Ignatian Contemplation: Solemnity of the Assumption
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.
The Solemnity of the Assumption celebrates Mary’s role in salvation history. Mary’s assumption into heaven, body and soul, foretells our own destiny and invites us to reflect on the triumph of life over death in our own lives.
In today’s Gospel, Mary is on her way to the hill country to visit her cousin Elizabeth. She has just had the very strange and overwhelming experience of an angel giving her the news that she will conceive and bear a child who will be called “Son of the Most High.” She has also learned that her cousin Elizabeth is pregnant, against all odds.
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 whatever you desire most in this prayer time. If you are not sure what to ask for, you might ask for the grace to see, through Mary’s example, God’s promise of resurrection at work in your own life.
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.
Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’
And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
And Mary remained with her for about three months and then returned to her home.
In your imagination, see a road leading from the town of Nazareth up into the hills. And on that road, a young woman hurries along. Imagine yourself on that road too, trying to catch up to the young woman. As you move forward, see the road and its surroundings in as much detail as is helpful to you, noticing what you see, what you can hear, what you smell, what you feel on your feet and skin.
As you grow closer to the young woman and can see her more clearly, you see that she is Mary. Is she someone that you know well, or is she more of an acquaintance?
As you catch up, Mary welcomes you to walk with her. As you walk along, do you talk together or walk in silence? Continue walking together.
As you reach Zechariah and Elizabeth’s house and enter to greet Elizabeth, witness the encounter between Mary and Elizabeth. Follow their conversation as Mary greets Elizabeth, and Elizabeth responds. What is your own feeling as you hear about the child in Elizabeth’s womb which has leapt for joy?
Listen as Mary proclaims her song of praise. What thoughts and feelings stir inside you?
Mary sings of God’s promises fulfilled. On the feast of the Assumption we celebrate both Mary’s faithfulness to God and God’s faithfulness to her -- and to all God’s people. How has God been faithful to you in your life?
Before you close your prayer, take a few moments to talk with Mary as you would to a friend. Share with her what is in your heart, and listen to her response. And 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?