The Method of Jesus Prayer
© Wojciech Nowak SJ
The method of the Jesus Prayer consists of three elements:
- adopting the right body posture
- focusing on the breath (following it)
- uttering the word – the name of Jesus or a prayer formula to the rhythm of the breath
In the introduction, to better understand the prayer, we will take it down to ‘pieces’ and then will put it back again. We will discuss each of the three elements, look at them carefully and experience each one individually.
THE FIRST ELEMENT of the Jesus Prayer is the right posture.
We must remember that the entire man prays. And man means body and soul. We are not pure spirits and we will never be. Well, we believe in the resurrection of the body. Then, when we will cross the border of eternity, at the other side of life, we shall have a body. Of course it will be transformed and able to reside with God ‘face to face’. It will be similar to the body of resurrected Christ. Resurrected Christ had a body and He let people touch it. He dined with his disciples and passed through closed doors. He would suddenly appear and then vanish.
Our spirit cannot exist and cannot reveal itself without the body and without the mind. If we, for example, physically damage our brain, or we suffer from senile dementia, our spirit, although without physical form remains intact and always young, will not be able to express itself outside. Our body is the bearer for the spirit to express itself. When we die, we leave our body on earth. Our spirit, our being with the record of our entire life, travels to the other side, either with blame or with merits, depending on our deeds. There, our spirit will have a new body. Well, indeed here on earth we change our bodies many times, whereas our spirit, the deepest being, remains intact.
Well, then man is always both: the body and the spirit, the spirit incarnated. A Christian cannot treat himself as someone from ‘the neck up’. Let’s note that the liturgy is not only words, but also ‘the language of the body’ – postures, gestures, bows or kneeling.
St. Paul reminds us that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, our bodies are for the Lord and we need to praise the Lord in our bodies. It is always the entire man that prays. In a prayer, the body plays two roles. Firstly, it is to express our attitude towards God (our respect but also humbleness), and secondly, it makes our prayer easier and helps us concentrate.
I recommend you three postures for the prayer. The first one is sitting on the floor. We kneel and then sit on a small stool or a special meditation cushion. Knees should be in line with your shoulders. We find the point of support for our backbone and try to keep it straight. Of course our backbone is never as straight as a stick but we speak of a ‘straight back’ or ‘hunched back’. We push the lumbar spine forward and support it with lumbar muscles. The straight back is supported with lumbar muscles, just like a rocket has its engines at the bottom.
We slightly push the chest forward, then our shoulders relax. As a result, our arms are completely relaxed. What do we do with our hands? We can put them on our laps or fold them with thumbs touching one another. The head – well, it is obvious that it is the extension of our backbone, but we should not lean it forward or backward. We keep it slightly up, as if ‘lifted’. It has to find its natural place on cervical vertebrae, just like a horseman when he finds his right place in a saddle. The most important element of the right posture is the straight back – of course, if it is possible taking into account our health and general condition.
Why such a posture? First of all, the straight and unsupported spine facilitates concentration. This is human experience. When we want to read something or draw, such a posture makes the tasks easier. Secondly, there is also evangelical justification: the straight posture expresses wakefulness and readiness for the coming of the Lord. Prayer is being on the watch, it is waiting to meet and embrace the coming Lord. A soldier on guard, for example in front of the Buckingham Palace, does not sit comfortable in an armchair.
The posture sitting on the floor is a ‘low’ posture. We touch the ground and we have a close contact with it. It is quite symbolic. We are the ‘Earth people’. The name ‘Adam’, ‘Adamah’ in Hebrew, means ‘taken from the ground’. Our life now takes place here, on earth. The first stage of our life is always here and it is not the time of the God’s absence. Our journey to God takes place here, on earth, and it is here that God comes to us to meet us. He does not want to remove us from here, into the sky, but He wants to share Himself and accompany us in our earthly journey. Christ became a man, so He stepped from ‘the sky’ on earth. He experienced everything that is human, earthly. He met people here, on earth. He transformed the life on earth. The prayer is not a drug and it is not the escape from life, from the earth.
