Scripture Contemplation: Come, Holy Spirit!
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.
Background to the text
Instead of the Gospel, this Sunday we pray with the first reading from today's Mass, since this is where the story of Pentecost is told. In biblical times, Pentecost was a harvest feast, 50 days after the feast of Passover. It was a pilgrimage feast, drawing Jews from near and far to Jerusalem. This reading, from the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, follows the events of the first chapter, where Luke narrates the Ascension of Jesus, the return of his followers to Jerusalem, and their gathering there to choose someone to replace Judas as one of the twelve.
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 of the Holy Spirit, coming into your life right now.
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.
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”
The time for Pentecost has been fulfilled. In biblical times, this was a harvest feast, 50 days after the feast of Passover. A pilgrimage feast, drawing Jews from near and far to Jerusalem, where Jesus’ followers have gathered together following his Ascension to heaven.
This large group of followers is gathered in an upper room – Jesus’ closest friends as well as many other followers, both men and women. Imagine this room – what is it like, how is it arranged? Is it large or small? Are people spread out or gathered close together? What is the atmosphere like – tense or joyful or peaceful?
Place yourself in this room. Where are you and who are you drawn to? Spend a moment finding your place and really seeing yourself there, maybe talking with others, maybe praying, maybe sitting in silence.
Suddenly there comes a loud noise, like a rushing wind, and it fills the room. How do you and those around you react?
And now, flames! But nothing is burning, there is no smoke. Just the appearance of flames over the head of each person in the room. What is going on?
You remember Jesus’ promise to send another advocate, to send the Spirit. You find yourself praying, “Come Holy Spirit!” Repeat this prayer and make it your own.
Continue as the Holy Spirit fills the room and the people present. What happens, how do you feel? How do you respond?
When you are ready, spend a few moments talking with Jesus in your heart and share what you have felt and experienced. And then 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?