By Monika Manser
The most frequent way of praying that Saint Ignatius uses is that of imagining ourselves in a Gospel scene. We imagine ourselves as a character in the story. We take part in the story, seeing Jesus and all the other people, being aware of what’s going on and how we are feeling. The purpose of praying with the imagination is to allow Christ in the Scripture to speak to us. To bring the Gospel stories to life for us. We are not trying to recreate history. It doesn’t matter if your imagination takes the story off in a different direction to the Scripture. It doesn’t matter if the story takes place in 1st century Palestine or where we live now in the 21st century. What is important is what God wants to say to us through this passage.
Let us sit and relax so that together we can contemplate the Gospel using our imagination.
We acknowledge we are in the presence of God so let us say together:
Direct O Lord and guide and influence all that is happening in my mind and heart during this time of prayer: all my moods and feelings, my memories and imaginings; my hopes and desires; may all be directed and influenced to your greater glory, praise and service and to my growth in your Spirit.
Let the Spirit enter our hearts and enlighten our minds so that like Mary we can proclaim the greatness of God in our lives and give thanks for the great things he has done.
Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, “Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the
moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
And Mary said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit exults in God my saviour;
because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.
Yes, from this day forward all generations will call be blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name,
and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.
He has shown the power of his arm,
he has routed the proud of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.
He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy
according to the promise he made to our ancestors
of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.”
Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.
In today’s Gospel, the Feast of the Assumption, we see Mary going in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth having just been told that Elizabeth, in her old age is to bear a son. Mary herself has just been given the news that she has been chosen by God to bear his son. Let us enter the scene and watch these two joyful women as they meet and chat.
• Who are you in the scene? Mary? Elizabeth? Zechariah? A friend? Or you may be someone watching on.
• Why do you think Mary goes in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth? Do you feel that Mary needs space to digest the reality that she has been chosen to be the Mother of God? Could it be that she thinks Elizabeth would understand since her own pregnancy is also a miraculous one since she is past child bearing age?
• What do you think the reaction of Mary’s parents and the towns people would be towards her pregnancy? Do you think that Mary knows that pregnancy outside marriage is punishable by death? Do you think she is afraid thus the reason she goes in haste to her cousin, or do you think she is not afraid as she trusts in the action of God in her life?
• Do you think Mary goes in haste because she want to share her cousin’s joy and help her during her pregnancy since Elizabeth is elderly? Do you think Mary feels that Elizabeth would understand that her pregnancy is all part of God’s plan and that both pregnancies are in some way linked?
• Imagine Mary on the journey to see Elizabeth. How do you think she got there? Do you think it was a lonely road? Can you imagine her relief when she arrived safely at the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah? Imagine this elderly couple being there to welcome her.
• Do you think Mary was surprised at Elizabeth’s greeting? Surprised that Elizabeth knew she were pregnant? Surprised that her cousin knew she was bearing the Son of God? What do you think was going on in Mary’s mind as she proclaimed the greatness of God in her life and the world in her beautiful Prayer?
• Do you think Elizabeth was surprised to see Mary? What is it that allows her to recognise the action of God in Mary, her young cousin? To recognise that she is the Mother of God? Was it the child in her womb leaping for joy? How do you think Elizabeth’s child recognised that the baby in Mary’s womb was the Son of God? Do you think it is because Elizabeth, like Mary, recognises God’s activity in their life? That Elizabeth knew that both she and Mary had conceived miraculously? That by seeing Mary she knows that the Lord has come to visit his people? Do you feel that Elizabeth knows that their babies are connected in some way?
• Do you think Mary and Elizabeth shared their concerns and anxieties as well as their joy and gratitude.
• Do you feel privileged to be listening to the conversion of these two pregnant women who have said yes to God in their lives no matter how unlikely their pregnancies are? What is it that surprises you as you listen to them chatting about the mysterious workings of God in their lives and giving thanks for God’s goodness? Are you surprised that it is Elizabeth who is the first to bear witness to God’s presence in our world?
• What are you feeling as you listen Elizabeth praising Mary for her strong faith in God? What are you thinking and feeling when Mary responds by praising God and reveals God’s activity in the world?
• As you watch and listen to Mary and Elizabeth, do you realise that it is their sons who will be responsible for bringing the good news of salvation into the world?
Speak to God about what is going on in you heart as you contemplate this beautiful Gospel about the miracles of life and how God’s plans unfold through unexpected incidences.
Let us now share what we thought, felt etc. only if you are comfortable to do so.
Suscipe of St. Ignatius of Loyola
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
Scripture texts: from the Jerusalem Bible 1966 by Dartington Longman & Todd Ltd and Doubleday and Company Ltd