How to Pray with Your Imagination on Epiphany
2 Spiritual Exercises to let the light of Christ shine and break into our darkness
1. Imagine the vivid scene of clouds and darkness, pierced by light.
Using especially this week’s first Mass reading from the book of Isaiah, compose a movie scene in your mind’s eye of the darkness and clouds of your life. What is the setting, what are the characters doing? Where is your sin and confusion and most vexing troubles? How do we deal with sin and overcome our thought traps?
Imagine a bright beam of light – Christ, Himself – breaking through the darkness of your limitations and sinful attachments. Receive that light. What happens in your scene?
2. Place yourself in the Nativity scene in the roles of King Herod the Magi
Read and meditate on Luke’s gospel passage below. Imagine the sights, smells, sounds and characters in the scene, use all your bodily senses. Imagine that you are Herod, troubled by the news of this newborn King – a threat to his supremacy. Imagine that you are the one to call a secret meeting with the magi and dispatch them to find this baby, but with hidden intentions of ill will. You are afraid and jealous and threatened by this light of infinite goodness… a light that shines on our selfishness and defensive resistance to God.
What are the ways you resist God’s grace? What are the ways that you persecute God’s holy ones in your life? Allow this scene to lead you to contrition and sorrow for your sins and for the freeing work of the Holy Spirit.
Next, imagine that you are the Magi. Examine your heart. How do you come to see and wonder over this astonishing baby – the Holy Infant – having been sent on a mission from Herod, but uncertain of what you’ll find. You seek after this mystery in good will… you are completely open to whatever strange, unexpected good news you will encounter. Once you find it (Him), your very first reaction is to prostrate yourself in worship, and then to give over to him your most precious possessions as gifts, not counting the cost.
How can you do this very thing in your day-to-day life? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you worship God in His splendor, to help you turn over your gifts and desires to Him, to restore your innocence and reject or even to forget about the former worldly assignments and attachments “Herod” had burdened you with.
A reading (1) from the book of Isaiah (60:1-6)
Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the LORD shines, and over you appears his glory. Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance. Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you: your sons come from afar, and your daughters in the arms of their nurses.
Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow, for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you, the wealth of nations shall be brought to you. Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.
The Word of the Lord
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (2:1-12)
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.” Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.
The Gospel of the Lord
Follow Fr. VanHeusen at http://ianvanheusen.com
Image credit: “The Magi,” 1915, by Henry Siddons Mowbray