Scripture: Ignatian Exercises
“Take a passage from scripture that you enjoy. Ignatius invites you to enter into the scene by ‘composing the place’ by imagining yourself in the story with as much detail as you can muster.” James Martin. SJ, The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything, p. 147. 2010 HarperOne.
Ignatius practices spirituality by taking those he is guiding and himself deep into the story of scripture in their imagination. We start with the senses, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling. As we live inside the story, Ignatius asks us to pay attention to what insights might come. Soon in our imaginary journey, we can travel in time and find ourselves back in the scripture with a different understanding than when we are just intellectualizing the story in our head.
At the front of the refectory at the College of Preachers at the National Cathedral, in stain glassed was written, “if you do not dramatize the message, they will not listen.” You can see this from many angles, but what it came to mean to me was that my job as teacher and preacher was to help myself as well as those in the congregation “experience” the scripture, usually the gospel, as Ignatius is asking us to do. My experience is I can best do this by taking myself and all who would like to make a journey into the story, be one of the characters, feel that person’s feelings, know his or her hopes and fears, their frustrations, their loves, their passions, their humanness.
The same is true for advice to spiritual friends whose study of scripture has become stale. It is hard to become dry when we actually go into a story in scripture and become a part of it. With each new journey we will hear voices we have never heard before.
I was first exposed to this Ignatian exercises and this method of studying scripture in a small purple book, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius in the Image Classics. I know there are now so many more. A priest I work with, Michael McCain, recommends this one by James Martin as well.