Now is the right moment to speak about eyes. What about eyes? I don’t want to say that we are not allowed to pray with our eyes closed. I close them sometimes myself when I pray. But I would like to say that it’s worth learning to pray with the eyes half-closed. We almost close our eyelids but not completely. Just like a curtain in a theatre or opera – it falls down but stops about 30 centimetres above the floor. Through this tiny crack we keep contact with the surrounding reality. It does not mean that we have to stare at something. We just allow the light of the day enter our body. I personally see the difference when I pray with half-closed eyes, even when it is dark in the room. There is a different awareness and a different sense of self. The prayer should not make us ‘unreal’ but it should help us meet God ‘here and now’ in the context of our life. Additionally, half-closed eyes stop our imagination and protect us against falling asleep. Let’s repeat: the prayer is being on the watch, it is waiting, not sleeping.
So the first posture is the ‘low’ posture, kneeling or sitting on the floor, either on a stool or on a cushion.
The second posture is sitting on a chair, also with straight back. We sit on the edge of a chair. Put our feet on the ground (we can put some blanket or a cushion underneath when we are short). We keep knees in line with shoulders and we form two right angles – one between our hips and one between our knees.
A doctor, specialist in rehabilitation and a participant in a meditation retreat that I conducted told me to cross my legs. Indeed, it seems more comfortable. The knees fall down a bit and the legs are relieved. You don’t feel their weight.
The third kind of posture is the posture dictated by our age, condition and health. We choose the posture and try to remain in it still for a longer period of time. So, there is nothing wrong in leaning against the back of a chair. However, it is worth leaning the straight spine and not the rounded back. We pray as we can, not as we cannot. I like praying/meditating on a train, on a bus or at an airport or a railway station.
So, choose a posture that suits you, as long as it shows respect for God and facilitates concentration. I have shown you the way – now you have to try it out yourself.
THE SECOND ELEMENT of the Jesus Prayer is the concentration on the breath.
We don’t control our breath, we don’t influence it, we just follow it and observe it. We let it be as it is and we let it find its natural rhythm. The essence of this prayer is not acting with force but opening oneself to God’s acting.
It is as if we were walking along the sea shore. Can we influence the waves? No. And can we influence the force of the sea? Can we make it calm or rough? No.
So what can we do when we walk along a beach? We can only look at the waves and listen to them, observe them. We can do the same with our breath. Our breathing cycles has three stages (there are actually four of them).
The first is breathing in, which lasts for a certain moment. The breathing in is a process – it lasts and lasts. Then there is a culmination moment and breathing in changes into breathing out, which is also a process that lasts for several moments. Then, breathing out dies and then there is an absence of breathing, also lasting for several moments. We don’t do anything then, we just wait for the next breath.
We need to try to follow consciously our breath, to notice each stage and the moments when we move from breathing in into breathing out. Let’s not worry – when we stop controlling our breath, it will not vanish. God created our organism so wisely that our nervous vegetative system controls the basic living functions even when we sleep.
Now let’s move from theory to practice. Let’s observe your breath for 5 minutes. Do not control it, do not influence it, just notice it and follow it with your consciousness. Notice each stage and the moments of change.
We just observe, nothing else, as if we were walking along the beach listening to the waves. We need to become aware of our breath and become mindful.
Assume the right posture. Let’s start.
Is this a prayer?
Many people practising meditation do not believe in God. They meditate to have a better contact with the self and the reality. They meditate to become calm, integrated and mindful.
So what makes a meditation a prayer?
The act of faith. I believe that behind the mystery of my existence and the existence of the universe there is God – the Person. The prayer is establishing a (personal) relation between a human ‘me’ and a divine ‘You’. I open myself to God, to the second Person, I look for God, I desire Him, I wait for Him although I don’t see Him. I believe that He is, that He is the active God, that He loves me and that He comes to us. The prayer thus is opening and setting our internal compass to receive God.
The breath is very symbolic. Our life on earth, outside our mother’s womb, starts with a breath and finishes with a breath.
We might say that breath is similar to a spiritual reality, which we do not see, but which is real and penetrating. Oxygen is indispensable for life. Statistically, a man can survive without breathing for 4 to 5 minutes. Breathing, taking oxygen, symbolises spiritual reality which we do not see but which is real. The creation of man is described in the Book of Genesis in the following way:
NIB Genesis 2:7 The LORD God formed the man [The Hebrew for man (adam) sounds like and may be related to the Hebrew for ground (adamah); it is also the name Adam (see Gen. 2:20)] from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
NJB Genesis 2:7 Yahweh God shaped man from the soil of the ground and blew the breath of life into his nostrils, and man became a living being.
