PARABLE I - AT THE WATER'S EDGE
At the waterís edge I found
a cocoon of a butterfly.
What I, in my kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were Godís way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.
Sometimes struggles are exactly
what we need in our lives.
There, again, the movement. This time, before losing sight of it she swooped
down with agility and silence. Seeing it was a worm, she relaxed and landed
a few feet away. `That worm has neither the speed nor the agility I have,'
she thought, `Why, he can't even fly.' So she stopped and watched to see
which way the worm, was going.
Presently, she bobbed over to it on her spindly, but sure legs. Sneaking
up behind, just as she was about to pluck the worm from the ground, it
spoke. "Hello," the worm said. The robin froze,
"When I saw you swooping
out of the sky, I decided to play a trick on you," the worm said, "so I
started going backwards."
"You --- you don't
mind that I'm going to eat you and take you home to feed my young?"
"But what if I decide
to eat all of you? You really don't have much choice."
How would you finish it if you were writing this story?
Here is an example done by Karen McCanch.
"Alright," said the robin, and she ate half of the worm and flew back to
A Prayer for Wisdom
If we allow the story time to do its work on us, something very special is revealed.)
It is your beauty that is keeping you captive,
your beautiful large wings.
Calm down...and walk away...then fly, fly, fly ...
2. State the heart of the matter. Write a brief, general statement of what is happening or being expressed in the passage. Try to capture the overall tone or quality and the essential point of the passage.
3. Describe the context, background, and inner feelings -- involved in the situation in greater detail. Allow your imagination to freely create an environment and a historical background to the scene. This allows for subjective feelings, memories, and associations to consciously or unconsciously become part of this prayer exercise. Respect the facts, but don't be afraid to elaborate on them creatively.
4. Ask for what you want. What I want to understand more deeply is ... What I desire to be freed of is ... For example, "Divine Friend, help me to understand my own blindness (paralysis, pharisaical hypocrisy, etc.) and heal me of it."
5. Looking and Listening. Focus upon different aspects of the passage such as physical details, persons, words, the event of healing, forgiveness, death, etc., and let thoughts, images, feelings, and other associations present themselves. Keep returning to the word, image, or event. As you concentrate on these, what presents itself to your mind? Record what comes to you in writing. Sometimes the connections are obvious and direct. At other times they are more obscure. Record them all without judgment. Be aware of symbolic connections. For example, is there a storm in my life? Am I like the leper, or Lazarus, or the blind man in some way? The point is not to analyze, but to make associations and connections as they arise.
6. Dialogue. Feel or imagine God's presence and then begin to speak with one another in a totally open way. Say what is on your mind, and then allow God to speak to you. Sometimes it may help to imagine what God would say as you give space for God to speak with you. Record the dialogue as it comes to you.
7. Remembering and evaluating. Review in your mind the sequence of feelings, freeflowing thoughts and experiences involved in this prayer exercise. Record these. Then re-read the whole meditation and note the emotions that arise as you read and also how you feel about the experience as a whole.
Late have I loved you, O
beauty ever ancient, ever new!
ON A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
2. State the heart of the matter. Briefly write a general statement of what you intend to dwell upon. What's on my mind is ... What I would like to talk about is .., For example, you may wish to focus upon a relationship with another person, an event that has significance for you, a feeling of anger, grief, joy, anxiety, fear, hardness of heart, control, need to forgive, pain, etc.
3. Describe the context, background, and your own feelings -- about the situation in greater detail. Begin to fill in the overall picture. It all started when ... It took place at ... My feelings at the time were ... My feelings now are ... This should be done freely and without censorship or judgment. "Irrational" feelings are not to be excluded.
4. Ask for what you want. What I want to know is.. What I need your help with is ... For example, "Lord, give me insight into this relationship. Heal me of the hurt and bitterness I am experiencing "
5. Waiting and listening for what presents itself. After focusing your desire, wait in stillness for whatever comes to mind. What images, feelings, memories, or thoughts present themselves? Record without judgment whatever bubbles up from within, Keep returning to what you desire and then wait for whatever appears. Don't follow long chains of associations. Keep focused on the matter at hand. For example, you might imagine the content of the meditation as the hub of a wheel.
The thoughts, images, and feelings are like spokes connected to that hub. After each spoke presents itself, return to the centre or hub and wait for another association to arise. Some of the associations may be understood, others may seem strange and obscure. Some may clarify at a later time. At this point the important thing is simply to gather thoughts, feelings, and associations without judgment as these occur. Forming connections, seeing patterns, or achieving insight may well happen, but one should not feel anxious if this does not happen.
