Though He is the mightiest God, He did not open his mouth besides crying for milk. What a vulnerability he has assumed! A God who depends on humans for any of their needs. It's incredible!

Ignatian Contemplation on the Nativity of Jesus

Pubblicato il: venerdì 29 Dicembre 2023

The joyful Christmas season comes with a lot of cakes and gifts, cribs and carols, Santa Claus, Christmas trees and colorful decorations of lights. Indeed, nowadays Christmas is identified only with these external signs and celebrations. What is the real meaning of Christmas? Why is it celebrated in such a way all over the world? What does it mean to say incarnation? Can a God be a human? These questions trigger us to go deep into the Mystery of the Incarnation of Jesus. How to enter into the greatest mystery that the world has ever seen in history? St Ignatius of Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises introduces in the second week, the Contemplation of the Nativity of Jesus to the retreatant to enter into this mystery of Incarnation.

The exercise of contemplation given by St Ignatius is not just meditative thinking on the theme of Nativity but through our imagination we become an active participant in the particular scene with thoughts and emotions in the presence of Holy persons. Indeed, at the end of the day, He asks us to do the same using our five senses to get into a deeper union of the mystery we are contemplating. While explaining Ignatian contemplation, I would like to share my personal experience. St Ignatius asks us not to see the birth of Jesus as a historical event that happened two thousand years before but as a reality happening here and now.

In contemplation, St Ignatius starts with the composition of the place, imagining and seeing mentally the place where the event is taking place, nine-month pregnant Mary with Joseph with a donkey moving from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census. Looking a little more deeply into the details like the distance, the roads, mountains and valleys they cross and the place Jesus was born whether it is big or small. Then, it is the most interesting part, inserting yourself into the history or into the scene of contemplation. Looking at Mary, Joseph and Jesus, imagining ourselves as a poor servant and deeply gazing at them and serving them in a most reverential manner. In order to receive some spiritual fruits, I am very attentive to the words of these people and also to the actions of these people. To be born in this poor lowly state, these holy men were travelling day and night with hunger and thirst, cold winter and heavy sun and all these things are happening to me. Finally, I enter into colloquy with any of the holy persons, touching and kissing the baby Jesus. Actually, here we are not praying with any words but being present with Jesus very closely with our hearts and minds in imagination.

This is one of the peak experiences for me during the retreat of thirty days of the Spiritual Exercises. I was very much impressed and inspired by the humility, accepting the vulnerability and identification of Jesus after the contemplation. What a memorable journey with Mother Mary and Joseph! I was guiding the donkey, conversing with Mother Mary, fetching water from the well and preparing the tent at night. She never treated me as a servant but always as a son. How much love and care, Joseph showed towards Mary and to safeguard the Holy Child. After this contemplation only, my devotion towards Joseph has begun. Mother Mary was very much suffering during the journey, fainting and vomiting but she never grumbled about the discomfort. When we reached Bethlehem, nobody gave us a place to stay. Mother Mary was in labour pain, Joseph left Mary with me to go to search for a place. Everyone was gazing at us but none helped to find a place. At last, we found a dirty stinky cowshed full of rubbles. Mary was crying aloud in pain; I prepared hot water and soaked the cloth to ease the delivery. I could imagine, Jesus learned from Mary the meaning of passion. I was ready there to do anything for Mother Mary and Joseph. After a long struggle, she gave birth to Jesus, the only Son of God. His legs first touched the cow shit.

I could not control my emotions when I saw Jesus to be in such a lowly condition. The mighty God who has created heaven and earth, mountains and valleys is born in such a place, full of rubbish, stinking smell of cows’ excreta. What a poverty! Such a powerful and omnipotent God is lying like any other child, depending on human help for its needs, What humility! Though He is the mightiest God, He did not open his mouth besides crying for milk. What a vulnerability he has assumed! A God who depends on humans for any of their needs. It’s incredible! These thoughts disturbed me much. St Ignatius here makes us to belong these things by saying, everything for me. At this moment, I become emotionally, and rationally connected to the person of Jesus. He has incarnated for me; He has assumed himself to be born in such a lowly state for me. Jesus humbled himself to the human being and the world for me. Jesus identifies Himself with such a poor condition of place and people. Jesus emptied Himself from such a mighty godly state to a state of vulnerability and dependence. From this experience of contemplation of Nativity, I learned that coming down or emptying oneself for the life of others is Christmas, identifying myself with the poor and vulnerable is Christmas,

Let my prayer for this Christmas be,

Lord give me the grace to accept my vulnerability, let me incarnate and come down from my pride honour and self-reliance. The grace to perceive and identify you in the poor, the humble, the homeless and the vulnerable people. Fill me with the grace of Humility, Poverty, Incarnating and self-emptying love.

                Frankly Jayanth SJ