This past week I have being on a five day retreat, not in some far off place in the countryside, but here in Burgate in the Priests house. It was a time to be quiet and become more aware of how God is prompting me.
This was helped by having more periods of prayer each day. Each morning I met with a spiritual director on “Zoom” for about half an hour reflecting on my previous day’s prayer. I found another person listening is helpful in reflecting back to me any perceived movements of the spirit, pointing out any ways in which God might be nudging me.
I was encouraged to look back at notes I had made many years ago on a 30 day retreat I made using Ignatius Spiritual exercises. I was reading my notes on the period when I was reflecting on the passion of Jesus, known in the spiritual exercises as the Third Week. We were encouraged to pray for the grace “to grieve over Jesus suffering and death.”
It was focusing on the “sufferings of my beloved, Jesus.” One writer has said “A great emptiness of self and ego is required if this grace is to be effective. Such a grace is never easy, especially in our twenty-first-century culture of self-absorption. As you prepare to ask for the grace suggested, you should appreciate, as much as you can, what it is you are asking of God. The consolation you seek comes from entering the suffering of Jesus. This ability to get out of your own suffering and to enter his teaches a very important lesson: “to enter the suffering of other people you must get free of the all-absorbing clutches of your own.”
For several centuries the Fifth Sunday of Lent (this coming Sunday) was known as “Passion Sunday” and marked the beginning of a special sub-season called Passiontide, which extended up until Holy Saturday. During this time the Church’s liturgy becomes more sombre and a sorrowful mood was reflected in the various practices that occurred in the liturgy. The most obvious example of a more sombre mood is the veiling of statues and images, which remains an optional practice in the current Roman Missal: “…the practice of covering crosses and images throughout the church from [the fifth] Sunday [of Lent] may be observed. Crosses remain covered until the end of the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday, but images remain covered until the beginning of the Easter Vigil”.
This would be a good time for us to make the Stations of the Cross. You don’t have to do this in Church of course. The website “Pray as you go” have a good set of reflections. Another activity is to prayerfully read one of the Passion accounts in the gospels. Fr Gerard M. Fagin SJ wrote:
“To enter into the dying of Jesus, we must give up attachments that divide our hearts. We must let go of egoism and individualism, of prejudices and biases, and of insensitivity to the suffering of the world around us. We begin to understand the cross of Christ only when we participate in it in our everyday lives.”
Putting on the Heart of Christ: How the Spiritual Exercises Invite Us to a Virtuous.
I think that coming out of a period of retreat is like Peter James and John coming off Mount Tabor after experiencing Jesus being transfigured. Jesus had revealed himself to them in his glory. They had wanted to remain there but this experience was preparing them to face the passion and death of Jesus.
I pray that God gives us the grace to accompany Jesus through his passion and death