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 in The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything (HarperOne, 2010).
Ignatius practiced spirituality by taking his students and himself deep into the story of Scripture in their imagination, and sometimes literally. 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 itself, with more profound understanding than when we were just intellectualizing the story in our head.
At the front of the refectory at the College of Preachers at the National Cathedral, in stained glass, 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 preacher was to help those in the congregation “experience” the Scripture—usually the Gospel, as Ignatius is asking us to do. My experience was I could do this best by taking myself and all who would like to make a journey into the story; become one of the characters; feel Jesus’ feelings; know his hopes and fears, his frustrations, his loves, his passions, his humanness. This is also good advice to give to spiritual friends whose study of Scripture has become stale.
I was first exposed to the Ignatian exercises and this method of studying Scripture in a small purple book, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius in the Image Classics series. I now know there are so many more. A priest I work with, Michael McCain, recommended this one by James Martin.
It is hard to become dry when we actually go into a story in Scripture and become a part of it. We will hear voices we have never heard before.
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