Step 9: God So Loved the World - The Birth of Jesus

Each prayer session will be structured as it follows:

We go to our place of prayer quiet down a short while and begin with some prayer. After the opening prayer and asking the grace we want to receive in this step then read the orientation and one of the scripture quotes listed below, then we spend some time with silent prayer. At the end we jot down a diary about the experience of this meditation and share with our companion about it. Finish always with a short prayer. Each session should take at least half an hour and not more than one and the half hour. We remain with the material as long as we feel that it is fruitful in insights and feelings. We have given some scripture quotes to each occasion but others can be chosen for more prayer sessions to prolong the time spent with this step, which can take usually one or two weeks if we do it in our daily life with one prayer session a day.

Don’t forget to do the "Daily Examination of Consciousness"

The practice of Examination will be a great help that you need to use during this retreat.

Opening Prayer:

We place ourselves in the presence of God and pray that everything we do would serve the good for us and for all.

Asking what we want:

As for all the contemplations of the Second Phase "it will be to ask for an intimate knowledge of our Lord, who has become man for me, that I may love Him more and follow Him more closely" [104].

Orientation and meditation:

"From a theological point of view, this meditation is only a repetition of the meditation on the Incarnation of the Word. But here we want to consider more carefully a few traits of the epiphany of grace in Jesus Christ that can give us more help to reach the decision that each of us should make in this retreat" (1).

"We read the Scripture, Lk 2:1-14 and see Mary, nine months pregnant arriving in Bethlehem together with Joseph. We might imagine them Mary riding a donkey, or both of them traveling on foot; both possibility seems feasible for that time and their social status. They come from Nazareth in consequence of an imperial order, subject to the political situation and exposed to the changes in the will of the powerful of their times…We might see here the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem, which is probably dusty and winding; we can imagine how it is, wide or narrow, with trees or barren and so on. This road is similar to the roads in our life. We see then Bethlehem, the town full of caravans of travelers and merchants, with their animals; we see the lodges where they stay and the outskirts where the poor live in cave-like dwellings. Or, we can also represent in our imagination "Bethlehem" with one of the towns we know in our country.

When we have formed these pictures in our imagination the contemplation consist of seeing the persons, hearing what they say and finally observing what they do:

"We see the persons present at the birth of Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the baby himself, and maybe on good willed woman who helps at the delivery. Later, as the shepherds arrive (Lk 2,8-20) we can imagine ourselves to be among them and so contemplate the scene. We try to understand better what the presence of the shepherds means here; maybe we can imagine them as a bunch of homeless guys in the outskirts of one of our big towns, where Mary, Joseph and Jesus finding shelter in some very provisional shaky dwelling as a poor migrant working family. If the companions wish, can go on and imagine also the arrival of the Magi (Mt 2,1-12) and consider what their presence means there, what the birth of Jesus should mean for the wealthy and well-educated, how the message of the "good news" should reach out for every social bracket and every nation. We stay there with them for a while and after the contemplation stop to reflect on what we have felt and understood, and to consider which grace we received. It would be advisable to write down notes about the experience and share it without discussing however how it went, only accept each others experience as it was.

"The companions try now to imagine the conversation between Mary and Joseph with the baby Jesus born right before. Also at this point we stop and recollect whatever we felt and understood.

"The companions now turn their attention to contemplate the actions of Mary, Joseph and others in our scene. We can see the hardships of their journey, of finding a place to stay and so on. We can think about how the Son of God by being born in that place in Bethlehem accepted the conditions of hard work and the poverty of an ordinary life. We consider that all this happened somehow personally for us. "For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich" (2Cor 8:9). Also after this point we stop for a recollection of the graces received."

(Excerpts from "Nativity" in the Manual )

Scripture Passages:

1. Lk 2:1-14- The Birth of Jesus

2. Lk 2:8-20 - The Shepherds

3. Lk 2:21 - The Circumcision

4. Mt 2:1-12- The Magi

5. Jn 1:1-18

6. Col 1:15-20

7. 1 Jn 1:1-10

Final Prayers:

We spend some time speaking with the Three Persons of the Trinity and finally with Mary about our experiences in this session and give thanks for the graces received. Close with an Our Father...

Notes:

(1) Rahner, "Spiritual Exercises," p. 146.