I took this photo of a mullein back in early November. I was trying to catch the way the light shone through some of the leaves and sparkled off the down on other leaves. Spurts of wind kept tossing the larger leaves up and in the way, blurring the picture.
Finally, on the third attempt, I got this picture. It wasn't until later, as I was looking over the day's images, that I noticed the spider. He crept into a quieter refuge, or I shifted my angle, sometime between the first and second photo, and by this third photo, he was lit by sunshine.
There are multiple levels of discovery with this practice of contemplative photography -- what I notice as I wander with my camera, what I find as I look over the photos on the larger computer screen, what becomes visible as I crop photos, or as I look over photos at a later date.
There is seeing and noticing, and then there's what we notice with a second look, or as we ponder an image that speaks to us in some way.
I'm pondering this trio.
I took this photo of St Ignatius as The Pilgrim at the Jesuit Retreat Center in Wernersville, PA, with the early morning sun on his back. Later when the shadows had shifted, I took this second photo, where it is easier to see that he carries a book and a staff.
And then just as we were leaving, I saw the same statue from another angle, and took the following photo. It was only after I was home and going through the images from the week,looking at this one in the larger Picasa format, that I noticed the staff propped invitingly in the corner. I'm not Catholic or Jesuit, so I'm not picking up his staff in that sense, but I hear the verse of a familiar song:
We are pilgrims on a journey,
we are travelers on the road.
We are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the load.
May we also be taking up our walking staffs, moving out in pilgrimage, following Christ, in our own time and place.
The presenter at our retreat this past week was Father Bill Sneck, SJ, who took us through the Rules for the first two Weeks of the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, helping us better understand the Ignatian approach to the discernment of spirits.
Ignatius is a 15th century Basque nobleman and military commander whose life changes abruptly when his knee is shattered by a canon ball. During a long, difficult convalescence he begins to ponder the difference between daydreams which leave him discontented and restless and those which fill him with energy and purpose. The latter come as he places himself imaginatively in the stories of the life and death of Jesus, and of saints like Francis and Dominic.
Ignatius experiences a radical conversion and as he begins to live this out, pays attention to the interior movements of thoughts, feelings and behavior that draw him closer to God or that pull him away. He puts his experience into guidelines – the Spiritual Exercises -- so that he can share this with his friends. One thing leads to another and by 1534, he and six others make solemn vows that they will serve God together, forming the religious order that we know as the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits.
We covered a lot of good material in our sessions, but the one I want to lift out here is the concept of consolations. Ignatius pondered his experience, and named the movements that draw us toward God consolations and the movements that pull us away from God desolations.
Consolations are the events and the interior movements that cause us to catch our breath in awe and delight, that inflame us with love for our Creator, that move us to tears, that increase faith, hope, love, joy and peace . . .these are consolations. We respond to something we glimpse in creation, in Scripture, in relationships, or in the world around us. “Aha!” I thought, hearing this description. “In watching for moments of light each day, I’m watching for consolations.”
Ignatius recommends that when we are enjoying consolation, we should take note, and store up the memory as strength to face the times of desolation. “Aha!” I thought, hearing this. “That’s what Leo Lionni’s Frederick does, gathering sun rays, colors, and words in preparation for winter. And it’s what I’m doing, in a small way, by keeping this blog.”
A good insight for the blog, I thought, and I tucked it away to write up later. But there’s another piece to add. I picked up a little book by Margaret Silf, Ignatian Spirituality for Everyday Living, and here’s what she had to say about consolations and desolations. “These terms come from the Spanish, and ultimately the Latin root, meaning ‘with the sun’ (‘con-solation’) and ‘away from the sun’ (‘de-solation’)" p 57.
With the sun, towards the Light….moments of light!
"Instructions for living a life:
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"
I've taken on a prayer practice of looking for the moments of light in each day, whether actual or metaphorical, and then writing or posting photos of what I find.