Contemplating the Great Pause

August 10, 2022

My Dear Sisters,


I wanted to begin to talk about how we can each grow in our participation in prayer. We heard Mother speak a bit about how important is the practice of Lectio Divina in monastic life, and she would like for us to implement it in our own prayer lives as Myrrhbearing Lay Sisters as well.

What is Lectio Divina? It is a practice of reading scripture or other divinely inspired texts or prayers with full attention and digesting it slowly and as completely as possible, integrating it within our deepest selves so that we can not only understand it but live it. You may have noticed (either those who were present at the third hour and Divine Liturgy on Sunday or who may have seen the nuns on their Facebook live videos…Sugarloaf Nuns) that when the nuns pray the psalms, they have a habit of pausing, somewhat dramatically by worldly standards, after each verse. When I stayed with them for a retreat weekend, I noticed it and asked Sr. Bohdanna about it. She told me they adopted the practice to give them each time to meditate on the verse and think of all the ways it could be applied to their lives at that moment. Now, one would think that after a few days of reading the same verses, there wouldn’t be much to contemplate! But this is where we Sisters are different from the average person. We realize that scripture is alive, dynamic, and can be applied and understood in a myriad of ways and on various levels. Each time we read a psalm, we can understand how it can teach us something about our present circumstances. Verses that we read over quickly yesterday, without much contemplation, can suddenly have new value today! The actual practice of Lectio Divina is usually accomplished in groups, where the participants read an entire scripture passage aloud and sit in silence for a bit to contemplate it. Each person, in turn, then mentions one verse, word, or concept that struck them and they begin to discuss it. We can accomplish this as well, either as a group or individually, by pausing to consider the meaning of each phrase as we pray it as the nuns do. Let’s take an example: Psalm 62 is customarily recited on Wednesday mornings during Matins. We read through it every week, but until the nuns impressed upon me the pausing and contemplation of each verse, I didn’t make the most of it. Here’s how it goes: O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting.

My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water.


So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory.

For your love is better than life, my lips will speak your praise.


So I will bless you all my life,

in your name, I will lift up my hands.


My soul shall be filled as with a banquet,

my mouth shall praise you with joy.


On my bed, I remember you. On you, I muse through the night,


for your have been my help; in the shadow of your wings, I rejoice.

My soul clings to you; your right-hand holds me fast.


Those who seek to destroy my life shall go down to the depths of the earth.

They shall be put into the power of the sword and left as the prey of the jackals.


But the king shall rejoice in God; (all that swear by him shall be blessed,) for the mouth of liars shall be silenced. Now, Let’s do it again but stop and think about how each verse “hits home” for us today. O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting.

My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water. I wake up during the night looking for water…must be the menopausal stage of my life, oh well…and I understand this metaphor well. I picture my soul as an arid desert, especially in the world today where there is precious little to give it the ability to grow, to feel nourished and healthy, to produce fruit to feed myself let alone others. Yes, this metaphor is very vivid.


So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory.

For your love is better than life, my lips will speak your praise.

Have you ever been alone in church and just looked at Christ in the tabernacle? I mean with the eyes of your soul, rather than your physical eyes. When I was a university student, I began this practice and when life got hectic, with a house of my own and children to raise, I missed it dearly. The strength I got from basking in His glory really WAS better than life, and I did praise Him for it…do I still speak His praise enough?


So I will bless you all my life,

in your name, I will lift up my hands.

Yes. Because of that experience alone, I will bless God all my life. I decided long ago that I would dedicate every moment, every breath, every heartbeat to the will of God for me and those around me, and He would be my God, and I would be His people. I’m sure you ladies know what I mean. In His name, I will lift up my hands…in worship. Do I worship Him as He wills to be worshipped?…Do I ever “lift up my hands” to work without thinking of Him? prioritize Him and His will behind other things?... lots to think about there.


My soul shall be filled as with a banquet,

my mouth shall praise you with joy. There are many times that I do not feel as if I am at a joyful banquet, and I admit that sometimes praise is far from my lips…it’s more like constant petition and complaint. I need to keep in mind that the experience of basking in God’s presence and drinking in His peace should raise me above that…yet I often forget to go to Him.


On my bed, I remember you. On you, I muse through the night, This is probably my favorite verse of this psalm because often, during the silence and peace of the night, when all my family members are at rest and the din of the day has passed, I have time to think…and pray…and contemplate my thoughts uninterrupted. I LOVE that time of day.


for your have been my help; in the shadow of your wings, I rejoice.

My soul clings to you; your right-hand holds me fast.

Yes…God has helped me through some very deep and unimaginable difficulties that could, and would have easily devoured me! I sometimes shudder to remember them. I have often found myself in the shadow of the wings of God, clinging to Him and marveling later on at how He held me fast during those dangers.


Those who seek to destroy my life shall go down to the depths of the earth.

They shall be put into the power of the sword and left as the prey of the jackals.

Our lives are our salvation…many will seek to destroy our salvation, especially as time goes on.


But the king shall rejoice in God; (all that swear by him shall be blessed,) for the mouth of liars shall be silenced.

We constantly battle evil in life, and now that I am a mother, I pray against the evils that will influence my children’s salvation and I often beg God to hold THEM fast in His right hand as he held me! This verse reminds me that God will silence the voices of those who speak against Him, because He IS truth. Those who lie to my children will be silenced. This gives me peace.


As you can see, this is how I digest this dynamic prayer today. Tomorrow, I may complete this exercise and have a completely different commentary because of the situations of the day. After each verse, that profound pause will prompt me to contemplation and the scripture will come alive and speak to us in profound ways!

I urge you to take a psalm, any of your favorites, and complete this exercise at least once this week and let us know how it goes!


Love and prayers to each of you today, my dear sisters!


Lynne
59 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All