Faithlife Sermons

Ignatian meditation

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This is the Ignatian meditation that I led in the meditation room on Saturday.

An explanation: There are lots of different traditions and styles of meditation, so first, an explanation of what will happen in this session. This will be a guided meditation based on one of the spiritual exercises of St Ignatius, 16th century saint. Ignatius taught that the key to a healthy spirituality was twofold: Find God in all things and constantly work to gain freedom to cooperate with God’s will. When I use the word God, I don’t mean it as an exclusive term. The word will mean different things to different people, so it’s about God as you understand God.

The exercise we are going to do is the examen. It is a way of connecting with the presence of God in our lives and discerning the direction in which we should go. The simplest form of the examen consists in asking two questions:

    For what moment today am I most grateful?
    For what moment today am I least grateful?

These questions help us identify moments of consolation – that for which we are most grateful – and desolation – that for which we are least grateful. Ignatius expected that God would speak to us through these moments of deepest feelings and yearnings. We should aim to do more of what brings us consolation, and to listen to and respond to what brings us desolation. Done regularly over a period of time, the examen can guide our lives and help us to make wise choices. So this is not the type of meditation where you try to empty your mind. But neither is it an intellectual exercise where we are striving with our minds to overanalyse. We need to listen to our hearts and expect God to bring to our attention the things we need to respond to.

As theme of these meditations is unity, I’ll invite you to reflect on 'when did I feel most unity, most connection to God, to myself, to others? When did I feel most disharmony, least connection to God, to myself, to others?'

The meditation
Make yourselves comfortable – back supported, feet flat on the floor, hands loosely in your lap, eyes closed. Become aware of your breathing –deep breaths that gradually become more relaxed.
Breathe in peace; Breathe out tension
Breathe in love; Breathe out hate
Breathe in acceptance; Breathe out separation
Breathe in forgiveness; Breathe out blame
Breathe in life; Breathe out death
Breathe in trust; Breathe out anxiety

Remember that you are in the presence of God.

“In [God] we live and move and have our being.”
We are always in the presence of God, but at times like these we place ourselves in God’s presence in an especially attentive way. God your Creator knows and loves you in the deepest way possible. God is here.

Look at your day with gratitude.

Give thanks for the gifts of this day. Simple things – smell of fresh coffee; a good night’s sleep; a smile from a stranger. Every single event has been God’s gift to you.

Ask God to help you in this examen, to be present with you as you reflect on this day, to shine God’s light on your interior world. Not over analysis – but listening to our hearts as the Spirit of God sheds light on what we need to respond to.

Review your day.
Think back over how you have spent today – where you have been, who you have interacted with, what you have done - notice the details, the context of what happened and how you acted. Notice especially your interior motives and feelings, those things that cause you to act in freedom, or with less than perfect freedom,

First question of examen:

In what moment today, did I feel most unity - most connection to God, to myself, to others?

Stay with that moment, giving thanks for it, recognising God’s presence with you.

What was it that made it so special?
What might God be saying to you through that moment?
How can you make space for more of this in your life?
What opportunity does this moment give you to grow in faith, in love and in hope?

Second question of the examen
In what moment today did I feel most disharmony,  - or least connection to God, to myself, to others?

Stay with that moment, although it may not be comfortable. Recognise God’s presence with you in that moment.

What was it that made it difficult?
What might God be saying to you through that moment?
How do you need to respond to that moment?
What opportunity does this moment give you to grow in faith, in love and in hope?

Final step in the examen is to reconcile and resolve.

  • If you are a person who prays, you might like to talk to God about what you have just received, to ask for God’s help in responding.
  • You might find it helpful to imagine Jesus beside you as a trusted friend, as you talk about your day.
  • Otherwise you might like to hold these insights before the universe, to treasure them and to learn from them.

And then to finish with gratitude – God we thank you for what has been, for what is, and for what will be.

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