The breath of life decides that we become ‘a living being’. The breath comes from God. ‘The breath of life’ is not oxygen we breathe in but a spiritual reality, non-material, fundamental, decisive in our life.
Nevertheless, breathing, especially breathing in, may symbolize ‘the breath of life’. We take oxygen and ‘the breath of life’ simultaneously. They are both indispensable for us.
Breathing in symbolizes the gift of the Holy Spirit. God wants to give us His Spirit. In the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, God says:
NIB Ezekiel 36:26-27 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees…
Similarly, when Christ appeared for the first time after His resurrection ‘he breathed on them and said: Receive the Holy Spirit’ (Jn 20, 22).
The Holy Spirit is constantly being sent to the world and to human hearts, renewing them and giving life to them. Psalm 104 describes it in the following way:
NIB Psalm 104:1 Praise the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendour and majesty.
24 How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.
27 These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time. 28 When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. 29 When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. 30 When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.
NJB Psalm 104:27-30 27 They all depend upon you, to feed them when they need it. 28 You provide the food they gather, your open hand gives them their fill. 29 Turn away your face and they panic; take back their breath and they die and revert to dust. 30 Send out your breath and life begins; you renew the face of the earth.
We do not see the Holy Spirit inside us, but we can feel His presence and acting. Similarly, we do not see life itself, the essence of life is invisible, but we see its manifestations. We can distinguish the living from the dead.
The breathing stages are also very symbolic.
Breathing in means opening and acceptance
What do we accept with the breath? Of course, we accept oxygen to our lungs. But also, in every moment, apart from oxygen, we accept ‘the breath of life’ and many other God’s gifts. We accept the Holy Spirit, who heals and transforms us, we accept God’s love, God’s power, God’s acceptance, God’s wisdom and God’s mercifulness.
Breathing out means surrendering and entrustment
What do we give away with breathing out? We give out oxygen mixed with carbon dioxide, but also we give ourselves to God, we give Him our past, our presence and our future. We give Him our sins, wounds, fears but also our hopes. We also entrust to God our close ones and persons with whom we are in relationships and whom we keep in our heart. We ask God to take care of them.
Apnea/Stillness means resting in God
(irrefutable, unwavering, irremovable point – STILL POINT).
Resting in God means finding myself in Him, in His eternal love, in His hands, diving into the source of peace and life.
THE THIRD ELEMENT of the Jesus Prayer – the Word.
The Jesus Prayer originated from the search for an incessant prayer. Following the words of St. Paul - ‘pray constantly’ (16 Always be joyful; 17 pray constantly; 18 and for all things give thanks; this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 [NJB]) and Jesus’ Himself - ‘watch [you], therefore, and pray always…’ ( Lk 21:36 [NKJ]).
Luke 21:36 (NIB) 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.
Luke 21:36 (NJB) 36 Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to hold your ground before the Son of man.
Christians were trying to find the way to combine an active life, everyday engagements, with an incessant presence in God. One way is to repeat the verses from the Bible, several times in a day and in various situations, which helps to find presence in God quite quickly. Such a verse was a sentence from a Psalm, for example. In time, a certain formula was established:
‘Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner’
It is inspired by the cry of the blind man on the road to Jericho:
NIB Luke 18:38 38 He called out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’
NJB Luke 18:38 38 So he called out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.’
and humble prayer of the publican (tax collector) in the back of the synagogue:
NJB Luke 18:13 13 ‘But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ …
The formula comprises two important theological aspects.
The first part of the sentence is the confession of faith that Jesus of Nazareth, a historical figure, living now as the Resurrected, is not only a man, Teacher/Master but also the Lord, Kyrios, true son of God, Savior of the mankind.
The second part speaks about a human truth, human condition, i.e. about the fragility of human life and sinfulness. As people we are only creatures, we do not carry the source of life inside us. This source is outside us. Additionally, we are wounded by sin, we are infected with the virus of sin which can infect the whole organism. That’s why in our weakness we call to God, we ask for His forgiveness, help and sometimes rescue.
