Enter into a conversation with God
Consider how it is that God looks at you
- In his book The Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius of Loyola suggests a number of ways of moving into a time of prayer. One of them is quite simple, but is also likely to sound strange the first time you come across it. “Consider,” he suggests, “how it is that God our Lord looks at you.” What’s your first reaction to hearing this invitation?
- There are a number of places in the gospels where we are told that Jesus looked hard at people, as if to weigh them up. But his look was always compassionate, never harshly judgemental. Maybe that helps you to see what Ignatius has in mind. So try it. Take a moment or two, now, to consider how it is that God looks at you.
- Jesus is God with a human face. It is literally possible, therefore, to imagine the look on Christ’s face as he catches sight of you, and then fixes his attention upon you. How would you describe that look to a friend who asked you about it?
- Let Jesus continue to gaze at you like that as you listen to the words Zechariah spoke after the birth of his son, John, who prepared the way for Jesus.
Luke 1: 67 - 79
Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favourably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty saviour for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.’
God works through the people he chooses
- Zechariah’s prophecy starts by looking backwards, to Abraham and to all that God has done since his day to fulfil the promises God has made to the people. During this retreat you have looked at some of those people whom God used to achieve his plan. As the retreat nears its end, how are you left feeling about the ways in which God works through the people he chooses?
- God’s ways have not changed. Even today he is working though other people to shape your life. He works through you, too, to shape the lives of others. Where are you most conscious of this shaping taking place at the moment?
Ask God for the gift of peace
- One of the phrases that this passage uses to sum up God’s work is that he intends to “give light to those who sit in darkness”. It is no coincidence that, in the northern hemisphere at least, Christmas comes at the darkest time of the year. How do you react to a God who promises to come into the darkest areas of your own life?
- God also wants, we are told, “to guide our feet into the way of peace”. Announcing the birth of Jesus, the angels sang of “Peace on earth, and to people of goodwill”. You may well hear that news of the coming of peace in the carols and readings of these days. Is it something that you find attractive? Take some time to ask God for the gift of peace, in your own life and in our world now.
Look Back over the Retreat
Take some time to thank God
- Before we end this retreat, it is good to look back and notice what stays with you, and what it would be useful to carry forward in the next few weeks and months. Start, then, by picking three words that you could use to describe this year’s Advent retreat, as you have experienced it.
- Is there one of the prayer sessions, or one of the scripture readings or images, that particularly stays in your mind right now? If so, what is it? It’s worth taking a few moments to re-live that prayer, insofar as you can, and notice what goes on in your mind and heart just now as you recall that experience.
- Perhaps you can notice some change in yourself, or in your prayer, over the weeks since the retreat began. Maybe you had been asking God for some particular gift, and you have an idea that the gift has been given, in whole or in part. It is possible that God has given you much more than you were able to ask for, or even imagine, when we set out on this journey together. Take some time to thank God for all that God has done with you over this period.
Ask God for whatever you’re conscious of wanting over the immediate future
- Now look forward to the next few days and weeks. Is there any “unfinished business” from the retreat? An area of your life where you can still see God hard at work, a gift that you feel that you need but that you’re still waiting for? Ask God for whatever you’re conscious of wanting over the immediate future.
- Many of those listed in Matthew’s account of the ancestry of Jesus would have been astonished to see how God worked though them, their own ancestors, and their descendants. In his letter to the Ephesians, St Paul speaks of a God who is able to achieve “abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine”. As this retreat ends, take a few moments to sit quietly with Paul’s prayer here and to make it your own:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.
We welcome your feedback on the Advent 2014 Retreat: All the Generations. The following is a selection of the feedback messages which we have received. We are always glad to hear from people who have completed our retreat. Please use the feedback form if you would like to send us a message.
- I really profited from the Advent retreat that was in my Sacred Space prayer book I downloaded to my device. I was wondering if there is a daily source in the same format with one scriptural reading, commentary and suggestions for meditation and inner reflection. Thank you. God bless your work in bringing the word and meditation to the people. (MR, USA)
- Thank you so much for the Advent Retreat. It has greatly helped me reflect and grow deeper with God. You are truly doing God's work. May God bless you all. (JT, USA)
- Thank you so much for the wonderful Advent retreat on the ancestors of Jesus. I found a very good way to spend quiet time of reflection. Very thoughtful and challenging. It certainly enriched my Advent. (MU, USA)
- I have been enjoying so much the advent retreat. Not reading the text but just listening to the reader and the soothing music in the back ground. I feel it leads me into prayer; rather than I read it. The music has been a great aid to assist me to go deeper into a relaxing mode to be with the Lord. (CAM)
- I wonder and admire the retreat you have composed for this Christmas. It is such a down-to-earth stuff despite of its most metaphysical horizons. Building this kind of path heals people with spiritual loads. Thank you for your guidance - I feel like I am more balanced with my "own little despairs" (EK, Finland)
- All the sessions were just so beautifully done, they really got me into the Christmas spirit through scripture, reflection & thoughts within each session. The conclusion was so effective & it has kind of set my feet to move into 2015 with just that simple faith & trust in God who in the words of St.Paul "can do abundantly more than al we can ask for or imagine". Thank you so much to all of you at Sacred Space who are doing the most amazing work for God's people. I couldn't ask for more. Looking eagerly now to the Lenten Retreat. (EP, New Zealand)
- Dear Preparers of this retreat, I have been using Sacred Space book and website for years. I found this particular retreat- the readings, the music, the call to quiet to inherent in its structure/ for at to be a very meaningful, powerful, effective way of connecting very intimately to the goodness of God and His presence. Thank you and God bless you. (KMC, USA)
- I love your retreats. I feel the spirit of God filling me a peaceful surrender every time I visit. I wish you could have a retreat site available all year round. The guided imagery, scriptures and relaxation techniques just open me up to God and His love. Thank you and God bless you. (DL, USA)
- Thank you so much for this retreat! It was good to settle down a few moments and 'just be'! I have written down a word or words that inspired me. I hope that you will have a Lenten retreat! Thank you, (MF, USA)
- This retreat brought me into great peace and gave me a way dwell in peace every day. I recognize a need to pray for our political leaders every day. (RA, USA)
- The 2014 Advent Retreat was refreshment for my soul and a source of spiritual healing. I sense I've been healed of long-standing darkness in my heart and I have confidence that this is part of an ongoing work. Thank you. (PM, USA)