We are exploring some ways we can use prayer, meditation, and spiritual practice to better embrace the fullness of who we are and who others are, so encountering the living Christ in new ways. These previous notes on daily spiritual practices explore some such practices. I would love to hear which practices help you and how.
Yesterday I shared about the Christian meditation practice called Lectio Divina. Today I want to continue sharing practices of deep meditation upon Scripture by exploring another form of Christian meditation, alternately called “Ignatian meditation” and “Gospel contemplation”. The website Ignatian Spirituality describes this practice well:
“The early Christians did not waste a lot of energy looking back and wishing they had been born a hundred years earlier so they could have walked with Jesus. Instead they focused on coming to know Christ in three powerful ways: through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist; the stories and emerging writings about Jesus; and his powerful presence when they gathered in his name.
“Saint Ignatius Loyola invited a person when an individual made a retreat in the pattern of his Spiritual Exercises to pray to come to know Christ so that one may love him in a more real way and following from this knowledge and love become a more faithful disciple. In order to grow in this faith knowledge, Ignatius invited the retreatant to engage in a prayer method called contemplation. This is not some kind of mystical prayer but a prayer form in which one uses his or her senses in an imaginative way to reflect on a Gospel passage. One uses the senses, seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling to make the Gospel scene real and alive.
“Here is a way of engaging in this prayer form which is relaxing and rather easy. Select a passage from one of the Gospels in which Jesus is interacting with others. Recall what one is doing in engaging with the Word of God and what one desires from this encounter. God is present and because God is present one relies on God. Read the Gospel passage twice so that the story and the details of the story become familiar. Close one’s eyes and reconstruct the scene in one’s imagination. See what is going on and watch the men and women in the scene. What does Jesus look like? How do the others react to him? What are the people saying to one another? What emotions fill their words? Is Jesus touching someone? As one enters into the scene, sometimes there is the desire to be there. So a person can place oneself in the scene, perhaps as an observer, as one lining up for healing, or as one helping others to Jesus. Some people’s imaginations are very active so they construct a movie-like scenario with a Gospel passage. Others will enter the scene with verbal imagination, reflecting on the scene and mulling over the actions. Vividness is not a criteria for the effectiveness of this kind of prayer. Engagement is and the result is a more interior knowledge of Jesus. As one finishes this time of prayer, one should take a moment to speak person to person with Christ saying what comes from the heart. “
A word about the two types of Christian meditation we discussed yesterday and today – Lectio Divina and Ignatian Meditation or Gospel Contemplation: though they are aimed at being applied to Christian Scriptures, I have found them just as beneficial when applied to other sacred writings like Sacred poetry, liturgical prayers, and koans or proverbs. I think that one can use these approaches to non-Biblical Christian literature, poetry, prayer, and song as a means of opening up spiritually. I think too if someone is not a Christian, they can tweak the practice to the Sacred writings of their tradition as well and find those texts becoming gateways to the Sacred and holy within their lives.
In my next devotional, I want to conclude this look at daily spiritual practices by looking at the practice of keeping a spiritual journal. Please do share what spiritual practices help you connect with yourself and with the Sacred.
Your progressive redneck preacher,