The three elements present in the formula are:
- The confession of faith in Jesus as our Lord,
- Being aware of the human condition – insufficiency, fragility and sin,
- Asking God/Christ for mercy.
However, reciting the name of Jesus also encompasses these three elements. Because we choose this word – this Name, it doesn’t mean that we say it accidently. In our choice we are guided by our faith in the One that bears this Name. The very fact that we remain in our prayer and devote our time to it, opening ourselves to God, is the reflection of our awareness that we are not self-sufficient and we need God’s help and mercy.
The word ‘Jesus’ in Hebrew means ‘Yahweh saves’. The etymology of this word says that the initiative is God’s, that it is God that comes out to meet us and to help us. And we, by accepting His initiative, wait for His help and surrender to God.
So, talking about the Jesus Prayer we might mean the fixed prayer formula or a psychosomatic form of prayer which is repeating the name ‘Jesus’ in the rhythm of breathing.
“Out of the desert hesychastic spirituality grew the Jesus Prayer, a technical term of Byzantine spirituality which designates the invocation of the name of Jesus, either alone [p. 129] or inserted into the more or less classical formula, ‘Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy upon me a sinner.’ That such a simple cry of the name of Jesus or the formula that gradually became accepted as the Jesus Prayer grew to epitomize Byzantine hesychastic spirituality or the prayer of the heart has to be explained by looking into the roots of both the Old and New Testament” (George Maloney SJ, Prayer of the Heart. The Contemplative Tradition of the Christian East, Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, Indiana 2008, pp. 128-129).
The primary form of this type of prayer was repeating the name ‘Jesus’ – the so-called monologue prayer or one-word prayer. And this type of one-word prayer I would like to propose to you during this retreat.
The Fathers, great teachers and monks of the Eastern Christian tradition proposed in their writing “a broad spectrum of ‘monological’ or one-word ejaculations as a way of fixing one’s attention upon the remembrance of the indwelling Christ. There was not yet a fixed formula; the monk was allowed to choose his ‘word’ ” (G. Maloney, p. 130).
If we are to choose only one word for our prayer, the word that will connect us with God, it is justified that we choose the word-name Jesus. When we open the Bible, both Old and New testament, we will see that God identifies Himself with His name. The Name of God is not an ordinary word but it is the bearer of God’s presence.
“The News of the Old Testament had a special reverence for the name of God. God’s name was seen as an extension of his person, as a revelation of his being and an expression of his power [Cf. Igumen Chariton, The art of Prayer (London: Faber & Faber, 1966), pp. 28-29]. The name pronounced reverently by a person or invoked upon a country brought one into the very presence of God” (G. Maloney, p. 129).
A religious and pious Jew would never pronounce the word/name Yahweh, because it was a sacred word. To say the name of God was to touch His divinity. That is why while reading the Torah the name of Yahweh was replaced with the words ‘Adonai” (Lord), ‘Elohim’ (which means ‘God’, ‘He who is the object of fear or reverence’, or ‘He with whom one who is afraid takes refuge’ or ‘the all-powerful One’) in its place (Names of God in Judaism, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Name_of_God_in_Judaism).
“Rabbinical Judaism teaches that the name is forbidden to be uttered except by the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) in the Temple on Yom Kippur. Throughout the service, the High Priest pronounced the name YHWH ‘just as it is written" in each blessing he made. When the people standing in the Temple courtyard heard the name they prostrated themselves flat on the floor” (Names of God in Judaism, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Name_of_God_in_Judaism).
“By early post-biblical times the name of Yahweh had ceased to be pronounced. In modern Judaism it is replaced with the word ‘Adonai’, meaning Lord, and is understood to be God’s proper name and to denote his mercy. Many Christian Bibles follow the Jewish custom and replace it with ‘the Lord‘.”
“The New Testament gives us a fuller theology of God’s name and the power that emanates from the reverent pronouncing of the name of Jesus” (G. Maloney, p. 129).
I have prepared a selection of several fragments from the New Testament to show you that the name of Jesus includes in itself the presence of God.
