By Monica 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.
Sit and relax by focussing on your breathing for a few minutes so that you can contemplate the Gospel using your imagination.
Acknowledge you are in the presence of God by saying the following prayer:
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 guide and enlighten your minds so that like Mary we can say “Magnificat, anima mea Dominum” and take God’s word into my every day living and give thanks to God for his gifts.
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 the previous verses of this chapter, we hear of the Angel Gabriel bringing an invitation from God asking Mary, a young girl betrothed to Joseph to be the Mother of his Son. Mary puts her unconditional trust and faith in God and says “Yes” even though she finds it difficult to understand how it can come about as she is a virgin. After Gabriel’s assurances, she puts herself totally in God’s hands and goes in haste to her elderly cousin Elizabeth who is also pregnant. We enter this scene, as these two joyful women meet and give thanks to God,
- Who are you in the scene? Mary? Elizabeth? Zechariah? A friend? Or you may be someone watching on.
- If you are Mary, why did you go in haste to visit your cousin Elizabeth? Is it because you feel that Elizabeth would understand since her pregnancy is also a miraculous one as she is past child bearing age? Do you feel you need space to digest the reality that you have been chosen to be the Mother of God? Do you think that perhaps your parents wouldn’t understand? What about the people in your town? You know that pregnancy outside marriage is punishable by death. Are you afraid of your life? Or was it just that you wanted to congratulate Elizabeth and see if she needed some help during her pregnancy because you know she is elderly? Is is because you also understand that her pregnancy is all part of God’s plan and that both your pregnancies are in some way linked?
- What was the journey from your home town Nazareth to your cousin Elizabeth in Ein Karim like? How long did it take? What was the weather like? What time of day did you leave? How did you get there? Did you walk? Did you manage to get a ride from perhaps a passing merchant? Were you afraid? Did you tell Anne and Joachim, your parents before you left? Were you relieved when at last you arrived at the home of Elizabeth and Zachariah? Were they there to welcome you? Were you surprised at Elizabeth’s greeting? Surprised that she knew you were pregnant? Surprised that she knew you were bearing the Son of God? What was going on in your mind as you proclaimed the greatness of God in your life and the world in your beautiful Prayer?
- If you are Elizabeth, were you surprised to see Mary? What is it that allows you to recognise the action of God in Mary, your young cousin? To recognise that she is the Mother of your Lord? Was it the child in your womb leaping for joy? How did your child recognise that the baby in Mary’s womb was the Son of God? Is it because you recognise God’s activity in your life? That you know that you too had conceived miraculously? That by seeing Mary you know that the Lord has come to visit his people? Do you feel that your babies are connected in some way?
- If you are Zachariah or someone watching on, 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 the child in Elizabeth’s womb recognises the child in Mary’s womb? 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 your wife praising Mary for her strong faith in God? What are you thinking and feeling you feel when Mary responds by praising God? What are you thinking and feeling as Mary’s great prayer 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