Gospel Contemplation: The Annunciation
Gospel Contemplation is a way of praying that St. Ignatius proposes quite frequently in his Spiritual Exercises. You are invited to use your imagination to enter the scene, to take part, to let the scene unfold. As Ignatius suggests, notice the people, listen to them, watch what they do [SE, 106, 107, 108]. Perhaps you may sense an invitation to be one of the individuals in the scene and engage in a conversation with one of them. You can do this on your own, or use the text below as a guide.
If this way of praying is new – simply relax and try to become engaged in the scene. Try not to worry about what you are “supposed to” be doing. If you find yourself distracted during your prayer, very gently bring yourself back to the scripture text or your imaginative contemplation.
If at any point during the guided contemplation your imagination comes to life in such a way that God invites to you stay with a particular moment, follow the invitation that you sense, rather than move on to where the written contemplation is going. In that case you might want to stop reading and continue on your own.
Quiet your body and mind
- Choose a position where you can be relaxed but alert.
- Breathe deeply several times and let your body relax
- Breathe out any worries or stressful thoughts and put them in God’s hands
- Become aware of God’s presence here with you now, looking at you with love.
Ask for a grace
- Ask God for the grace to say yes to Jesus' coming.
Read the scripture passage
Read the passage slowly, savoring the words and beginning to imagine the scene. Read it twice if that helps you to visualize it.
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Picture, in your imagination, the town of Nazareth. It doesn’t need to be historically accurate – just whatever you think this town might look like in the story we just heard. Picture the buildings – how high are they? Picture the streets – are they wide or narrow? Are they dirt or are they paved with stones? What are the homes like in this town – what might the layout look like?
Now focus on one home – this is Mary’s home. Where is it in the town – on the outskirts or more in the center? What is this home like – what does it look like inside – is it spacious or more cozy? Is it partially open to the air or more closed in with full walls? Perhaps there’s a courtyard or some outdoor space somewhere. Spend a few moments really seeing and being in this home.
Who lives in this home besides Mary? Parents? Grandparents? Siblings? Aunts, Uncles, cousins? What does it sound like during the day – are there many voices or few? What are people doing – working, playing, relaxing, cooking?
Where is Mary? What does she look like when you see her? She is a young woman, in her teens, just past puberty. See her face, her eyes, her hair, her clothes. What is she like?
And what is she doing? Perhaps she’s playing a game with siblings and cousins, or maybe some chores around the house, or maybe she has been resting or sleeping, depending on the time of day. Whatever she is doing, she’s now paused and finds herself alone for a moment.
See the moment when the angel Gabriel appears to Mary. Watch her as she reacts to his greeting. The angel says, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” Listen as he delivers the rest of his message – don’t worry if you don’t remember it verbatim. Notice Mary’s response, and notice your own.
Is there anything that the Angel or Mary has said that stands out for you in particular? Something that moves or troubles you? A message that resonates for you personally?
Have you ever felt something was impossible, and later discovered that nothing is impossible for God?
Before you close your prayer, spend a few moments in conversation. You might want to talk with Mary about your prayer, sharing your thoughts and feelings with her and listening to what she has to say in response. Or, you might consider talking with God about it all.
When you are ready, close with a favorite prayer.
Review of Prayer
St. Ignatius recommends that we review our prayer. A written review has many advantages. It enables us to look back on our prayer experience, and to notice what happened. It allows us to be fully present to our experience of prayer. We do not write while we are praying. The review of prayer enables us not to judge ourselves or look for how well we are doing. It helps us to become more sensitive to how God is speaking to us in the here and now. It is also a precious record of our journey with God, which nourishes wholeness and integration.
Some questions to assist with your review:
What happened in your prayer?
What feelings did you experience?
During the prayer period, when did you feel encouraged?
When did you feel discouraged?
Did you receive the grace you asked for?
What did you receive?