Let’s look at the first fragment:
NJB 1 John 3:23 23 His commandment is this, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and that we should love one another as he commanded us.
In this sentence John the Apostle describes in an excellent way the essence of our faith. Why did he write: ‘(that we should believe) to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ” and not ‘to believe in Jesus Christ, his Son’?
Let’s look at the words of Jesus Himself, in the Gospel according to St. Matthew:
NJB Matthew 19:29 29 And everyone who has left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or land for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times as much, and also inherit eternal life
Why does Jesus say ‘everyone who has left … for My name’s sake’ instead of ‘everyone who has left … for my sake’ And so on. I leave other fragments for you to analyze.
Why is there a ‘name’ when the figure of Jesus appears? It is because in our biblical tradition God identifies Himself to some extent with His name, which is an extension of his person and ‘an expression of his Power’ (Cf. Igumen Chariton, The art of Prayer (London: Faber & Faber, 1966), pp. 28-29, [in] G. Maloney, op. cit., p. 129).
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992) we read:
2665 The prayer of the Church, nourished by the Word of God and the celebration of the liturgy, teaches us to pray to the Lord Jesus. Even though her prayer is addressed above all to the Father, it includes in all the liturgical traditions forms of prayer addressed to Christ. Certain psalms, given their use in the Prayer of the Church, and the New Testament place on our lips and engrave in our hearts prayer to Christ in the form of invocations: Son of God, Word of God, Lord, Savior, Lamb of God, King, Beloved Son, Son of the Virgin, Good Shepherd, our Life, our Light, our Hope, our Resurrection, Friend of mankind....
2666 But the one name that contains everything is the one that the Son of God received in his incarnation: JESUS. the divine name may not be spoken by human lips, but by assuming our humanity the Word of God hands it over to us and we can invoke it: “Jesus,” “YHWH saves.” The name "Jesus" contains all: God and man and the whole economy of creation and salvation. To pray "Jesus" is to invoke him and to call him within us. His name is the only one that contains the presence it signifies. Jesus is the Risen One, and whoever invokes the name of Jesus is welcoming the Son of God who loved him and who gave himself up for him.
The psychosomatic form of the Jesus Prayer means to combine the rhythm of breathing with reciting the name of Jesus (or a formula which includes His Name). The rhythm of breathing dictates the frequency of reciting the Name. It is not so much the recitation but the acceptance and surrendering to the Name of Jesus in the rhythm of breathing.
How do we do this? As we have already said and practiced, we focus on and follow the natural rhythm of breathing without influencing it. Then, we are synchronizing the repetition of the Name with our own breathing.
When we breathe in, we silently (internally) say: Jeeee (as long as the breath lasts), and then when we breathe out we say ‘suuusss’ (as long as the breath lasts). Then we remain in stillness. We wait for the new breath and the new Name.
When we breathe in, we open ourselves inside to God, we open our heart to Him and we invite Jesus to our life.
When we breathe out, we surrender to Him, we give ourselves to Christ, our entire existence, our past, presence and future.
In this form of prayer we are not to think about Christ or his life. We are not to imagine His figure. His Name contains everything, it contains the presence it signifies.
“Follow your breath down deeply within you, trying to relax as the flow of energy courses through your being, giving you new life and energy. When a basic rhythm of inhalation and exhalation has been established, seek to synchronize your breathing with the reverent repetition of the Jesus Prayer. As you breathe in, mentally say: ‘Lord, Jesus Christ.’ As you breathe out, say: ‘Son of God.’ Breathe in again as you say: "Have mercy on me." And, finally, breathe out with the words: ‘A sinner.’ Then the process is repeated.” (G. Maloney, p. 129).
We remain in the act of faith giving ourselves to the Name of Jesus in the rhythm of breathing. We believe that God not only is but also acts and gives Himself to us because He loves us.
He acts in the depth of our heart and transforms it.
Everything that comes up in our consciousness and ‘tries’ to divert our attention from the Name of Jesus should be ignored. We do not feed the appearing thoughts but constantly return to the Name in the rhythm of breathing.
We shall speak about the process initiated by the Jesus Prayer later.
