Signs used in the 2018 Good Friday service in Rotterdam (Photo: Irene Bom)
I recently wrote this little song inspired by a good day in Zacchaeus’ life, as recounted in Luke 19:1-10:
You see me in all my shame and glory
I hear you speak my name
What joy! my Lord and Saviour
to meet you face to face
I am changed from the inside out
by your gift of grace.
One spiritual practice that helps us reframe our experience – both the shame and the glory – is called the Examen, a contemplative prayer developed by Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), founder of the Jesuits.
The basic format
- Become aware of God’s presence.
- Review the day with gratitude.
- Pay attention to your emotions.
- Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
- Look toward tomorrow. Ask God to give you light for tomorrow’s challenges.
Visit the website for a more detailed outline.
Consolations and desolations
Here are some practical guidelines, taken from Gary Neal Hansen’s chapter on Ignatius in his book, Kneeling with giants: Learning to pray with History’s Best Teachers.
“In … the examen, we focus on the task of discernment by examining what Ignatius calls the ‘motions of the soul’ – the inner nudges that draw us toward God or away from God. He calls these tuggings ‘consolations’ and ‘desolations’, things that give a sense of the gracious presence of God or the seeming absence of grace, the absence of God.
The process is quite simple: we give thanks to God and quiet our hearts to reflect on the past day or week. In God’s presence, we bring to mind both the consolations and the desolations, in prayerful silence or writing them in a journal. We ponder their significance. We close with a prayer thanking God for being present in our experiences, offering ourselves to God anew. … the examen can be done individually or as a gentle, conversational way to pray with a friend or in a group. It can be especially helpful for married couples who want to pray together … It is also a delightful way to deepen prayer with children.” (p. 104)
More practical guidelines, this time from Chris Heuertz’ book, The Sacred Enneagram:
“The heart of the examen uses memory to explore the day searching for a ‘consolation’ – a moment, memory, or experience in which we felt God moving toward us or in us. Our consolation can be something as mundane as our first cup of hot coffee in the morning, something as sweet as an interaction with a child we love, or something as profound as a personal eruption of grace (such as receiving forgiveness from a friend, noticing growth in our faith journey, or realizing in a deep way that we are loved). Whatever the consolation is, once it is discerned we allow ourselves to be held by it, listening to what God may be trying to say to us through it. This step of the prayer also invites us to find the courage to search for a ‘desolation’ – a moment, attitude, or experience in our day in which we found ourselves moving away from God’s love and presence. Perhaps it’s those voices in our head – shame, guilt, doubt, regret, disappointment, or fear – that we mistake for the voice of Love. The person who hurt us isn’t the desolation, but rather the resentment we might feel toward that person; the family member who constantly annoys us isn’t the desolation, but rather our impatience with them; the painful memory we’ve tried so hard to forget isn’t the desolation, but rather our inability to receive healing for it. Whatever the desolation is, we acknowledge it as an invitation to grace so as not to be overcome or overwhelmed by it.” (p. 230)
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