Volume 1 of 3 – musical support for imaginative scriptural prayer by Bob Dufford, S.J.
Tongues as of Fire (Vol.1)
Week One: God’s Generosity, Mercy and Call
At the beginning of the Exercises, Ignatius encouraged the retreatant (1) to focus all the longing he or she could muster for deeper life, for growth, for holiness—in short, for God; and then (2) to trust that God was already desirous to give it. The other im- portant factor to begin with is that the retreatant be able to trust her or his own internal experience, or at least to be willing to risk trying.
The gift or grace that Ignatius has in mind for the First Week might be described as an appreciation for the astounding mercy of God. The first step toward this is to ask for God’s help to face the truth of my own sin. This step may seem nearly impossible for those who have grown up with a distorted and toxic sense of shame. Every instinct will be to turn away from God and hide since it feels like there is something wrong with me, that I am defective as a being, so anything that I do will turn sinful. So the important risk here in the First Week will be to trust that, whether I like it or not, whether I feel I deserve it or not, I am prejudicially loved—not merely tolerated—by God. This is mercy in a broad sense. We often imagine God as re-acting to sin in mercy. But God’s mercy is as permanent and fundamental as God’s own self. It precedes all sin. Mercy is Love Itself still faithful despite our sin. Without this sense of the mercy of God meditation on sin can actually be harmful and drive us further into hiding, like Adam and Even after they had eaten from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Week Two: Jesus’ Infancy and Childhood
Starting with the Second Week our attention turns wholly to the life of Jesus. Ignatius would have us follow him around in our imagination and ask for the grace “to know You more intimately, to love You more deeply and follow You more closely.” By intimate knowledge [“… to know you more intimately …] Ignatius means the kind of knowing that we pick up by being-there. If you spend time imagining these scenes from Jesus’s life, you will react differently when you hear the scriptures in the future. You will recognize it as “somewhere I’ve been.”
“Intimate knowledge” is not about having a mystical vision or getting insider information about “what happened back then.” Your own subconscious will interpret the elements of the scene in ways that you may not expect. When you find yourself adding to the scene things that are not mentioned in the Scriptures, you are finding intimate knowledge of how you see yourself and how you see your relationship with God. As with a dream, it is you, telling yourself something about you.
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