May 31, 2013

Praying Scripture: Luke 1: 5-80

As I read the morning Liturgy of the Hours on May 31st (Feast of the Visitation) I once again came to the reading of the Canticle of Zechariah. When I came to verse 76 I was struck for the first time after numerous readings in the past. I asked did the Holy Spirit come to Zechariah all at once or did this revelation come over time as Zechariah recalled his vision of the angel and now not being able to speak? When I came home I read Luke 1 several times. I began to “pray this scripture”.  If you aren’t familiar with this let me give you a brief explanation.  It is a method of prayer or meditation on scripture. It is a daydream where you can enter into the “scene” as an observer, a referenced character or an un-named third person that may or may not interact with those in the scripture. This is not a revelation but just a meditation. In my imagination I heard conversations and saw inside the house. This is a summary of my meditation:

We learn that Zechariah and Elizabeth were “righteous before God” and he was a priest in the Temple. On this day he was going through his turn offering incense. His attention is diverted to the side where someone is standing. No one was supposed to be here but him, all others are outside of the sanctuary waiting for him to make the offering. This “someone” was awesome! He could hear his own heart pounding with fear. The message he hears from Gabriel doesn’t make sense. Knowing his and Elizabeth’s situation he blurts out a fact, doubting the message. Now he is afflicted with a sentence that will get his attention; he cannot speak. He is in shock. Zechariah is still in the local community as a priest and spends month’s working day after day in the Temple as a mute. Everyone in town talked about it wondering what happened that day in the Temple. Using his tablet (like in Verse 63) he tells Elizabeth about the vision. Being a “righteous” wife she would care for him and they drew closer. Now after being with child for 5 months they certainly realize that the vision was real and that the angel was from God.

I imagine Zechariah being in the house when Elizabeth’s cousin Mary walked in surprising them. He heard his wife’s greeting and her saying that the baby jumped in her womb at the sight of Mary. Now Elizabeth knew that the message was truly from God!  Mary’s response was mystifying to Zechariah. What was happening now, he asks himself? During that three month period of Mary’s Visitation of Elizabeth and Zechariah, Elizabeth and Mary begin to see the connection between what was happening to them. Comparing what the angel said to each of them was revealing. Days must have been spent with tears of happiness, wonder, and even fear as they supported each other, each one realizing that an unexpected change of life was given to them by God. Zechariah, being a Priest and knowing the scriptures, studied, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, came to realize the significance of all this. How humbling and awesome for these three holy people to see the work of God in their lives completing the Promise of a Savior from the earliest writings of the prophets! No wonder that when his silence was broken at the naming of John, Zechariah could burst out with such joy that God is now going to fulfill His promise and proclaim to the infant John: “And you child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways” (Luke 1:76). POC. Bob, OFS