Sunday 20th December, 4th Sunday of Advent

Gospel of Luke 1:26–38

Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son.

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.

“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

In the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) Ignatius invites the retreatant to pray with this Gospel using the method of ‘Imaginative Contemplation’ and the ‘Prayer of the Senses’. 

Mary Ward followed this method when she prayed with this Gospel. Her retreat notes are short but powerful.

 “Extraordinary great lights and very many notable things” (Liege April 1619)

Unfortunately, however, as she expresses to her companions she was interrupted from her journal writing at this moment and doesn’t record any detail, although she says she clearly remembers the meaning she received.

In further preparation for Christmas on this fourth week of Advent, I feel drawn to follow in Mary Ward’s footsteps with the Ignatian method of prayer

The rhythm of the Ignatian prayer goes like this.

Preparation Prayer:  I become still and aware that I living in the presence of my loving Creator.

Imaginative Contemplation:

I imagine the scene as I read

I ask for what I desire

I see the persons. I watch and contemplate them.

I watch, notice and consider what they are saying.

I watch and consider what they are doing.

I listen to what is happening in my heart as I enter the scene. I stay in contact with my feelings.

Next is ‘The Prayer of the Senses’ It is for lovers of Jesus. Jesus was central in Mary Ward’s life.

Here I use all my senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste as I savour what I noticed earlier in my prayer.

Mary Ward came to experience God as  “Parent of Parent and Friend of Friends”. 

The concluding part of the contemplation is to have a conversation with my Creator about what I have discovered.

and then end with the prayer Jesus taught us –

 ‘The Our Father’.