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Christmas carols + imagination = real prayer


Hans Splinter | CC BY ND 2.0

Fr. Edward Looney - published on 12/17/17

Using just a few songs, here’s a guided imaginative prayer for your Advent and Christmas meditations. 

If you haven’t already, you soon will be singing Christmas songs. As we sing of the savior’s birth, or listen to the songs at church or on the radio, their lines can become a source of prayer for us, specifically imaginative prayer. St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, encouraged his followers to engage their imagination and envision the biblical scenes by placing themselves within the event, paying attention to what they see or hear. Using just a few songs, here’s a guided imaginative prayer for your Christmas meditation.

Silent Night

Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright. Close your eyes and envision the night of Christ’s birth. Is this what you see around you? What were the last 48 hours like? Were they busy? Overwhelming? You can let all that go now, and experience the calmness and peace of that silent night. Relish that silence. Be still and quiet for as long as you need.

O Come All Ye Faithful

As you experience the silent, calm, and peaceful night, who do you see coming to the manger? What is their disposition? Do you see all the faithful? Are they joyful and triumphant? As you envision the scene, who do you see? Maybe it’s the normal characters we hear about—the shepherds and the magi. Or maybe you will envision your family, all together, approaching the manger, or you see a loved one who has passed. After all, we are envisioning an event that took place two millennia ago, so our imagination can be outside of time. Identify the faithful, and make sure you are accounted as one.

Fall on Your Knees

The song “O Holy Night” says, “Fall on your knees, and hear the angel voices.” As you take in the silent night, and see all the people coming to adore Christ the Lord, it is time for you to individually adore the Christ child in the manger. In your mind’s eye, fall on your knees. Maybe you actually want to do that. What prayer do you say before the crib? Ask Jesus for a special grace for yourself or someone you love. As you kneel there and are in prayer, listen for the angel voices. Angels sing glory and praise to God. Listen as the silent night erupts in glorious song praising the infant king.

Stainless the Maiden

Not explicitly a Christmas song, this Polish hymn talks about the birth of Christ. Stainless the Maiden, whom he chose for mother, nine months she waited, bearing Christ our brother, think of her gladness When at last she saw Him: God in a manger, Bethlehem a heaven!  In the final moments of that silent night, surrounded by those who have come to see the Lord, and as you kneel there in prayer, look up and see Mary. Do you see her smile? Is she staring at the Christ child, silently adoring the face of God? Is she humming a lullaby? Does she pick up the Christ child and allow you to hold him? In this moment, stay with Mary, think of her gladness, and allow that gladness to become yours.

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