September 2011 issue of The Saint John's Bible eNewsletter. Are images missing? View the online version.
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Just about all of us carry significant anxieties and demands that preoccupy us. But you must admit, Taylor Morgan had a plateful recently! Here Taylor, Project Coordinator for Formation and Outreach at Saint John's School of Theology•Seminary, shares how an illumination from The Saint John's Bible became a conduit of grace in the midst of it all. He also invites us to consider some resources that are designed to open for each of us doors into the Bible's beauty and grace.

Preparing for Advent with
Seeing the Word

In a few months , the holidays will be upon us. They're a chance to relax, a chance to reflect on the mystery of the Incarnation, and unfortunately, a chance to be overwhelmed by busy-ness.

“The Lord himself will give you a sign.”

A few months ago, I heard these words spoken by Isaiah to King Ahaz in a Seeing the Word meditation, “Messianic Predictions”, and they stuck. Here was a man a bit overwhelmed (an enemy army was approaching), and the Lord was announcing help.

Like Ahaz I too was overwhelmed. In a few short months I had taken final exams for my graduate degree, gotten married, bought a house, moved, struggled with medical issues and started a new job.

Much in life seems to come suddenly. The risk, however, is that we stop noticing signs of God's presence. Isaiah's words were calling me to take a step back.

But I was only three weeks settled into my job when my wife called to announce yet another life changing event: we were expecting our first child! Suddenly I was back in the whirlwind. Make the appointments! Read this book! Paint the spare bedroom! Buy the right vitamins!

These things were important, but I realized that looking for God's presence had once again taken a back seat.

Prophets, Book of Isaiah
Messianic Predictions, Thomas Ingmire, © 2005 The Saint John's Bible

I went back to the illumination of “Messianic Predictions” and saw an image that was as busy as my own life. A chaotic jumble of forms and shapes … but somehow, it wasn't foreboding. When I looked closer and took time to see it, God's presence was cast throughout the whirlwind. Above all was Isaiah's shout of “Hallelujah!”

The next line in the text is, “Look, the young woman is with child.” For me this was now quite literal. For all of us, it is a reminder to see past the holiday bustle and into the mystery of Christ's coming. Sometimes we focus so much on preparing that we miss out on what we are preparing for.

Gazing at the illumination, I thought again of my own coming child. Here was a sign of God's presence headed right into my life: Hallelujah!

Those who are older and wiser tell me that life doesn't slow down. But Isaiah reminds us to always seek God, especially when life is overwhelming. This is the Advent calling. Prepare! Take time, step back, and look for God's presence in this chaotic and jumbled world. Christ is coming right into it!

I once heard Abbot John Klassen of Saint John's Abbey explain that lectio divina, a centuries-old prayer practice, was simply about "slowing down." How precious of a gift that really is!

The Seeing the Word project was developed by Saint John's School of Theology•Seminary in a partnership with Liturgical Press to bring the grace of that practice to the sacred beauty of The Saint John's Bible. The process of Seeing the Word is called visio divina.

With visio divina we learn to listen and meditate on Scripture, see with eyes of faith as we gaze on illuminations, pray to God, contemplate the Spirit's movements, and reflect how we might further become Christ-like.

These steps are presented in simple four-page Reflection Guides applied to a particular Scripture text and illumination. There is also a fully-featured Program Manual as well as many other resources, and prayers, links, and reflections are shared on Facebook and Twitter.

As you prepare for Advent, I invite you to consider taking advantage of these resources as you try to see God's presence through the busy-ness of the holiday season. On October 19 we are offering a free webinar, "Visio Divina & Advent". If you can't make it, the Birth of Christ, Messianic Predictions, and Word Made Flesh Reflection Guides are wonderful prayers as you prepare to celebrate Christmas, whether as an congregation, parish, organization, family or individual.

I frequently return to the text and illumination of “Messianic Predictions”. As my wife and I continue to prepare for the coming of our own child, I am reminded not to let myself become so overwhelmed by all the preparations that I forget to notice the signs of God's presence. As much as my coming child has added to the busyness of my life, I am looking now to see him or her arrival as a living sign of God's grace.

Christ can be found right in the middle of the craziness – it's precisely what happened when he entered our chaotic human world 2,000 years ago.

Taylor Morgan is Project Coordinator for Formation and Outreach, including the Seeing the Word project at Saint John's School of Theology•Seminary. He holds a Master of Arts in Theology with a concentration in Scripture from Saint John's School of Theology•Seminary and has a background in communications, digital media, and spanish.

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, Copyright 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

In This Issue

• Preparing for Advent

• Upcoming Exhibitions & Events

See the Bible

Touring Exhibitions

Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA)
Chicago, IL
August 20 – October 23, 2011

Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Minneapolis, MN
September 16 – November 13, 2011

New Mexico History Museum
Santa Fe, NM
October 21, 2011 - April 7, 2012

Print Exhibitions

Philadelphia Biblical University
Langhorne, PA
August 29 - Sept. 23, 2011

Benet Hill Monastery &
Colorado College

Colorado Springs, CO
Sept. 26 - November 7, 2011

Find a gallery near you >

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