IGNATIAN CONTEMPLATION (Imaginative Prayer)

Updated: Jun 16

God speaks through our imaginations as well as through our understandings, memories, thoughts, intellect, desires, feelings, and emotions.

Jesus knew how important was one’s imagination for he taught in parables – i.e., the prodigal son, the widow’s mite, the rich young man, the good Samaritan, the one lost sheep. He asks us to be with the Gospel passage as if it is happening now for the word of God has life… words live eternally in our the past, present and the future… they will always be present, alive in the moment.


We flow into using our faculty of imagination when Jesus is in action when praying on a passage.

It prevents prayer from being merely an exercise in abstraction and it assures that the whole person's body-mind will senses imagination is involved in the communication with God. It constitutes I think one of the greatest gifts Ignatius has given to the spiritual tradition.”

Bishop Barron: St. Ignatius Pivotal Player


It is an Imaginative Prayer where we use our imagination to bring to life the experiences of being there, as we allow ourselves to be caught up as in a movie or a book. Jesus used imagination in his teaching on how to live life – ex: the Parables – here we imagine (make present) a mystery of Jesus' life in a way it becomes real, as it is.


There are two phases of Ignatian Contemplation:


1) Composition of Place

2) Application with the Interior Senses


In this prayer time, Holy Spirit will make present for you a mystery of Jesus’ life in a way that is meaningful for you now when praying this way.


Note: Some people’s imaginations are very active, so they construct a vivid movie-like scenario with a Gospel passage. Others will enter the scene, reflect on the scene and mull over the activity. Vividness is not a criterion for the effectiveness of this kind of prayer; engagement is.*

COMPOSITION OF PLACE

To grow more fully in faith knowledge

Ignatius invited us to engage in this type of contemplative prayer. It is different from the other traditions that use the term 'c'ontemplation referring to the stage of prayer in which we are ‘being with God in silence,’ such as in the Prayer of Quiet or at the end of Lectio Divina.


How to begin

  • Select a passage from one of the Gospels in which Jesus is interacting with others.

  • Close your eyes and reconstruct the scene as in a movie using your imagination.

  • Observe what is going on in the scene.

§ What does Jesus look like? How do the others react to him? What are the people saying to one another? What emotions fill their words? Is Jesus touching someone?*

As you visualize the scene, note your desire to be there.

At some point put yourself in the scene perhaps as an observer, or as one lining up for healing, or as one helping others to Jesus.

As you finish this time of prayer, take a moment to speak person-to-person with Christ, sharing what comes up from your heart – this is called a Colloquy Prayer.

Write some notes in your journal.


APPLICATION OF THE INTERIOR SENSES

This is a prayer form in which one applies one’s senses to the Composition of Place [seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling] in another imaginative way, thus making the scene become more real and alive.


Here we ask for the desire for Jesus to open our 5 senses: eyes, ears, touch, smell, and taste. Here we became aware of the life of Christ, the mystery before you, and all that you sense of His creation.

How to begin

After reading the selected text slowly, you enter the scene through your imagination. As above visualize it as in a movie. Place yourself in the event. There you became aware of all aspects of the scene by imagining and sensing it through your 5 senses. Then through inspiration become an active participant.


To grow more fully in felt knowledge

o I see the people, and what is going in the event in scripture verses.

o I hear what the people are saying, volume and tone of their voices, the noise of the street, etc.

o I feel the objects around me – the soil under my feet, the breeze, the clothes I am wearing, the sun on my face.

o I taste the fish the is cooking at the sea of Galilee; I taste the wine at the wedding of Cana.

o I smell the sea air, the spring flowers on the Mount of the Beatitudes.


As you finish this time of prayer, take a moment to speak person-to-person with Christ, sharing what comes up from your heart - this is called a Colloquy Prayer.


Contemplation Review Questions

In Composition of Place or Application of Senses, by imaging the place as in a movie, we come to experience God in action.

o Where am I in this scene?

o Where does Jesus want me to be?

o What do I see, hear, smell, feel, taste?

o What is this experience like for me?

o What is God sharing with me?

o What do I want to share with God?

Write some notes in your journal on what you sensed.