A report on a talk by Rev. Michaël Merle: “How Do We Pray in Preparation for the Christ to be Born in Us?”
by John-Peter Gernaat
Michaël started by referring to the contemplation that was provided by Reingard in the December newsletter as an excellent starting point for this topic.
He spent some time speaking of the importance of rhythm. Rudolf Steiner stated that rhythm restores power. Nature is built on rhythms: day and night; plants budding, flowering, bearing fruit and dispersing seeds; animals have migratory rhythms and mating rhythms. Humans alone do not have outer rhythms imposed on them; we must create our own rhythms. People who rise and sleep with the sun experience a power from this rhythm. We live in a world that supports a lack of rhythm. We need to work at establishing a healthy rhythm in our lives.
Rhythm comes with sacrifice. Everything in life comes at a cost but the gain can be greater than the cost. The Christian cycle is a rhythm we can adopt and so is the rhythm of the Act of Consecration of Man.
When we look at Mary – as Reingard did in the December contemplation – she, Mary, is already conscious and present. This is the meaning ascribed to the book she holds in so many artworks depicting the moment of the Annunciation. In this state of consciousness and presence the angel can come. The translation of the opening words of the angel are generally “fear not”, but the words in Greek are in the passive form and could be better translated as “in yourself, don’t retreat” or “stay in the present”.
The state that is asked of us for prayer is a state of being present. When we are present angels can come.
Formerly prayer required an intermediary. We could feel our connection to the divine through a saint or through a guru. In the case of a guru, he would take charge and we would sit at his feet and we would withdraw from society in order to be with the guru. We would ‘go up a mountain’ or ‘go to the source’.
Mary is neither with a guru nor in a temple, she is alone. Zacharias, on the other hand, is in the temple when the angel appears to him. Today, in our prayer life, we no longer need to ‘go to the mountain’ or ‘into the temple’, we need to go into ourselves and create the space and the presence to be in that space.
When we read the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well the conversation that occurs is an unexpected one (no Jewish man would speak with a Samaritan woman). Jesus speaks of a spiritual relationship: if she forms a rhythmical relationship (just as the relationship is to her drawing water daily from the well) with the Christ the power of God is restored. The ’spring’ we once sought ‘up the mountain’ or ‘in the Temple’ has shifted into us, but we must recognise it. The way we generally read this passage makes Christ a guru to the woman, but it may be that the correct way to read what Jesus says in asking her about her husband (a relationship to a ‘Lord and Master’) is to consider the question as: “go to your spiritual source”. Then the response of the woman makes more sense, which is to say that she has no husband (no spiritual source at present and then to be able to confirm what Jesus says to her. In this way she can say: “I have had five gods and in terms of the one I worship now I’m not certain that I have a relationship to him”. In this reading she becomes a representative of all humanity: seeking but not in a true relationship.
The fact that the ‘mountain’ and the ‘temple’ has moved into us means that our inner disposition becomes relevant. The birth of Christ in us requires preparation. We must put time into this preparation. It is not like fish eggs where the life is prepared externally to the parent fish. For an internal birth there must be an internal development. For Christ to be born in us requires rhythmical praying. When we pray it is necessary that we include our thinking in our praying. When a woman is pregnant, she will at some point experience a profound realisation that she is developing a new life within her body. When we carry the Christ in us this insight and understanding is similarly profound and has significance for the whole world.
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