"An Examen of God's Coming Presence in Your Life" was an Advent retreat hosted by Faith Connections, Jesuit Volunteers Canada, and St. Peter's Young Adult Ministry in Toronto, Ontario on December 5, 2015, featuring reflections by Andrea Scapinello. (You can read a participant's blog post about the retreat experience on that day.)
Loving God, bless this advent wreath. May its ever-greeness be a sign of life and of light in the midst of the darkness of winter. May the candles that burn brightly upon it remind us of Your Son, Jesus, who is the light of the world.
As we light these first two candles, may we rekindle within ourselves the desire to prepare the way for the birth of Christ.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O God. God, hear my voice!
let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
If you, O God, mark our guilt, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness; and for this we revere you.
I trust in you, O God, my soul trusts in your word.
My soul waits for you, O God. More than sentinels wait for the dawn,
let Israel wait for you. For with you is faithful love
and plentiful redemption.
You will redeem Israel from all their iniquities.
“A voice cries out; ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’” —Isaiah 40:3
What does my road look like?
How do I need to prepare to receive the hope I need?
And so we begin our retreat time together …
Knowing that God is with us in every moment,
loving us, rejoicing in us, and forgiving us.
And out of the depths we cry out to God,
seeking to open our hearts and prepare the way for new birth.
The Examen prayer is commonly prayed every evening to contemplate the presence of God in your day. However, it can be adapted for different circumstances or time periods. This Examen is adapted for the context of Advent to look over the previous year.
1. Find a comfortable place. Quiet your mind and body by taking some deep breaths. Focus only on your breath as you breathe in and out.
2. Recall that you are always and everywhere in the presence of God
I thank you God for always being with me and especially I am grateful that you are with me right now.
3. Spend some time looking over the past year. Ask the Holy Spirit to be with your reflections.
God, let your Holy Spirit enlighten my mind and warm my heart that I may know where and how we have been together this year.
Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year. As you enter into a new year and a new season of Advent, look over your past year and see what has happened:
• As I look over my past year, where has there been joy? What were the reasons that these events or achievements were particularly joyful?
• As I look over my past year, where have there been elements of pain? What caused me experience this pain? What did I learn from it?
• Were there any missed opportunities from the year? Were there times where I acted superficially or rashly for the “easy fix” but in the end caused pain or discomfort?
• How do I come into the Advent season? What elements from the previous liturgical year do I still carry with me? How is God calling to me through these events?
• How is God calling me to go forward? Where am I being drawn and how do I respond to God’s call this Advent season and the year beyond?
4. Jot down some of the parts of your prayer time that have really resonated with you.
5. Offer a prayer of gratitude and ask forgiveness.
God, I thank you for the times over the past year in which we have worked together.
God, I am sorry for the ways I may have separated myself from you, others, and your creation by what I have done or what I have failed to do.
Thank you God for loving me in every moment.
6. End your prayer time with the Our Father.
1. Get settled in a comfortable chair and in a quiet place where we won’t be distracted. Open your hands on your lap, and ask God to open your heart and imagination.
2. Read the Gospel passage Luke 1:39–45 slowly. The goal is to absorb it so that you can replay it in your imagination.
3. Put down the passage. Close your eyes. Begin to imagine the scene as if you are standing right there. What is around me? Who else is there? What do I hear, smell, feel, taste, see?
4. Read the passage once again, or a few times. (Notice the details that you may have missed the first time, be present to the story).
5. Put down the passage. Close your eyes. Begin to imagine the scene. Who is in it? What conversation takes place? What is the mood – tense? joyful? confused? angry? Ask God where am I in this scene? Are you a bystander or an active participant in the story? What are your experiences within the scene? How do you feel?
6. When the passage ends does your imagination keep going? What happens? What does Jesus do or what does he say to you?
7. After you complete the gospel contemplation, ask yourself these questions:
• What does it feel like to be the person in the passage?
• Have I been in a similar situation? Is this a totally new experience for me?
• What do the words and images mean for my life today?
• What do they mean for my relationship with God and others? Is God calling me in a certain direction?
• How did I feel the joyful anticipation of Advent?
Don’t worry about historical accuracy or accuracy in general. This is an experience of prayer that lets our imaginations free themselves from anything that limits them. This is God revealing God’s self to us.
Like any physical or spiritual exercise this takes practice. Do not be afraid if it doesn’t work or feels “weird” the first few times. Keep trying. The gifts and grace will come with perseverance.
And so we end our time together today
knowing that it is only a beginning …
a beginning in prayer,
a beginning in preparing our hearts for new life,
a beginning in advent commitments,
Perhaps a beginning in friendship or a beginning in seeking new ways in which to engage God …
We invite you into a few moments of silence to reflect back over our time together. Ask the Holy Spirit to be with you in this reflection and to help you to be aware of a moment of consolation you experienced at the retreat.
We await your coming and with joyful hearts we pray:
Come, Lord Jesus!
You come to bring us hope and courage:
May we be people of hope and courage in our world today.
You come as a reflection of God’s love:
May our actions of justice and care reflect this same love.
You come to show us ways of compassion and mercy:
May we reach out to all people in our society with the same spirit of compassion and mercy.
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