The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola are best suited for prayer during a silent retreat. However, Ignatius knew that they could also be effective when employed in a less isolated environment. It is the hope of the authors of this blog that you, the reader, find the meditations that we offer here useful in your own search to encounter Christ in prayer in your daily life. The meditations are intended to be prayed in order, from as close to the beginning as possible, perhaps over the course of a dedicated time such as the season of Lent. (more…)
Grace: To know the Divine King who has become a newborn child for me; to love Him and follow Him in His poverty, humility, docility and patience; to serve Christ’s people who find themselves at the mercy of others, outcast and without security.
Text for Prayer: Lk. 2:1-20
Reflection: Children everywhere love Christmas, for obvious reasons. They get a break from school, they are on the receiving end of gift exchanges, and everything seems alive with decorations of angels blasting trumpets over the heads of Mary, Joseph and a host of barn animals encircling the infant Jesus. What could be more fun? But from Nazareth to Bethlehem is about 80 miles of hard road. Imagine the troubled mind of Mary, certainly familiar with the prophet Micah’s inspired words: “And thou, Bethlehem (meaning, the House of Bread) Ephrata, art a little one among the thousands of Judah: out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be the ruler in Israel: and his going forth is from the beginning, from the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2). Can Mary be confident that, under the edict of Caesar, this virgin-birth will fulfill the prophet’s words when she and Joseph face no fanfare in Bethlehem? There isn’t so much as a place to sleep apart from one fit for animals. Can Joseph feel pride in his responsibility towards Mary and his adopted child when he, the carpenter, can procure only a shabby roof and a manger to lie in? Can their kinfolk not provide anything better for the arrival of the King of Kings? How frustrated and humiliated the couple must feel, able to cling to nothing save their trust in God and His mysterious ways.
Grace: To ask for the grace to know and experience the Lord and the people, places, sounds, and smells surrounding His birth, so that I might follow Him more closely
Text for Prayer: Luke 2: 1-20
Reflection: Our images of the Nativity are often colored today by idyllic manger scenes set up during the Christmas season, Mary and Joseph looking at the infant Jesus, lying in the manger, surrounded by a whole host of farm animals. Shepherds march in dutifully from one side of the manger scene, bearing their lambs on their shoulders, while the three Wise Men come in from the other side with their gifts, the first one already kneeling and opening up his treasure. Somewhere, off in the corner, stands an angel, in his hands a sign that says “Gloria in Excelsis Deo”…
These scenes can certainly help us enter into the mystery that is the Incarnation and the birth of Christ, but they are far from an accurate depiction of the events as they took place. St. Ignatius, in the Spiritual Exercises, invites us to take these idyllic depictions and go a step further, to see Mary, Joseph, and those present at the manger after the birth of Christ, and to look at them and serve them in their needs “with all possible respect and reverence” as if we were ourselves present, in order to draw some profit (Annotation 114).
Grace: Intimate knowledge of our Lord, who has become man for me, that I may love him more and follow him more closely.
Text: Luke 2: 1-20
Reflection: Here in the middle of Lent, we find ourselves all of a sudden back at the little cave in Bethlehem, waiting for Jesus to be born. Today in our retreat, it’s Christmas. If it seems impossibly strange to celebrate Christmas in the middle of March—no snow, no carols, no gifts—consider this: that first Christmas in Bethlehem was a lot stranger than we often realize. In fact, it was astonishing.
After the meditations we did last week, we are now in a better position to see why. The child lying in the manger is the Eternal King who, having surveyed the face of the earth, has set out on the mission given to him by the Father. This little baby, who is unable to move on account of the swaddling clothes and who sleeps most of the day, is the face of the God who labors. (more…)
Grace: To know the divine King who has become incarnate for me and to adore Him in the manger.
Text for Prayer: Lk. 2:1-20
Reflection: Infants are often described as adorable, but the infant who is the subject of this meditation is adorable in a rather more exalted sense. The newborn Jesus is worthy of our adoration, and the shepherds who travel to see him serve as worthy models for us. Responding to the word of God that comes to them through the message of an angel, they seek out and find the infant Lord in order to pay Him homage and to share the message of the promise that He brings to all mankind.
This infant Savior is not only the King of Heaven; he also desires to be the King of our hearts. He desires to show us his power made perfect in his weakness and in his vulnerability. As Mary’s Son, Jesus is ever close to her heart, and when Mary hears the message of the shepherds, she ponders their words in her heart. Let us imitate Mary today by adoring the Lord in his manger and by pondering the promise of salvation that his coming into this world brings.