Monthly Prayer Page: November
Welcome to the Jesuit Missions Monthly Prayer Page. Here you will find topical prayers and different prayer styles to help broaden and deepen your prayer life in the tradition of Ignatian spirituality.
JM Prayer Focus: Advent
Suggested Prayer Type: Imaginative Contemplation
Prayer Stimuli: As Advent approaches, as well as the final month of the Holy Year of Mercy, let us pray using imaginative contemplation with a biblical passage rich in mercy: St Joseph’s dream. Jesuit Missions realises the importance of mercy and responding courageously to seemingly desperate situations – St Joseph’s courageous example has guided us in responding to recent crises in both the Philippines and in Syria.
What is imaginative contemplation?
- Imaginative Contemplation is the act of imagining yourself as present, perhaps even as an active ‘character’, in the scene of a Gospel passage.
Why pray using Imaginative contemplation?
- When a Gospel passage is dominated by actions rather than words, contemplating the scene imaginatively is sometimes more effective prayer than the more common Lectio Divina.
- Imaginative contemplation is a way of unlocking some of the wonderful mysteries of the Gospel by imagining that you were present and watching the scene unfold for yourself.
- It also enables you to deepen your relationship with Jesus Christ by engaging in conversation and, basically, getting to know Jesus as a human companion, rather than the detached deity we may assume Him to be at Mass.
How to pray imaginative contemplation:
- Read over the scripture passage several times until you can remember the scene:
St Joseph’s Dream
18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.” 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son;[b] and he named him Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV))
- Imagine the setting. Don’t worry – you don’t have to be historically accurate – perhaps you wish to set this in a place you know vividly so as to help your imagination. For the above scene perhaps consider the humility of Joseph’s background (a Nazarene carpenter) when imagining the scene unfolding. The key is to embrace this type of prayer by using your senses and memories to be imaginative, not by being historically accurate.
- Imagine the sights. ‘Play’ the scene out ‘without the sound on’. Look at the facial expressions, the bodily movements, the colours, contours and clothing of the characters. Dwell on the sights that strike you, that grab your gaze. Listen to what they say to you. Is the mercy of St Joseph visible?
- Imagine the sounds. Repeat the scene with the sound ‘on’. You may wish to refer back to the text to see what exactly was said, but don’t over-rely on this. What other conversations were going on that weren’t documented? What ways do Joseph and Mary communicate to each other? What questions would you like to ask those who were present? Ask them now and listen for the answers.
- Repeat the scene and return to the places and points that stirred the deepest emotions in you. Keep listening carefully and resting in the mystery as it takes place in front of your eyes. Perhaps bring your prayer to a close by speaking to Joseph, Mary or God the Father and concluding with a prayer like the Our Father.
Final words of wisdom:
“Above all, the Gospels sustain me during my hours of prayer; in them I find everything that my poor little soul needs. I constantly discover in them new insights, hidden, mysterious meanings.” (St. Therese of Lisieux)