In this prayer we are to surrender, just like we surrender to the rhythm of breathing. It's worth remembering three simple ones although not easy to use tips:
Don’t fight (neither with distractions, nor with yourself or God) !
Learn the gentleness of breathing!
The breath does not intrude into our self forcefully. God acts in a similar way – gently.
Everything that causes tension and anxiety (thoughts, feelings, images) should be freed. If something that makes us afraid or tensed appears (past, presence or thinking about future), we should consciously experience our breath, i.e. our giving to God. We only care about returning to the Name, which contains everything.
The prayer is wakefulness. It is, according to the hesychastic fathers, ‘the guarding of the heart. We are seeking, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to love God with our whole heart, whole mind, and our whole strength.
In this prayer we communicate and connect with God at the level of the heart. We learn the language of the heart and we learn the silence filled with presence and love.
The language of the heart goes beyond words, emotions and images. We learn it just like we learn a foreign language. We need time and patience. Then it becomes something natural, it becomes oxygen we breathe in contact with God.
The love of God, with capital ‘L’ meats our love, with small ‘l’, but it is the love with a great potential for development.
How is this love expressed?
It is expressed in persistence and devoting our time and attention to God.
Like a candle which can give light only when it burns itself. To love means to give your time and attention to another person, thus expressing the gift of the entire self.
In this time, in this moment of my life, we exist for another person. Our life is dedicated to this other person. We don’t do anything else at the same time. This is how the way we give our time and attention to somebody or something becomes the criterion of our love.
In this prayer it is important not to fall into a routine. It is not about a mechanical repetition of the word but about pronouncing it with full awareness, each time as an individual occurrence.
Nothing happens twice in our life. There are no the same heartbeats, the same breaths, the same moments. Each is unique. Every time it is an event. We need to pray in the present moment.
This Name (God Himself) is still coming in each person’s existential ‘now’ moment.
Each time we have to say the Name with the concentration and awareness and respect – and we have to do it as if we were to do it only once in our life. And then, moment after moment, remembering that we only have this moment to live. The process of this prayer and the transformation of the heart that results from it needs time. However, during the prayer it is not important how much time we spend on it because what matters is this one moment that we have to live in full concentration. It is always this one moment, our ‘now’, that connects with the eternity of God. St. John of the Cross speaks about losing the sense of time. This is how he describes it:
“(…) to remain alone in loving awareness of God, without particular considerations, in interior peace and quiet and repose, and without the acts and exercises (at least discursive, those in which one progresses from point to point) of the intellect, memory and will. Such a one prefers to remain only in the general loving awareness and knowledge we mentioned, without any particular knowledge or understanding” (The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book II, 13,4).
In the first book of Samuel, the Samuel’s calling is described. As a young boy, he served under a priest Eli in the temple and there he heard the voice of God for the first time. (see 1 Sm 3:1-18). And then the youth of Samuel is described in one sentence:
NJB 1 Samuel 3:19 19 Samuel grew up. Yahweh was with him and did not let a single word fall to the ground of all that he had told him.
Similarly, we need to pray with such concentration so as no ‘word-Name’ Jesus falls to the ground because of our carelessness.
And one more thing. The Jesus Prayer is the prayer of Blessed Mary who is the role model and patron saint of this prayer. She is the Icon of the Jesus Prayer.
During the annunciation Mary had no vision of Jesus. She did not know what He would look like and what His life would be like. She only knew His name, the Name of the Son of God. First, before she received Him in the flesh, she first received Him in that Name - by faith in her heart.
NJB Luke 1:31-32 31 Look! You are to conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you must name him JESUS. 32 He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High.
So Mary accepted the Son of God before He was conceived, before He became flesh in Her. We can say that the Name of Jesus became flesh in Her, became the living Christ. And it was the deed of the Holy Spirit. Since then, Jesus had been the center of her life, He dwelled in her. At that moment she surrendered to Jesus and gave Him her life.
Blessed Marry is the role model and patron of opening to God and giving oneself to Him completely. She is the role model and patron of letting be guided by the Holy Spirit.
That is why I start the time of prayer with saying aloud the words:
“Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with you.
Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb – Jesus
And in this moment I stop the discursive prayer and then in silence I recite the name of Jesus in the rhythm of my breath.
When I finish praying I continue:
“Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.