Pope Benedict XVI has been giving a series of talks on prayer recently in his Wednesday audiences. I am including an excerpt below from August 17 in which he spoke about Mary as a model for us of a woman who truly pondered God in all things. (If you are interested in hearing a talk that I gave recently on remembering God throughout the day, go to the Talks tab above. Click on “Other Talks” and then on “A Thousand Times a Day.”)
“Today, I wish to speak . . .about a small aspect of the life of prayer, which is a life of contact with God; namely, about meditation. And what is meditation? It means to ‘remember’ all that God has done and not to forget all His benefits (cf. Psalm 103:2b). Often, we see only the negative things. We also need to remember the good things, the gifts that God has given us; we need to be attentive to the positive signs that come from God, and remember these. Therefore, we are speaking about a kind of prayer that the Christian tradition calls “mental prayer.” We are more familiar with vocal prayer, and naturally the mind and heart must also be present in this prayer, but today we are speaking about a meditation that consists not in words but in our mind making contact with the heart of God.
“And here Mary is a true model. The Evangelist Luke repeats numerous times that Mary, for her part, “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (2:19; cf. 2:51). She keeps them; she does not forget. She is attentive to all that the Lord has said and done to her, and she ponders; that is, she makes contact with diverse things — she dwells deeply upon them in her heart.
“She, therefore, who “believed” the announcement of the angel and became an instrument so that the Eternal Word of the Most High might become incarnate, also welcomed in her heart the wonderful miracle of the human-divine birth; she pondered it, she dwelt deeply upon all that God was doing in her, so that she might welcome the divine will in her life and conform to it. The mystery of the incarnation of God’s Son, and of the maternity of Mary, is so great [a mystery] that it requires a process of interiorization. It is not only something physical that God accomplishes in her; rather, it is something that demands an interiorization from Mary, who seeks to understand it more deeply, seeks to interpret its meaning, to understand its implications. Thus, day after day, in the silence of ordinary life, Mary continued to keep in her heart the wondrous events she subsequently witnessed, even to the extreme trial of the Cross and the glory of the Resurrection. Mary fully lived her existence, her daily duties, her mission as mother, but she knew how to preserve within herself an interior space for reflection on the word and the will of God, on all that was occurring in her, on the mysteries of the life of her Son.
“In our own time, we are absorbed with so many activities and commitments, concerns and problems. Often, we tend to fill up all the spaces of the day, without having a moment to stop and reflect and to nourish our spiritual life — our contact with God. Mary teaches us how necessary it is to find in our days — with all their activities — moments to recollect ourselves in silence and to ponder all that the Lord wants to teach us, how He is present and acts in the world and in our life: to be able to stop for a moment and meditate. St. Augustine likens meditation on the mysteries of God to the assimilation of food, and he uses a word that recurs throughout the Christian tradition: ‘ruminate.’ The mysteries of God should continually resound within us so that they might become familiar to us, guide our life, and nourish us as happens with the food that is necessary to sustain us. And St. Bonaventure, referring to the words of sacred Scripture, says that they ‘should always be ruminated on so as to be kept in mind by the ardent application of the soul’ (Coll. In Hex, ed. Quaracchi 1934, p. 218).
“To meditate therefore means to create within ourselves an atmosphere of recollection, of interior silence, so as to reflect on and assimilate the mysteries of our faith, and all that God is doing in us — and not only the things that come and go. We can “ruminate” in many ways; for instance, by taking a short passage of sacred Scripture, especially the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, the Apostle’s Letters, or a page from a spiritual author we are drawn to and which makes the reality of God in our today more present, perhaps taking advice from a confessor or spiritual director; by reading and reflecting on what we’ve just read, pausing to consider it, seeking to understand it, to understand what it says to me, what it says today — to open our soul to all that the Lord wants to say to us and teach us.”