The Composition Of Place
A central purpose of The Spiritual Exercises is to facilitate a transformative encounter with Jesus.
The composition of place, which is described in the initial exercise of the First Week, can be especially helpful in placing the retreatant in proximity to Our Lord:
When the contemplation or meditation is on something visible, for example, when we contemplate Christ our Lord, the representation will consist in seeing in imagination the material place where the object is that we wish to contemplate… In a case where the subject matter is not visible… the representation will be to see in imagination my soul… [#47]
From the time of Ignatius until today, some people are very nervous about the use of imagination in prayer. For me, the breakthrough came when I understood that my imagination is a gift from God and that, in every important sense, it doesn’t matter if I have a completely accurate recreation of Palestine in the time of Jesus loaded into my cerebellum or that I can describe the face of Jesus as it truly was. I can, however, trust that God will help me use my imagination in ways that will break open the Scriptures for me and draw me closer to Jesus.
When I do any kind of formal prayer, I approach my prayer place with reverence and a consciousness that I am in the loving Presence of God. I then do a “composition of place” in which I situate myself, first of all, in terms of my mood, my needs and desires. I then turn to the Scriptures and try to insert myself into the world of the passage on which I’ve chosen to contemplate.
I don’t honestly know if I’m doing it “the right way.” But it has been helpful to me over the years.
Do you practice any kind of “composition of place”?
Previous post: A Summer Story
Next post: Spaces