Thursday, April 13, 2017

Holy Week - A Spiritual Exercise

When we sit in reverence during our weekly Sacrament, we contemplate the life of Jesus, his sacrifice, and his Atonement for our transgressions.  We partake of symbols, of bread and wine/water: the bread representing the body--the life and teachings of Christ--the water--the blood, the spirit and that which goes beyond words.

These tokens, the repeated ritual prayers, the silence... in these moments, we enfold ourselves in a kind of contemplation that places us into the sacred room where Jesus instituted the Last Supper.

In like manner, when we go to the temple, we are to consider ourselves as if we are Adam and Eve: our silent contemplation, facilitated by the ritual, takes us inside the narrative.

This kind of creative contemplation, using our imagination to relive the narrative ourselves, helps us see with spiritual eyes that which goes beyond the words of scripture.  Without realizing it, our imaginative visualization during Sacrament and the Temple is what Ignatius called "Spiritual Exercise".

Ignatius founded the Society of Jesus, or the "Jesuit" orders in Catholicism, based entirely on Spiritual Exercises.  Although the full four week outline he laid out is more attuned to Catholic dogma and practice, and indeed his "weeks" are more like lifetimes, I think there is much to be learned from his approach to creative contemplation.

Ignatius suggests that we don't merely remember the events, but rather, use our imagination to actually be there in the narrative of scripture.  As we sit in the Sacrament, we truly place ourselves in the mind and heart of Disciples. We are IN the upper room. What are we seeing, sensing with all our senses?  What are we feeling?

As we lose ourselves in the story, we allow the Spirit to guide us into and through the narrative--we envision that which god needs to reveal to us in our minds and hearts.  Using our whole selves, we begin to grasp that which goes beyond words and narrative: we are One with all that is.

*This* is the spirit of revelation.  And yes, we Mormons do practice creative contemplation in both our Sacrament service as well as in the Temple--the only moments we have of high Ritual and Liturgy.

As Mormons, we don't have any Ritual and Liturgy associated with Holy Week, yet it is this Week represents the culmination of the creation ritual of the Temple, and the initiation of the Communion ritual of the Sacrament.

Perhaps it is appropriate that we don't have an organized practice of Liturgy during Holy Week.  As I have contemplated the events of this week, I am finding that it's a very intimate process--the last thing I need is to engage in more "Church".

No.  This is personal.  I need these moments, away from the corporate and structured constructs of my life, to free my imagination into the rich narrative of this Week.

I walked today where Jesus walked,
In days of long ago.
I wandered down each path He knew,
With reverent step and slow.

Those little lanes, they have not changed,
A sweet peace fills the air.
I walked today where Jesus walked,
And felt His presence there.

My pathway led through Bethlehem,
Ah memorys ever sweet.
The little hills of Galilee,
That knew His childish feet.

The Mount of Olives, hallowed scenes,
That Jesus knew before
I saw the mighty Jordan roll,
As in the days of yore.

I knelt today where Jesus knelt,
Where all alone he prayed.
The Garden of Gethsemane,
My heart felt unafraid.

I picked my heavy burden up,
And with Him at my side,
I climbed the Hill of Calvary,
I climbed the Hill of Calvary,
I climbed the Hill of Calvary,
Where on the Cross He died!

I walked today where Jesus walked,
And felt Him close to me.

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