As I climb the stairs, surrounded by the comfort of calm and dim, I hear the stirring of our youngest daughter. She is waking for her late feeding in the wee hours of the night, and although my eyes struggle with the awaiting duty, my heart longs for her presence. I quietly open her door, as to not wake our two other daughters, and tenderly cradle her to me.
The ritual then takes its intimate steps; I methodically rock her as we become bonded at that moment – parent and child. Nourishment commences with a quiet song, usually some gospel or bluegrass hymn of which I’ve grown fond. My words mimic the gentle swing of the chair; although they, perhaps, are not the most harmonious, they appear to provide comfort instantly.
This memory is one of many splendid “burdens” I have enjoyed in my years as a parent. Now that our girls are approaching adulthood and headed off to college, I embrace the desire to relive the tender moments from time to time. One such occasion materializes every day during morning prayer.
It comes by way of The Canticle of Zechariah (Luke 1: 68-79). I suppose this may sound strange that a Jewish priest’s vision would invoke such a memory. However, it is through my vision that I see an older man cradling his only son whispering, chanting, maybe even singing words that speak of the man he would become.
Ignatian contemplation, or imaginative prayer, “is a very active way of praying that engages the mind and heart and stirs up thoughts and emotions.” (Kevin O’Brien, SJ, The Ignatian Adventure, www.ignatianspirituality.com) It is a practice that sustains and enhances my time with the Lord. This method grants entrance to a particular place or scene, providing an opportunity to become a figure in the text.
Introduced to this type of prayer on a retreat, I must admit, I shied away from chiming in while others so beautifully embraced it. They wove themselves inside – becoming a thread in a larger tapestry. I wanted to become a part of this.
Fast forward a year later, sitting in that same darkened room, I moved through The Gospel as a suffering woman longing to brush my fingers against Jesus’s cloak. My voice trembled, then steadied as my character advanced toward Him. The comfort that I imagine surrounded this woman as Jesus turned to face her enveloped me. It is this exact contentment to which I return when I study the Word in this manner and one I highly recommend trying whether it be aloud or in silence.
Prayer in this style further extends itself bestowing the blessing of pleasant recollection. Not only do I find myself rooted within The Bible, but an inspired mind travels back in time to mirror whatever feeling the passage invokes. This process infuses peace whether a soul craves restoration or refreshment.
My morning prayer beckons this brief journey into Scripture. The journey then paves the daily steps I must take. If the terrain becomes rugged or I lose my way, I always know where to return – that place where The Lord approaches and quietly cradles me, methodically rocking me back and forth, whispering,
“Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you.” (Matthew 9: 22)
We become bonded at that moment – parent and child.
I now invite you to travel with me through this morning’s imaginative prayer. This time we take our place as an observer in the story remembering a time when we too delighted in the gentle embrace of a newborn child.
Zechariah sits quietly with John, cradling him. How it must feel to speak to his son after being silent for such an extended time. What thoughts would flow from lips unable to express what must have been overwhelming? I feel the tremendous pain endured during his silence. The ideas, at first, react as a dammed river released for the first time, rushing forward chaotically, then steady into what becomes crystal clear.
He speaks with such patience and grace sharing the blessed gifts the Lord has bestowed upon His people. Emotion escalates to joy at the mention of this little child’s place among the pages of this extraordinary story.
And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High,for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, (Luke 1: 76)
Looking down on this fragile life, perhaps not fully understanding, yet affirming and trusting the path his precious son must take, he smiles.
He pauses before closing his eyes – “Blessed be this memory, for it is my lifetime of happiness.” Zechariah falls asleep holding little John.
They become bonded at that moment – parent and child.
Copyright 2017 Kimberly Nettuno