6. Dialogue. Feel or imagine Jesus present with you (or God or saint or wisdom figure). Begin to speak with one another in a totally open way. You may be helped by including the person whom you have been praying about and allow them to enter into the dialogue. Say what is on your mind, and then allow Jesus or the other to speak to you. Record the dialogue as it happens.
7. Remembering and evaluating. Review in your mind the sequence of feelings and experiences involved in the meditation. Record these. Then re-read the whole meditation and note the emotions that arise as you read and also how you feel about the experience as a whole.
let me be crazy with you, lord...
On Gospel Contemplation
(This explanation may help you to appreciate better the method that Ignatius suggests for most of the Sp Exs. This method is called by various names such as Gospel Contemplation, Method of Contemplation, Ignatian Contemplation. It makes use of guided imagery and active imagination within the framework of a gospel passage of Jesus' life.)
It happened one morning in an 8th century Italian monastery. On waking, the monks all dressed in their cells and then filed down the corridors to a central meeting room. There they sat quietly until a monk, standing at a lectern, began to read a passage from the Gospel of John. He read clearly in a leisurely manner verses 13-22 of chapter 2. He paused for 30 or 40 seconds.Then he reread the same passage in the same clear, leisurely manner. Again, he paused for half a minute, then read the same passage a third time.
When he paused this time, some of the monks began to return to their cells in order to pray over the passage. Others waited for the fourth reading and even the fifth before they, too, left for their cells.
What was happening? These repetitive readings saturated their imaginations with a Gospel scene of particular energy and colour. This saturation would, of course, minimize distractions, and encourage a frame of mind and heart conducive to prayer. Perhaps it would enable a monk to identify with some particular person in the Gospel episode, and even to discover the inner feelings of Christ. The mystery of the gospel event would so take hold of the person at prayer that the past would become present through the instrument of the imagination and memory. The memory of the person at prayer would be influenced by the memory of Jesus present now to the person praying.
This is how you can enter into the life of Jesus through prayer:
1. Select a short concrete/action passage
First, from one of the Gospels, select an action passage, preferably fast-moving and colourful in detail. When you first begin to use this method do not attempt to pray a parable or a sermon.
2. Relax and settle into God's presence
Ask for a particular grace that you are seeking or the particular gift you need at this time - perhaps to know Jesus more intimately, or to become more compassionate, or to be healed in a particular area of your heart etc.
3. Read aloud the passage several times pausing half a minute or so between each reading while the gospel episode takes hold of you.
Slowly read the passage once - aloud, if circumstances allow. Then for 30 seconds or so look up from the page and let the scene sink into your imagination. Do a second oral reading, noticing details which you missed in the first reading. Again look up from the page for 30 seconds or so, until these new details fit into the total scene in your imagination.In the third reading, you will see more details for the first time, also insights, questions and interpretations will begin to occur to you. Use a half-minute to let them settle into your memory. Then read a fourth or even a fifth time until almost all the distractions have disappeared, and the Gospel scene totally saturates your imagination.
4. Now place the bible aside and let the scene happen
Do nothing to promote it except to stay alert to its developments. As you let yourself sink into the scene, you will tend to lose the sense of yourself and to identify with the situation. Suppose, for example, that you have read about Jesus quieting the storm on the lake. You may imagine the wind howling, the boat pitching, the apostles struggling at the oars. If this identification deepens, you will find yourself in the boat, e.g., at the oars, or you may find yourself to be in Peter or Philip. Sometimes you will discover yourself drifting in and outof the scene, in and out of various people of the scene.
5. Allow yourself to take part in the scene which is now present to you
Be as passive as possible while being as alert as possible.In fact, let everyone else control the event: Jesus, Peter, Mary, Martha, John. You merely interact with the persons, listen and reply to their words, take part in their activity - conversing with them, accompanying them, helping them in their occupations, in whatever ways you find yourself as part of the event that is present to you.
6. Do not moralize or try to make applications
Don't moralize (for example, "I should be more spontaneous like Peter when I am with my friends ...") or draw theological conclusions (for example "Notice how the three temptations of Jesus parallel the temptations of the Israelites ...") or try to make clever applications ("It's amazing how the Pharisees are so much like the people I am working with ...") By losing yourself in the persons, words and activity of the gospel event your whole being is affected and influenced. You won't need applications because you will notice what happens to you either in the period of reflection after your prayer or, more subtly, in the effects in your life as almost by osmosis you begin to put on the mind and heart of Jesus's Spirit.
7. After your period of prayer comes to an end make a review for a few minutes by reflecting upon what took place during the prayer.
What happened in you during this prayer exercise? What did you notice as standing out even slightly? Is there something you should return to in a later period of prayer? Give thanks to the Lord for being with you during this time.
