Offer your prayer to God, desiring that in every way it will give him glory. I pour myself out in worship. You could use a few lines from the following Psalms if this helps you enter into prayer:
Ask of God what you think you need. (It could be later that God will show what you truly need and what should be asking for, but begin now where you are.)
Imagining Yourself Present
Over several periods of prayer, linger imaginatively over one of the the events of the life of Jesus or Mary. Offer yourself to Mary and Jesus, imagining yourself present to these events of our salvation. Put yourself at their service, reflecting on what they are going through and how they are experiencing these events. Be present to them with, as Ignatius says, “the whole affective power of your mind, with loving care, with lingering delight, thus laying aside all other worries and cares.”
Note regarding praying with your imagination: Everyone can imaginatively be present somehow to a past event through memory in various ways. Imagining doesn’t necessary mean making images, that is, creating a little movie about the events we are contemplating. Some people imagine through their feelings, simply having a sense of what is happening, others visually through picturing, others through hearing. Entering imaginatively into these mysteries of our salvation will gradually give one an experiential and deeply felt understanding, rather than a notional knowledge.
Why is this important? This deep-felt knowledge implies an intimate caring, an attentive closeness that is aware of even the inner movements of thought and emotion in oneself and the other. We follow Jesus here and now through the work of the Spirit who weaves together our own history with salvation history. This happens through symbol and imagination. When we become part of the gospel story we allow our whole life to be affected by the Spirit.
Imagining the Gospel events in the present
Re-read in the scriptures these events or simply reflect on them as though they were happening now. Bring them up to your mind’s eye with “lingering delight” as though they were occurring right in your neighborhood so to speak. Notice which aspects of these mysteries begin to involve you a little more deeply.
Notice: In Gospel Contemplation, Ignatius takes advantage of the way in which spiritual growth, like so many other aspects of maturing that we experience, takes place primarily when our affectivity is engaged. It is the shift in one’s deeper emotions and feelings that leads to a change in one’s behavior. We reach these deeper levels through metaphor, image, and symbol—the work of the imagination.
In Gospel contemplation you attempt to grasp something of Jesus’ human existence and as you do this, the Spirit begins to grasp you in your existence. This prayer gives us contact with Jesus, the risen Lord, who is present now, influencing my life now. The historical events of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, his healing and his preaching, transcend time and place. The THEN of Jesus’ life becomes NOW. It is important to allow oneself to become part of the story-event.
Observing attractions and resistance
Observe the actions, words, emotions, sensitivities, attitudes of the various persons present in the Gospel passage and to which of them you feel more attracted. Which of them arouse more negative feelings or resistance? Return to aspects of these meditations that seem more personally meaningful.
Notice: How are you entering the story? Are you your present age or another age? How are you taking part in the mystery? What are you noticing about your emotions as you interact with Mary, Joseph, and Jesus? What happens when you interact with the persons in the story? Are you just thinking about them or are you speaking with them? Are you watching or are you a participant? Are you allowing yourself to be moved, surprised, touched, even angered by what happens or are you keeping everything under control?
Entering the Mystery of the story
As you begin to enter the mystery of the story more deeply, you will begin to see or hear or touch. You will enter into the event and interact more deeply. Little by little you will become more present to the mystery and the mystery will be present to you.
Moving through deepening levels of stillness
As your contemplative prayer deepens, you will be open to being affected deeply by Jesus’ Spirit at both conscious and less-than-conscious levels of your being.
It may move you gradually through deepening levels to stillness. You may find yourself just there, totally involved—seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting. It is almost as if the experience has gone into slow motion, and time passes as one is present to the Beloved and the Beloved to oneself. One is there; Jesus is there. The mystery is there. No words are necessary and no great thoughts need to surface. This is the experience of “O taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”
Desiring to follow Jesus
As I become more and more involved in the event of Jesus’ mystery that I am contemplating, my life and my choices are affected. I find myself changing and desiring to change. I begin to follow Jesus in a particular way.
As you contemplate more deeply, as you soak in these mysteries of Jesus’ life, where do you observe emotions or reactions like fear, guilt, resistance? Do any memories become more present to your awareness? How do you feel drawn toward something new? Speak to Jesus about what you observe and experience. What do you begin to learn about your following of Jesus?
You may wish to journal about this.
Conversing as with a friend
Continue in quiet—or even silent—intimate conversation with Jesus and Mary. Ask them what is the grace that you should be praying for. Beg this grace of the Father. Then beg this grace of the Son, your Savior and Shepherd. Finally, beg for this grace from the Holy Spirit who is the source of all holiness.
If you wholly lived this grace that you are begging for, what would your life look like? Your relationships? Your prayer? The way you work? The way you love? The way you serve? What about you would make you the most happy?
Ask Mary, Joseph and Jesus to show you one specific gift they wish to give you. Receive it and remain in stillness and quietly relaxed presence under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
Reviewing the graces of prayer
When you finish praying, write down the main gifts and discoveries from this time of intimate contemplation. What is one concrete thing you can do to solidify these gifts in your life.
Image Credit: Cathopic, Fraylalo
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