Contemplating Mary’s Story (Matthew 1:18-25): Lectio Divina


Consider Mary’s story of her pregnancy and Jesus’ birth (as told by Matthew from Joseph’s perspective. Use this page as the visual focus of your prayer. The images of the nativity are thirteenth century sculptures from the rood screen. They are not available for viewing, but there are tentative plans to display them after the Piat Chapel is restored. As you pray with text join Mary, who “treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19, see also Luke 2:51)

The nativity sculpture from rood screen, wrapped

Silent Prayer

Use the silence to prepare yourself.

The nativity sculpture from rood screen, wrapped

First Reading/Viewing of the Text: Matthew 1:18-25

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way.

The nativity scene from the 13th century rood screen

When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 

Mary Pondering, 13th century rood screen

Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.  But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,and they shall name him Emmanuel,”which means, “God is with us.” 

Jesus in the manger, 13th century rood screen

When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife,  25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

Silent Prayer

Use the silence to let the words and images of the story go deeper inside of you. What word or phrase jumped out? Rest with that word or phrase.

Second Reading/Viewing of the Text: Matthew 1:18-25

Go back to the words and images above. As you make your way slowly through them, imagine that you are living the story. Pick a character or an inanimate object that would have been present during this story and imagine yourself as that person or object. What are you experiencing? Hearing? Feeling? Sensing? Smelling? The more in tune you are with your senses and emotions, the more deeply the story will unfold within you.

Silent Prayer

Use the silence to stay with the experience and continue to let it develop. Identify three to ten words that express what happened.

Third Reading/Viewing of the Text: Matthew 1:18-25

Listen and look for what the Spirit is communicating to you through this story.

Short silence followed by a short mental or verbal prayer in response.

Extended Period of Silent Contemplation and Meditation: The Great Silence (Ten to thirty minutes)

Closing Prayer

Give thanks for what you have experienced.

Closeup of Mary and Jesus, Rood Screen

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