Step #1: Lectio / Read
Click the link below or open your Bible to the passage and read through the reading at least once, paying attention to what is happening in the text.
Please note in the text below that Esther is numbered weird. This is because the book was originally numbered out of order, and that has been corrected. In the New American Bible, where the translation for our daily readings come from, this is Chapter "C", which comes right after Chapter 4. In the Revised Standard Version, this is Chapter 14, still right after Chapter 4. You can click the button below to read the readings, or use those numbers as a guide in your own Bible.
Step #2: Meditatio / Meditate
Use the following meditation to help you reflect more deeply on the Scripture (you may want to read the passage again).
Christian piety, especially within the Catholic and Orthodox traditions, is wholistic, meaning that it engages the whole body in prayer and worship. Every sense is used; whether it is hearing the Word of God, smelling the incense being offered, tasting the Body and Blood of the Lord, lifting our voice in hymns and responses, lifting our eyes towards the Holy, or even touching one’s neighbor to give them the sign of peace. Then, there’s the Catholic calisthenics: genuflect, stand, sit down, kneel, and bow.
There is one more posture that is not usually used in the Liturgy, but is only seen on a few select occasions: once a year on Good Friday, when a man or a woman is professing the religious vows, or when a man is being ordained a deacon, a priest, or a bishop. This posture is called prostration. One lays prostrate to the ground as a sign of total submission to God, a sign of dying to oneself so that one may rise anew with Christ. In the olden times, religious men and women were even covered with the funeral pall while the bells were tolling to further signify the death of the person and that, as they rise back to their feet, they are given a new name, a religious name, to signify that they are a new person in Christ.
Queen Esther lay prostrate on the ground and prayed because she was desperate and alone. She prostrated herself to the ground to signify her total dependence on God, her only help. Even secular dictionaries define prostration as a sign of “extreme physical weakness or emotional exhaustion." It was Esther’s exhaustion because of her people’s persecution that she prostrated herself together with her handmaids before the Lord. Prostration is a total sign of surrender to God, in order that the Lord’s strength and grace may take over.
What is your weakness? What anguish do you have in life? What are your frustrations, bad habit, or addictions? What makes you fall or makes you feel physically or emotionally exhausted all the time?
Perhaps, when the next temptation comes, you can go to your room, find a spot to be alone with God, and, in that secret and holy place, prostrate yourself before Him. Admit your weakness before Him and, like Queen Esther, beg the Lord for His help, and surrender everything to Him.
Perhaps this is the only Lenten sacrifice that the Lord wants from you: the total offering of yourself, all your weaknesses included. Do this, then rise anew with the Lord.
Step #3: Oratio / Pray
These questions are to be used to talk to God; have a conversation with the Lord about these questions and what is going on in your heart as you pray today.
What are the things that are weighing down on you like the persecution of Queen Esther's people was weighing down on her? Have you surrendered that thing, and all things that are hard on you, over to the Lord?
In your life, what would it look like if you surrendered to the Lord? Use your imagination a bit - what would a life of surrender and trust truly look like, and how can you make that life a reality?
How has your lent been going in this first week? How can you continue to use the daily sacrifices to offer everything, even your weaknesses, over to the Lord?
Step #4: Contemplatio / Contemplate
In this step, you listen. Stop talking, let God speak to your heart. You may repeat one of these short phrases to focus your mind on the Lord.
"I lay it all down."
"I give You my weakness."
"I lay down before You."
Step #5: Actio / Act
In light of today's reading and your time spent in prayer with the Lord, what concrete action or actions will you take to let this encounter with the Lord bear fruit in you today?
Find a time to lay everything before the Lord today. Whether you are ready to take the step of finding a quiet place to lay prostrate before Him, or you want to just spend time in prayer giving everything over to Him, do it. Surrender your heart, all weaknesses and faults included, and let the Lord work in your life.
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Today's prayer was prepared by Fr. Ervin Caliente, priest of the Diocese of Rockford.
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