Gospel Contemplation: Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
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
The contemplation I will guide you through today is not based on a scene in scripture but comes from the imagination of St. Ignatius. In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius invites the retreatant to pray in an imaginative way with the mystery of the Incarnation. The first part of that contemplation invites the one praying to imagine the Triune God gazing upon the world, and to join the Divine Persons in that vision.
Today’s contemplation is drawn from The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: A Translation and Commentary. Translated by George E. Ganss, SJ, Loyola Press, 1992. and O’Brien, Kevin, SJ. The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius in Daily Life.
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 heart-felt knowledge of the Triune God.
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.
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
In your mind and heart, imagine the world and all that is going on today. See all the people on the earth, so diverse in how they dress and how they behave. Some who are black, some who are white, some who are brown, and all different shades in between. See the different hair colors, types of eyes, body shapes.
See some at peace and some at war. See some protesting in the streets, see some suppressing those protests, and others joining in solidarity. See the violence that people commit, individually and in groups, some who are citizens, others who represent government. See some who are oppressed, some who do the oppressing, others who who work for justice. Hear the people speak to each other, with harsh words and gentle.
See some who weep, and some who laugh. Some who are healthy, and others who are sick. Some being born, and others who are dying. Children, teenagers, adults of all ages. See them all.
Now, see, in whatever way you can, the Divine Persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, gazing on the whole face and circuit of the earth. Join the Triune God looking on all the peoples of the earth in their joy and in their suffering, in the good they do and in the evil they do. See them in their struggles, their blindness and sin.
What do you feel as you observe all this, together with the Divine Persons?
How does the Triune God, whose very essence is love, respond to this world, our world of injustice, pain, joy, illness, and confusion?
Hear the Divine Persons say, “Let us work the redemption of the human race.” (SpEx 107)
How is the Most Holy Trinity working redemption in your life today, in the human race in this world today?
When you are ready, share your feelings and thoughts with God, the Three-in-One.
And when you are ready, close with your 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?