NIGHT PRAYER: Saturday 3/25

A good way to pray with scripture is to imagine yourself as one of the characters in the story, in the scene, and to ponder what you might say or do, what you might experience from that character’s point of view as the story unfolds.

For tonight's prayer, I'll share just such a reflection with you,  from writer and artist, Jan Richardson.  She takes today's gospel for the feast of the Annunciation and imagines herself to be the angel, Gabriel, who comes to tell Mary she’ll be the mother of Jesus.

You might want to close your eyes and imagine, for a few moments, that you are the angel Gabriel, just about to enter Mary’s house…

Gabriel’s Annunciation
For a moment
I hesitated
on the threshold.

For the space
of a breath
I paused,
unwilling to disturb
her last ordinary moment,
knowing that the next step
would cleave her life:
that this day
would slice her story
in two,
dividing all the days before
from all the ones
to come.

The artists would later
depict the scene:
Mary dazzled
by the archangel,
her head bowed
in humble assent,
awed by the messenger
who condescended
to leave paradise
to bestow such an honor
upon a woman, and mortal.

Yet I tell you
it was I who was dazzled,
I who found myself agape
when I came upon her—
reading, at the loom, in the kitchen,
I cannot now recall;
only that the woman before me—
blessed and full of grace
long before I called her so—
shimmered with how completely
she inhabited herself,
inhabited the space around her,
inhabited the moment
that hung between us.

I wanted to save her
from what I had been sent
to say.

Yet when the time came,
when I had stammered
the invitation
(history would not record
the sweat on my brow,
the pounding of my heart;
would not note
that I said
Do not be afraid
to myself as much as
to her)
it was she
who saved me—
her first deliverance—
her Let it be
not just declaration
to the Divine
but a word of solace,
of soothing,
of benediction

for the angel
in the doorway
who would hesitate
one last time—
just for the space
of a breath
torn from his chest—
before wrenching himself away
from her radiant consent,
her beautiful and
awful yes.
- Jan Richardson

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That’s a beautiful reflection, isn’t it?
But maybe like me, 
you have a hard time imagining yourself as an angel!

In the scriptures, angels are messengers from God:
they come to deliver a word, a warning 
or an invitation from God
and I have no doubt that God's always messaging me.
God is, if you will, always texting me,
sending a word, a message of wisdom, 
some timely warning, an invitation or a challenge
to something new and life-giving...

These messages come to me in many ways
    - just about never through an “angel in the doorway” -
but rather, in reflective moments of prayer,
in listening carefully to what others say,
in paying attention to my conscience,
in hearing the scriptures at Mass,
in the beauty of creation all around me,
occasionally in a dream, much more often in the shower,
or when I take the time to slow down, be at peace,
and, like Mary, truly inhabit the space I'm in,
the moment at hand...

I believe there’s not a moment in any day or night,
whether I’m awake or asleep, 
when God isn’t messaging me,
speaking to me, offering me wise counsel
and inviting me to a deeper relationship with him.

And I believe the same is true for every one of us!

Of course, we’re not always tuned in.  We’re often preoccupied.
We might be too busy to listen or pay attention. 
And sometimes, we don’t even want to know
what God’s message to us might be.
But at this time of the year, two things are true.

    1) God wants to use the season of Lent
    to get a message through to each of us.
    I don’t what that is for you
    but I have an inkling of what it is for me.

    2) Whatever else might be happening in our lives,
    Lent might find us a little more open than usual
    to wondering, pondering, listening for
    the message, the word, the warning,  
    the comfort, the challenge, the invitation
    God may be sending us.

Mary stopped whatever she was doing
and listened to Gabriel
and to the message the angel delivered. 
She “inhabited” the moment, 
she opened her heart and listened
and she paid attention,
not in her yesterdays, not in  her tomorrows
- but in the moment.
And she heard God’s word to her, 
a word of love and invitation
to a life of intimacy with the person of Jesus...
God’s word to each of us will be different 
because each of us needs to hear a different word,
a personal message, from God...
So...  let's pray for the grace this Lent
    to stop the busyness,
    to inhabit, to live in the moment,
    to listen and pray 
    and then listen some more
    and maybe even
        - to look for an angel in the doorway...
Protect us, Lord, while we're awake
and watch over us while we sleep
that awake, we might keep watch with you
and asleep, rest in your peace...


For our musical reflection tonight, I share with you again Franz Biebl's  exquisite Ave Maria, flawlessly performed by Chanticleer.  Composed in 1964, Biebl intersperses the Ave with the three verses of the Angelus prayer, all of which captures the scene of Gabriel and Mary at the Annunciation.  Scroll down for the lyrics in Latin and English.  I hope you'll take the time to listen and to pray...   

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Here's an image of Mary, inhabiting the moment...

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner

Angelus Domini, nuntiavit Mariae,
concepit de Spiritu Sancto.

The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary
and she conceived of the Holy Spirit.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum;
benedicta tu in mulieribus
et benedictus fructus ventris tui Jesus. 
    Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you;
    blessed are you among women
    and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.

Maria dixit, ecce ancilla Domini,
fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.

    Mary said: behold the servant of the Lord,
    let it be done to me according to your word.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum;
benedicta tu in mulieribus
et benedictus fructus ventris tui Jesu.

    Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you;
    blessed are you among women
    and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.

verbum caro factum est,
et habitavit in nobis.

    And the word became flesh
    and dwelled among us.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum;
benedicta tu in mulieribus
et benedictus fructus ventris tui Jesu.
Sancta Maria, mater Dei,
ora pro nobis peccatoribus
nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.
    Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you;
    blessed are you among women
    and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
    Holy Mary, mother of God,
    pray for us, sinners,
    now and at the hour of our death.




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