Publish date 15-01-2023
The purpose of authentic prayer is not to obtain what we have asked for (most often the fulfillment of a selfish desire), but to reawaken the sense of God's presence. Ignatius of Loyola – who does not write a line without starting from one's own experience – recommends bringing the imagination and all the senses into prayer, that is, into meditation on a passage from the Gospel.
It means imagining being "inside" the scene. For example: imagining being in Nain, among those following Jesus as he enters the village or in the funeral procession of those who go out to accompany the widowed mother to the burial of the only son (Lk 7:11-17).
It means imagining the houses of the village with Tabor on the horizon, smelling the smells, listening to the noises, the people's words, observing the colors of the houses, the sky, the clothes, looking at the face in tears of the mother, the face of Jesus, the bandaged face of the boy who revives. Imagine “touching”: Jesus' robe, the catafalque carrying the dead young man, a spontaneous plant along the path, those present we inadvertently bump into.
Do they seem silly? Not at all, because through the senses we make the scene "relive" within us. Reason alone does not have this power: on the contrary, if it is not helped by the senses, it cools and sterilizes meditation, which risks turning into a withdrawal into oneself, a solipsistic lamentation.
And in the meantime, while imagining, record the feelings and thoughts that arise. What do I feel? What thoughts are running through me? If they're not all beautiful, it doesn't matter, actually, better: write them down, they're the ones that reveal the points of me where there is work to be done, to offer to Jesus to transform them. As Barsanuphio says: "Cast your impotence before God", put before him your little you dead like the boy of Nain.
Imagination has an indispensable role in feeling present at a past event and also serves to preserve the mind from "distractions". By imagining, one feels like staying inside the scene, one begins to get passionate, one he wants to witness what the imagination suggests and surprises us with: yes, because it inspires new meanings that we had not yet given to that scene. And while I imagine, I listen to the words that Jesus says and which now take on a different flavour, a fuller meaning. They enter me, together with his compassion. And here meditation done in this way reaches its goal: to make me experience, even if only for a handful of seconds, the immensity of Jesus' compassion, his concrete, real experience of the pain of the other. Of that mother. Of mine.
And here is the experience of Christ's compassion, savored for a few minutes, I will never, ever forget. The presence of the Lord has penetrated my thoughts and feelings through the senses, as only he knows to do: by impressing on me a memory that can no longer be erased. More from nothing, more from nobody.
NP October 2022