Gospel Contemplation: Resurrection of the Lord
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 text used for this gospel contemplation is not from the Gospel according to John proclaimed on Easter Sunday. That text does not include and encounter with the risen Lord, so instead here we pray with the text from Matthew used at the Easter Vigil.
This text from Matthew refers to the "other Mary." This may have been Mary, the mother of James (as she is identified in the Gospel of Mark) or Mary of Clopas. These two Marys may or may not have been the same person.
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 be glad and to rejoice intensely because of the great glory and joy of Christ our Lord” (Spiritual Exercises, 221)
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.
After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.
His appearance was like lightning and his clothing was white as snow. The guards were shaken with fear of him and became like dead men. Then the angel said to the women in reply, “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ Behold, I have told you.”
Then they went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce this to his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them. They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”
It is the morning of the first day of the week. The sabbath is over, and needing the companionship of others who have lost Jesus, you join Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to go and see the tomb. Construct the scene in your imagination – the tomb is located in a garden. As you make your way together through this garden, what do you see? What kind of plants, trees, shrubs are around? Do you hear birds? What is the day like, is there sun or clouds or a breeze? Smell the fragrance of the garden as you pass through. Feel the presence of the two Marys – what are they like? Do you talk together, or just walk in silence?
As you grow close to the tomb, you see the guards and the sealed stone which covers the entrance to the tomb. Suddenly, the ground begins to shake -- it’s slight at first, but grows strong and lasts for few moments. You and the two women steady yourselves and each other and look up to see a figure approaching the tomb, his appearance like lightning and his clothing white as snow. The ground settles and you watch as he rolls back the stone with apparently no effort – and then sits on it. The guards have fainted. The angel, for what else can he be, turns to you and your two companions and says that Jesus has been raised from the dead – and he invites you to look inside the tomb!
Let this moment play out in your imagination – What do you do? What do you feel?
The angel instructs you to go quickly and tell Jesus’ disciples. As you set off, what is going through your head and heart?
Now you are hurrying along the road with Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, running to tell the disciples what you have seen. Your heart is pounding, and you notice a person on the road just a bit ahead of you. It looks like he’s waiting for you. He calls out to greet you and – oh, it’s Jesus. It is him! You run to meet him – what do you do when you get there and what does Jesus do? How is he with you? Take some time to savor this moment.
Jesus says, “Do not be afraid” and sends you on with your message for the disciples. As you continue on your way, rejoice with Mary and Mary. Talk with them about what has happened and what you are feeling.
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?