Gospel Contemplation: It is Good to Be Here
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.
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 need most right now. If you’re not sure what to ask for, you might ask for the grace to experience how good it is to be in God’s presence.
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.
Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean.
You have joined Jesus and three disciples for a hike up a high mountain. Take a moment to get a sense of your surroundings.
What can you see?
Is there an easy path up the mountain or do you have to clear it yourselves?
Are there trees or other vegetation? Is the terrain smooth or rocky?
What kind of day is it?
What do you hear?
Are there any birds singing, insects chirping?
Hear the crunch of feet on the ground as you walk.
What do you feel?
Is there a breeze that touches your skin, or sunshine?
Perhaps rain is falling.
What do you smell?
What does the mountain air smell like?
Look at Jesus and the other disciples.
What do they look like? What are they wearing? How tall are they in relation to you?
Continue on your walk up the mountain, letting your imagination of the scene take over.
Who do you walk with? Do you chat or stay silent? Do you rest or push on? Spend a few moments on the walk up the mountain.
Arriving at a place near the top of the mountain, you all stop for a moment. And Jesus is transfigured before your eyes; “his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.” How do you react to this transformation? How does it affect you?
Slowly you realize that there are two people there, talking with Jesus. Peter identifies them as Moses and Elijah when he suggests making dwellings for the three men. Peter says, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here!” What is your feeling in this moment?
You hear a great voice say, “, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ In what way do you react to this?
Let your prayer continue with your imagination. Before you close your prayer, spend a few moments talking with Jesus or one of the other disciples, sharing your thoughts and feelings about what happened and listening to what he has to say in 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?