Friday, December 4, 2015

Christian Meditation for Advent

Christian meditation and contemplative prayer have a long history, even if meditation is something many people do not associate with Christianity. Early Christian monks and nuns spent many hours in prayer, meditating on scripture and waiting in silence upon the spirit of the Lord. In Christianity's more recent history, theological analysis has overshadowed the more internal, quiet practice of meditation.

As modern Christians gather in community and cultivate their shared faith, much solace and solidarity can be gained from coming together to meditate.

Many passages from the Bible refer to personal spiritual practice and quiet time spent with God. There are too many to list in one place. My favorites: "When you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place…"(Matthew 6:6), and "Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).

Our faith is one of action, focused on shining the Light of Christ into the world through performing the works exemplified by Jesus: helping people in need, healing the sick, championing the downtrodden, being good stewards of the Earth, and, of course, worshiping God.

Meditation is a practice that counterbalances all of the external acts we perform as Christians. Especially at this time of year, we are busy preparing for the Holidays, collecting items for the needy, preparing food and gifts, planning church events, traveling to see family, celebrating after hours with co-workers, practicing for Christmas Chorales... In the Bible, we read about the many times that Jesus retreated into solitude to commune with his Father, God. He showed us by example that we are called to do so as well.

Christian meditation differs only from any other meditation in its focus upon calling in the presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit, waiting upon the presence and inspiration of God, and allowing the silence to be filled up with these Holy gifts. Otherwise, the practices are the same: sitting comfortably with a straight spine, focusing on the breath, stilling the busy mind, and usually using a mantra (repeated phrase to anchor the mind back to the meditation). Many Christian meditators use the mantra, maranatha, an Aramaic word meaning, "Come Lord." Another prayer phrase can also be chosen, or you can choose to say a prayer at the beginning of your meditation and use mindfulness meditation in the quiet that follows, waiting upon the Lord.

What follows is a brief guided meditation prepared for the season of Advent, a time when we wait patiently for the Light of Christ to be revealed in the darkness of Winter. With so much literal and metaphorical darkness in our world at this time, calling in the Light in our meditation is a healing respite and a balm for our hearts. Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life"(John 8:12).

Find a comfortable seat where you can be at ease in your body. Bring the hands together in prayer at the heart. Gently close your eyes. Bring your awareness to your breath. Allow your breath to slow down and deepen, naturally soothing you and calming your body and mind. In this reverent, peaceful position, allow your focus to turn to the Holy One. Turn your heart towards God. Silently recite the Lord's Prayer to yourself, or another prayer of your choosing. Focus on the meaning of each line of the prayer. After you close your prayer with Amen, bring your hands to rest gently in your lap. 

Begin silently repeating the mantra, "Maranatha, Come Lord," to yourself. You can repeat Maranatha as you inhale, and Come Lord as you exhale. If you'd like to choose another mantra, you can chose a word, Love, Hope, Peace or Joy, breathing love in and breathing love out, breathing peace in and breathing peace out... Without judgment, let all other thoughts come and go as you bring your awareness consistently to your mantra and your breath. 

With each breath, feel more grounded in the presence of the Lord. With each heartbeat, experience your connection to the heart of Christ. 

Feel the inner Light of Christ expand through your heart, through your chest, throughout your entire being. 

Envision the Light of Christ surrounding you here and now, encircling your body and radiating from your core. 

As you continue breathing and sitting here, in the stillness, imagine the Light of Christ emanating from you, spreading beyond your body, beyond this room, beyond this building, spreading out into your community, your country, your world, even into the whole of the Universe. Feel your deep connection to the God of the Universe and all of His creation. 

Rest here in this glorious space. 

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