Ignatian Prayers for the New Year: Contemplation on the Incarnation

Have you ever wondered if God really sees you? 

Have you wondered if God is watching you right now? Have you wondered if God is aware of how much you are struggling? Have you wondered if God notices when you do well? If God rejoices when you rejoice? If God cries when you cry?

I know I have wondered all of this and more. Truth be told, I desperately desire God to notice me, and at the same time I often feel incredibly guilty for desiring God to notice ME when there are billions of people God also has to pay attention to. 

How does God see each of us and all of us at the same time? What does God see when God gazes down at creation? What is God’s response?

When I was entering the second week of the Spiritual Exercises last summer, I was invited to contemplate the Incarnation – the moment when the Trinity gazed down on creation, noted the beauty and the struggle present, and decided it was time to respond. This contemplation arose from the imagination of St. Ignatius, and is a meditation on what happened right before the angel visited Mary. 

I had never thought about this moment before. Have you? 

When I was asked to imagine the Trinity looking down on creation, I immediately thought of the opening scene from a 90s’ movie called City of Angels. In the opening scene, angels dressed in unassuming black robes sit on the edges of tall buildings and perch on street signs watching over humanity. As the scene continues, angels are depicted in closer contact with human beings – gently resting their hands on individual shoulders offering each person they touch a bit of peace in the midst of the struggle of their daily lives. Despite the occasional hand resting on a shoulder, the angels are still mostly disconnected from the human beings they watch over. The humans may feel a moment of peace come over them, but they do not see the hand resting on their shoulder nor the angel in black brushing past. This opening scene shows angels filtering in and out of the lives of humanity, so near but also so very separate. 

So, when I imagined the Trinity looking down on creation, I first saw them sitting on a tall rooftop in the middle of a city like New York looking down on the bustling street corner before them. Then, I imagined them walking between the people on the street, listening to their conversations and observing people’s body language particularly in response to one another. I imagined them, much like the angels in the movie, placing their hands gently on shoulders offering peace. Then, I imagined them filtering in and out of apartment complexes and homes and shelters, under bridges and in tents, listening for each moment of joy and each moment of struggle from the human beings they adored. I imagined them looking into the eyes of each human being searching for hope and taking note of fear. 

In this contemplation, I could feel the Trinity desiring a closeness with each and every person before them. I could also feel the desire of each human being to have that brush across their shoulder be an actual hand they could clutch and hold onto. I could almost hear the Trinity saying, “Look how their hearts are rejoicing!” as well as “Look how their hearts are breaking!” I could almost feel the Trinity’s heart rejoice and break alongside those they loved.

I loved this moment in the contemplation because it reminded me that, even now, the Trinity’s heart rejoices and breaks alongside mine. Even though I cannot feel the hand upon my shoulder, this contemplation reminded me that it is there. 

The next moment I was invited to imagine was when the Trinity decided to come even closer to humanity. David Fleming, S.J., in his translation of the Spiritual Exercises, describes the moment the Trinity decides to come close to humanity as “a leap of divine joy”. He says: “God knows that the time has come when the mystery of salvation, hidden from the beginning of the world, will shine into human darkness and confusion. It is as if I can hear the Divine Persons saying, “Let us work the redemption of the whole human race; let us respond to the groaning of all creation.’”

In my contemplation, this was the most powerful moment. My imagination placed me in the scene at this moment. I felt peace come over me, and when I turned to see where it had come from, I saw the hand upon my shoulder and the flesh and bone standing before me. It was like I felt the actual leap, and it reminded me that the Trinity did not just leap for those alive 2000 years ago – the Trinity leaped for me as well. 

I may always ask the same questions that I started this piece with. I may always wonder if God really sees me and really feels with me. I think that’s part of being human. The gift of this meditation from the Spiritual Exercises for me is the ability to visualize the answers to these very questions whenever they come up for me. It gives me the opportunity to remember that there was, in fact, a moment when the Trinity decided to come close and feel with the human beings they loved.

It reminds me that the Trinity still has that desire to be close to me and you as well. I hope you consider trying this Contemplation on the Incarnation and that it brings you as much fruit as it brought me.

Go Deeper:

  • Read what the Spiritual Exercises taught Becky about the Incarnation here
  • Read more on the gift of shelter Becky has found through the Incarnation here.
  • If you are searching for new prayers or prayer tools, check out our prayer resources here.

Photo by Veit Hammer on unsplash.com 

 

Gretchen Crowder is the Director of Campus Ministry at Jesuit Dallas and an adjunct faculty member for the University of Dallas. She has a B.S. in mathematics and an M.Ed. from the University of Notre Dame as well as an M.T.S. from the University of Dallas. After teaching mathematics for almost a decade, she fully embraced her passion for ministry. She resides in Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three sons.

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