Chapter 4 – Practice
St. Ignatius of Loyola developed a whole series of meditations using the imagination. For the sake of this book, I am including the following guide as a way of helping us use our imagination for prayer. There may be other more helpful works on the subject, but I hope this gives you an idea of how the imagination can be used in meditation.
Like any good artist, we must begin by trying to establish the setting. We can try and imagine the sights and smells that surround what we are encountering. No detail is unimportant. Although we should not be overly concerned with trying to analyze each detail, we should also be aware that sometimes the Spirit will open our hearts with the most common of things. The sudden remembrance of a smell can open our hearts to moments of grace or intense pain.
Having set the scene, we should now begin to explore the passage. We can imagine the different people as they speak their parts and perform their actions. Again, details will reveal many things about us and how the Holy Spirit is stirring our hearts. We should also be attentive to how we are interpreting ambiguous passages. Even some of the most common Gospel passages are not as simple as they might at first seem.
For example, in Mark’s Gospel we hear Jesus say, “Repent and Believe.” Although this is fairly straight forward, an important question goes unanswered. How did Jesus say this? Even more important, how do you hear Jesus say this? Is he anger or calm? Again, how you interpret each detail is incredibly important.
Feel free to let your imagination make connections with memories or other parts of your life. Praying with the imagination opens up your heart and allows it to intuitively connect the Gospel with your experience. Gently allow this to take place. It is also a good practice to include sacred art in our imaginative meditation. Thus we can connect our meditation with sacred art we have seen or movies that we have watched. Nothing is off limits.
In addition, we should not be afraid of imagining ourselves as one of the people within the Gospel narrative. We can imagine ourselves to be any of the people, including Jesus. In this way, we enter into the passage and explore how we would respond and behave in the situation. This can be fruitful as we consider the distance between our actions and those of Jesus. This might help lead us to contrition.