Christ Has Come to Be with You

Wonderful things often happen when few know they are taking place at that moment. That night in the Bethlehem stable was certainly the greatest of these. Quietly, in the solitary presence of Mary and Joseph, our savior came into our world.

Inns at max capacity and homes full of people slept on obliviously. Kings and rulers in palaces were none the wiser. Only a select few were given the gift of knowing the good news soon after. Humble, ordinary shepherds on a hill heard the angelic announcement that the Shepherd of Souls, from the line of the shepherd-king David, was born. Three kings followed a star that would lead them to the One who sits on the eternal throne.

But at first it was just the Holy Family. Christ’s birth came silently and privately. The great joy of the coming of the Promised One was realized first by this chosen couple. It was intimate and personal, the opposite of the birth of any earthly king. 

I had been meditating through Advent this year, and now through this joyous Christmas week, on how the coming of Christ in our hearts, daily, is meant to be the same quiet, intimate, personal experience. He comes to us in our humility. It is not a fanfare on display to the world around us; it is the precious, private stillness of His presence in the mangers of our souls. 

What is of course miraculous is that this is accomplished simultaneously in every heart. His coming to each of us is so personal; it is always our own quiet moment, like a mother’s singular embrace of her baby right after birth. The crowds don’t know what happens here; no loud announcements have yet been made. He just comes to us individually, lighting our darkness, filling us with joy. And then, it is our lives that become the proclamation. We become the angels on the hills; we become the star that shines the way. But it is humble beginnings; it is an intimate initial encounter.

During this Christmas week, seek the quiet, humble stable. Look for His birth in your hearts with new eyes and new appreciation for the intimate and personal way that your savior comes to you. It’s a manger of hay; it’s a cross of wood; it’s through simple bread and wine. It’s in the broken human heart. He comes and transforms us, and once transformed we transmit His glory and radiance to the world around us. 

This truly is the wonder of Christmas: Emmanuel, “God has come to be with us.” He has come individually, personally, to each of us. Embrace the quiet coming of your king. Delight in it. He has come to be with you. 

Copyright 2019 Jessica Ptomey

All Things New: A Reflection

During this season of Easter, the readings in the Divine Office have been taken from the book of Revelation. There is one passage that has particularly grabbed my heart and offered much fruitful meditation and consolation. Revelation 21 speaks powerfully of the “new heaven” and the “new earth,” and how God himself will come to his people to “wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Then verse five invites us to take in the re-creation, as the One on the throne says: “Behold, I make all things new.”

Do you feel the invitation to inhale this truth deeply and exhale peacefully when you read those words?

I do. I so often need to remember this truth and allow it to sink into my heart. I have brokenness, and I have loved ones with brokenness. I regularly experience the consequences of brokenness, and I have felt sorrow for all that needs to be made right. We all daily experience the reality that there is much wrong with the world. And how do we respond? We sometimes distract ourselves. We sometimes are paralyzed with grief. We sometimes bravely move forward on our pilgrim journey with great faith, despite the dismal circumstances that result from our fallen humanity. 

Whatever our response has been to the brokenness in our world, we need to inhale deeply of the truth that our Lord is the one on the throne making all things new. This is no greeting card sentiment; this is a promise that will be fulfilled.

Our God sits on the throne and is in the process of making all things new: in my life, in your life, and in all of the world. We do not see clearly how now, but we are assured of what we hope for and given evidence of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1). With that in mind, I offer the following reflection exercise that you can take with you into your quiet prayer time with the Lord:

  • Quiet your heart as you enter His presence. He is there already, waiting for you, in the space of your Interior Castle. 
  • Be conscious that you are bringing your heavy burdens with you—every one of them. Perhaps, imagine them strapped to your shoulders like a large hiking pack. 
  • Imagine the glorious light of God’s presence ahead of you. Look forward and see our Lord on the throne, in all His glory and goodness.
  • Take Him in. Take in the glory of His presence and the truth of His sovereignty over all the world. Spend a few moments with this vision and worship Him for who He is. 
  • Then, take off that heavy pack of burdens and set it at your side.
  • Open the top and take out the first broken thing you see. Walk with it toward that glorious throne and leave it at His feet. As you release it, pray over it by name, and ask our Lord to make it new.
  • One by one, take out each broken thing you have carried. Walk each one to the feet of Jesus. Ask Him to make each one new.
  • When you are finished, when you have emptied your pack of all your brokenness and all the brokenness of others you love, take in the sight before you. See all that you have carried at the feet of the King. See these things in their redeemed state; see them in the light of His promise to “make all things new.” And worship Him again for His faithfulness.
  • As you leave this time of prayer and worship, know that His presence stays with you and your burdens of brokenness stay at the foot of the throne. They are being made new. You are being made new. 

Go out in joy and peace, giving thanks to God. Alleluia!

Revelation 21:5

Copyright 2019 Jessica Ptomey

My Reading Challenge Pick for…”A Book on Catholic Prayer”

Are you participating in the 2018 Catholic Reading Challenge? If not, it’s not too late to start — join us! I share my picks for each category about once a month. So far, my choices are spot on for me, and my second read gets a universal recommendation if you want to improve your prayer life…

Category: “A Book on Catholic Prayer”

My Pick: Time for God by Jacques Philippe

My husband had read this book a couple of months ago and highly recommended it to me, and what do you know…it checks off a box on the reading challenge. Boy, was he right; it is good. But apparently everything by Jacques Philippe is great, according to a friend of mine. This was my first time reading one of his books.

Two motivations to read this book:

#1 — It’s really short — about 100 pages.

#2 — It may be the most helpful book on mental prayer that you ever read.

I say the most helpful, not necessarily the best. Philippe references all of the great works by saints who were quite advanced in mental prayer (Teresa of Avila, Francis de Sales, St. John of the Cross, St. Catherine of Siena, etc.). But sometimes, as Philippe notes, in our modern times we have trouble getting to the root of what these great contemplatives teach us about communing with God.

Philippe’s definition of mental prayer:

“…facing God in solitude and silence for a time in order to enter into intimate, loving communion with him.”

His bottom line:

“Mental prayer is basically no more than an exercise in loving God.”

Philippe was exactly who I needed to read on mental prayer, because he concisely and beautifully gets to the heart of why and how this type of prayer should be a daily habit. He essentially reminds us that silent, mental prayer is all about loving God. There is not a magic “technique” that you can manipulate, he says, because communion with God is a grace, a gift, from God. It is not something that we conjure up. Philippe says that we have to simply come to mental prayer with the intention of loving God, with humility, out of our poverty, and be faithful to continue coming daily.

I think this excerpt from the book puts it well:

“What ensures progress in the life of prayer, what make it fruitful, is not so much how we pray as our inner dispositions in beginning and continuing it. Our principle task is to try to acquire, keep, and deepen those dispositions of the heart. God will do the rest.”

Before this book, I had recently read Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life, and I was inspired by his detailed account of the steps of mental prayer, and I wanted to begin this habit in earnest. (Previous descriptions of mental prayer hadn’t be so clear for me.) However, Philippe’s book is just what I needed to read on the heels of that. It helped me develop the correct attitude toward silent prayer, to remember the ultimate purpose of loving God and entering into a deeper communion with him — as he leads.


What did you read for “a book on Catholic prayer”?

 

Copyright 2018 Jessica Ptomey