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.
Last Thursday we began our celebration of the Ignatian year, marking 500 years since the beginning of Ignatius’ conversion. After his defeat at the battle of Pamplona and his serious injury there, God slowly opened Ignatius’ eyes to see that he was being invited to focus his life on something bigger than himself. He began to see all things new in Christ, which is the grace that we are asking from God for this year. This is appropriate for Pentecost, when we ask the Holy Spirit to come and make all things new, to renew the face of the earth.
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, and in today’s scripture, Jesus’ followers have gathered together following his Ascension to heaven.
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 whatever you desire most right now. If you’re not sure what to ask for, you might ask for the grace to see all things new in Christ.
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 day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’
The time for Pentecost has been fulfilled. A large group of Jesus’ followers is gathered in an upper room – his 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. What can you see, hear, smell, touch, or taste?
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?
Is there anything in your life that the Holy Spirit invites you to see in a new way, in Christ?
Is there any way that the Holy Spirit is inviting you to share the Good News?
Now spend a few moments with one of the other disciples talking about what you have experienced in this prayer, and listen to what they have to say as well.
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?