LECTIO DIVINA 1
DIVINA APPLIED TO READING
Sometimes we experience a lack of freedom in ourselves, an inability to cope with something, an inability to forgive, a fear, a problem with uncontrollable anger, or something like that. No matter how we pray or what we do, nothing seems to help. The first step is to discover the root of the problem. Very often it helps to talk it over with a spiritual guide. Sometimes our weakness or unfreedom is a result of an inadequate prayer life. Sometimes it is a result of an unwillingness to face the truth, or to let go of something we want, or a lack of discipline in our lives. Sometimes it is because we are too busy or too tired. Sometimes it's because we have not forgiven another. In instances like these, what we need for healing is repentance not prayer.
There are times however that the issues are rooted in the past, even in the time we were being carried in our mother's womb or in the process of birth. No matter how loving our home life has been, no matter how happy our childhood, it was not perfect. During the various stages of growing we have experienced the oppression of others as well as that of institutions and structures. So we carry in ourselves the wounds of bad experiences, some of which we have not thought about in years.
There is a way of praying for the healing of past experiences. It is sometimes called `healing of memories, ' sometimes `psychological healing.' It rests on the fact that Jesus is the Lord of all time, past, present, and future, that he can even change the effects of the past.
Some time ago a woman in Joseph's community said to him in passing that he had a lot of bitterness in him. Joseph was busy at the time and busy afterwards with a lot of things, so he did not do anything about it. From time to time her remarks reoccurred to him, and he did realize that occasionally a sharpness would develop in his tone of voice, a certain harshness would colour his relations with others. He would ask forgive-ness when he could and move on. Finally he did learn to pray over these experiences and experienced through prayer a great deal of healing.
The following is his record of healing through prayer:
"(Finally) ...I had occasion ... to use my prayer time to be healed of
the effects of bad experiences in my past. I began by settling quietly
in God's presence, and after reminding myself of God's perfect love and
desire to heal me, I asked God to bring to my mind the memories of the
experiences which were at the root of this buried bitterness. The first
memory came back almost at once. I saw myself on the stairway of my high
school the first day of my freshman year. I was a fat little twelve-year-old
between two much larger boys. It was a scene that I had not thought about
in over 25 years. I saw their faces clearly and I even remembered their
names. A priest walked by and I said, `Hello.' I had served Mass for him
many times. The other boys did not know the priests and began to ridicule
me for trying to `get in with them'. I was both hurt and confused. I wanted
very much to be friends with my classmates, but it looked as though I was
getting off to a very bad start. I really couldn't understand why saying
hello was so misunderstood. At that point in my recollection I forgave
each of them. Then in my imagination I walked back into that scene with
Jesus by my side. I could imagine each of the boys becoming self-conscious
and confused as they saw Jesus. I could see Jesus forgiving them and urging
them to be more loving and understanding. Then he turned to the little
boy (me) and he let me know that what I had done was all right, that the
other boys were wrong in what they did and they were sorry. I really felt
his love. I could see the little boy begin to smile, and then we walked
out of the recollection. In the course of a week's prayer I had about fifty
experiences like that, and I find that much of the bitterness and harshness
has disappeared from my behaviour. Praise God."
"The ability to risk can be a sign of healing!"3
To laugh is to risk appearing the fool
caught in the vortex
confused and bound
the weakness of my
fumbling and sightless
The material on Lectio Divina is based on the presentation of Vincent Dwyer,
Cistercian, in the film, Many Paths to Prayer, originally put out by Multi-Media,
Inc. In his presentation the point is made that the technical language
needs to be re-expressed and re-integrated in a different way. Thus, Lectio
Divina, literally translated as sacred reading, - should be expressed as
Listening. Meditatio, literally translated as meditation - should be expressed
as Reflection with the Heart which includes both feelings and thoughts.
Oratio, literally translated as prayer, - should be expressed as Responding
with the heart and conversing back and forth with God. Contemplatio, literally
translated contemplation,is the fruit of the natural process of listening,
reflecting, responding - should be expressed as Being caught-up-with-God
which experience is God's gift and the outcome of the above openness. For
the complete text of Many
Paths To Prayer click here.
2. Thus the Prayer of a Child, the Written Meditation on a Personal Experience, Praying over One's Blessed History are all forms of Lectio Divina. Back to document
3. This quotation is with thanks from Myrna M. Small. The reading that follows is adapted from an unknown source that has been making the rounds of meetings and workshops. Back to document
4. By Ruth McLean, this poem could be used very helpfully to express the sense of separation of theComposition of Place, for the First Exercise of the Sp Exs. Back to document