Hope can take a real battering amid the stresses of broken life, violence between nations, and being disconnected from others, we can feel hope draining out of us. Advent is all about hope, as we await the feast of God becoming human and living among us.
These Advent Blessings use two simple traditional prayer forms, the sign of the cross and prayer by breath; and two Ignatian prayer methods, prayer with the senses and body prayer for yourself and your friends in need.
These Advent Blessings of Hope use two simple traditional prayer forms, the sign of the cross and prayer by breath, and two Ignatian prayer methods, prayer with the senses and body prayer. Below is an example of one advent blessing.
1. Lead Lead me in right way.
I touch my forehead
2. Restore Restore me with still waters.
I touch my chest
3. Feed Feed me in green pastures.
I touch my left shoulder
4. Guard Guard me in darkest valleys.
I touch my right shoulder
5. Clear Clear my path onward.
Hand on heart, I take three breaths:
First to breathe in the Spirit of Progress.
The second to feel sacred waters flow in me.
The third to breathe out a clear path for those who walk in the darkest valleys.
St Ignatius was known to be every good at teaching the faith and we have paintings of him teaching children the sign of the cross. The image above is a tiled mural on the walls of the hermitage in Azpeitia, Spain, where he taught children and adults how to pray.
The image below by Thomas Van Apshoven is an European re-imagining of the Azpeitia scene in a poor village, with wonderful people and children responding in all sorts of ways.
We actually have a record of the way he taught the sign of the cross. It includes creation, the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus. He also taught how to pray using traditional prayers by breath. Both are spiritual exercises. So, these simple Advent Blessings hide two Ignatian spiritual exercises.
Further, Ignatius teaches and guides prayer using the senses and the body. These are two more forms of Ignatian exercises. The sign of the cross, touching, drawing a cross over the body, hand resting on the heart, inhaling, exhaling, and feeling and imagining three breaths are all sensual body prayer.
Like different lights in a diamond as you turn it around, there are six Ignatian facets in the blessings. They are all scriptural or gospel based. They are trinitarian. They have an incarnational spirituality – which is to say they see God in daily life. They remind the one seeking a blessing that they can ask God for what they desire – five times in making a sign of the cross. The last breath of each blessing is always outward looking, to bless others, a service based dynamic. Finally, written by a Jesuit spiritual director, many Ignatian spirituality themes may be found in the titles and content of the blessings.
None of the above needs to be known by the one seeking a blessing from God – one simply makes the sign of the cross and takes three breaths – a one minute prayer for any time, need or desire.
Michael Hansen SJ