(This is Neil.) Let me wish all of our readers (and Todd) a blessed New Year’s.
I would also like to contribute one more post in 2007 (the long promised posts on the medieval Eucharist will appear in January). During this past month, I’ve been reading some of the reflections of Bishop Geoffrey Rowell and Julien Chilcott-Monk in their Come, Lord Jesus! Daily Readings for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. The book, especially Julien Chilcott-Monk’s imaginative accounts of “Mary’s musings,” is meant to be related to “the meditative tradition of Ignatian spirituality.”
Here is what Geoffrey Rowell, the Anglican Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, would have us reflect upon today. The Greek word used by St Luke for “ponder” is sumballo.
At the end of his birth narrative, Luke records in a simple note that “Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Here, Luke is saying to us something so surpassingly wonderful that we need to return to contemplate it time and time again: that Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, is said to “keep and ponder.” She treasures them up and she meditates, reflects, and engages deeply with their meaning. The Greek word we translate as “ponder” means really “to symbolize” and almost “to kindle the imagination” about something, and even, if we pushed it a little further, “to be set on fire” about something. This tells us something important about Christian prayer. The old medieval monks were said to “ruminate” on Scripture, “to chew it over” as a ruminant chews the cud. So many Christians think of prayer simply as asking God for things; that is only a small part of prayer. When we pray deeply we should be like those old monks, chewing over the words of Scripture; or, better still, like Mary, kindling our imaginations and pondering in our hearts. Then we shall be able to say with Simeon, “For I have seen with my own eyes your promised salvation, a salvation you have prepared for all to see.”
And here is the sequence, Celeste organum, from the Proper of the Sarum Mass, that the authors suggest we pray on this, the last day of the year:
Lo! Earth is joined with things divine, in this respect their lays combine.
O man, rejoice, and ponder this accord; O flesh, rejoice, combining with the Word.
Star of the sea! Thy blessed Son the holy Church adores.