are good examples of faith, hope, and charity at work in human beings: they aim to teach the reader how to behold the incarnation which requires faith, how to respond to it, which requires love, and how to hope
for eschatological fulfillment based on the knowledge that the promises of Christ’s first coming have already been fulfilled. If lf we approach Simeon’s song in the way that Augustine suggests Scripture to be read, and in the way that Luke intended for them to be read by his own admission (indeed even in the way, it may be argued, that the cantors themselves intended) – namely as texts through which the charity, faith, and hope of the reader may be strengthened: then,

 

  1. How does Simeon’s song require love, faith and hope as he beholds the incarnation?
  2. How does Simeon respond to each in a way that fulfills the promises of Christ’s first coming?

 

As you reflect on this week’s last canticle on this Sabbath day and the questions above, take time to listen prayerfully to Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina’s Dunc Dimittis (1524?-1594)..



Day 20: Saturday

Saturday: Recap

We have followed the steps of the Lectio Divina method of spiritual reading: Read, Reflect, Respond and Rest as we explored the angels’ Gloria. Today we will Recap what Christ is saying to us through this passage? How might you follow this lead in my life going forward?
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We have seen that the angels’ Gloria serves as an exposition of the important themes in Luke’s Gospel. In conclusion to this section, it is interesting to consider that the angels’ song, “Glory God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men,” is echoed by the disciples’ rejoicing at Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem:

 

“And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of

Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise

God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; saying,

Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven,

and glory in the highest. And some of the Pharisees from among the

multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered

and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the

stones would immediately cry out. And when he was come near, he beheld

the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least

in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are

hid from thy eyes. (Luke 19:37-42)

 

As the canticles in the beginning of Luke’s Gospel echo the rejoicing of David and the house of Israel at the entrance of the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6; see chapter one), now Jesus’ disciples also echo that passage as the incarnate presence of God enters Jerusalem to be the one perfect sacrifice. Amidst their joy, only Jesus weeps over the fact that many in Jerusalem will not see nor know the peace that He brings to them.

 

During this week, we have explored together the wonderful riches of the angels’ Song, the Gloria. Think back over the week’s contemplation. Look through the pages in your Advent journal. Note your responses to these questions:

 

  • What has God led you to discover about the angels’ song that speaks into your life?
  • How can you employ the disciplines beholding God’s Glory; of an openness to shalom and peace only Christ brings; of an attitude of wonder and awe; and of praise in your life?
  • What transformation is God leading you towards? In what areas of your life is he shining his light?
  • How is God leading you to reflect this transformation in your actions and choices? To what specific actions does this transformation point? How does it change how you will choose to live and what you will choose to do?
  • What have you learned about your vocation for the life of the world through contemplating the angel’s joyous chorus?

 

Prayer:

Ask God for the grace of this transformation in your life and the grace of wisdom to see how it might be employed for the life of the world.

 

Tomorrow, we move on to the Nunc Dimittis, the song of Simeon,

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in the last week of our study.


Day 19: Friday

REST: As you celebrate the New Year today, we offer this little gift of pleasure. Listen to the contemporary composer John Rutter’s composition of the Gloria, and while you do, imagine yourself hearing the song of the angels for the first time. Let the impression of glory, peace, wonder and praise seep into your heart and enjoy its beautiful music.  If a prayer comes to mind, offer it to God.



Day 18: Thursday

Thursday: Respond (Act)

 

As you meditate on the song of the angels, the Gloria today (Luke 2:9-14), consider what kind of transformation Jesus is highlighting for you.What does this mean for me? For the life of the World? For your role in the world?  Look back on your journal notes and on the word or phrase that stood out to you in this song. Consider the relationship between that word or phrase and transformation.

 

In today’s reflection, following the progression of the four “movements” in the Lectio Divina method of spiritual reading, or reading with God (Read, Reflect, Respond and Rest), we will consider not only the movement within our own hearts, and what the angels song means for us, but we will explore what it means for the life of the world and our role in the world. Lectio is a way of listening to the texts of Scripture as if we were in conversation with Christ and He was suggesting the topics of conversation. Yesterday, our response took the form of prayer for guidance. As you study today, consider what it is that Christ may be leading you to do and how you will Respond to his leading.

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Wilmer Dewing, Picturing Angels, Gloria, Thomas Wilmer, Angels Surround, Dewing Paintings, 1884
For the past few days we have been noting that the angels’ Gloria serves as an exposition of themes that Luke continues to develop in his narrative. We have explored the themes of

Glory, of Peace and of Wonder and awe. Thinking about these in concert, they lead us to Praise. The three hymns of praise-the Benedictus, the Magnificat, the Nunc Dimittis-spring from the human heart and are found on human lips. But the short Gloria in Luke’s gospel is different. It is the song of the angels who surround the throne of God. At the end of the angel’s announcement of the birth of Jesus to the shepherds in Bethlehem, “suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests’ ” (Lk 2:13-14). This song of praise, which the angels sang in response to the event of the holy night, is a hymn of joy at God’s glory – ‘we praise you for your glory’. In the Gloria, we voice a joy that cannot be contained at the goodness of God now visible and tangible in the birth of Christ and in his saving work as our Redeemer.

 

Perhaps it is not surprising that there are no questions in this scene, only praise. And that is what Christmas is for— no matter how dark, or complex, or seemingly hopeless the world may look or in fact be, this day stands as a beacon in history’s long progression. The challenge that comes to us in this scene is to suspend our worries, fears, regrets, anxieties and join in the praise.

 

  • What is your hymn of joy to God? How do the concepts of Glory, Peace and Wonder transform your sense of hope in what can sometimes seem a hopeless world? How does this help you to face the world without fear?
  • For a moment, at Christmas, the heavens opened and proclaimed this hymn that forever changed the trajectory of humanity. How does this proclamation transform your own life? Imagine yourself as a shepherd that night, hearing the great chorus of angels singing. How would this alter your life ever after? How would you respond?
  • Look back on your notes from the Gloria’s themes thus far, paying particular attention to what God is showing you about your own life. Taking these themes together, look for common threads in your observations. How does God’s direction change how you will live and what you will choose to do for the life of the world? Note this in your journal.
Prayer: Sing your hymn of joy to God, thanking him for his gift in Christ and praising him for the transformation this brings to your own life and to the life of the world. Ask him to make you an instrument of his peace in the world.