Today is Monday, the 9th of December, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

Entering into prayer today, I begin by recognising that I am in the presence of God – not a God to be scared of, but a God of compassion and love, in whose presence I am safe, in whose presence I do not have to defend myself, in whose presence I can be still.  I place myself, my worries and my hopes, my whole life, in the hands of my loving God.

We spend much of the season of Advent reflecting on our own desires and dreams and longings, and the needs and longings of the world around us.

The feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, marks a turning-point in salvation history, the first sign of the unfolding of God’s plan, God’s intervention in the world, God’s response to a world crying out, as we have seen in the last days, for justice, for peace, for leadership, for integrity, for love.

Today’s gospel would be the story of the Annunciation, of the Angel Gabriel announcing to Mary the news that she is to conceive and give birth to a Saviour.  But instead of hearing the gospel text itself, we’re going to follow the meditation on this event – on the Incarnation – from the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius.

Saint Ignatius invites us to imagine three connected scenes:  firstly, humanity, the great diversity of people on the face of the earth, and the state they find themselves in; secondly, the Three Persons of the Trinity gazing on the earth and its people and deciding that the Son, the Second Person, should become a human being to save the human race; and thirdly, the Annunciation, the Angel Gabriel greeting Mary and telling her the news.

He begins by inviting us to imagine what we see.

First those on the face of the earth, so diverse in dress and behaviour: some white and others black, some in peace and others at war, some weeping and others laughing, some healthy and others sick, some being born and others dying, and so forth.

As you imagine it yourself now, what do you see?

Second, I will see and consider the three Divine Persons, seated, so to speak, on the royal canopied throne of Their Divine Majesty.  They are gazing on the whole face and circuit of the earth; and they see all the peoples.

Imagine for yourself now, the Holy Trinity gazing on the earth and its people.  What do you see?

Third, I will see Our Lady and the angel greeting her.   Then I will reflect on this to draw some profit from what I see.

When you imagine this, what do you see?  And when you reflect on what you’ve seen, what profit can you draw from it?

Now imagine these three scenes for a second time, but this time focus on what you hear. 

I will listen to what the persons on the face of the earth are saying; that is, how the speak with one another, swear and blapsheme, and so on.
Likewise, I will hear what the Divine Persons and saying, that is, “Let us work the redemption of the human race,” and so forth.
Then I will listen to what the angel and Our Lady are saying.  Afterwards, I will reflect on this to draw profit from their words.

After seeing and listening, the third step is to imagine the scenes again, and this time to consider what the people are doing, what it is that’s going on in these scenes.
Here I will consider what the people on the face of the earth are doing: How they woud, kill, go to hell, and so on.

Similarly, what the Divine Persons are doing, that is, bringing about the most holy Incarnation, and so forth.
Likewise, what the angel and Our Lady are doing, with the angel carrying out his office of ambassador and Our Lady humbling herself and giving thanks to the Divine Majesty.  Then I will reflect on these matters, to draw some profit from each of them.

Finally, I take stock of all that I have seen and heard and reflected on.  What do I want to say to Jesus, or to the Trinity or to Mary about all of this?