This is a repetition of the precedent two exercises (cf. [62-63]). In this exercise we have an opening prayer as usual followed by the visualization of the history and the place, then we ask for the same grace as before, to know our Lord more intimately, that we may love him more and conform ourselves more to him (cf. ).
In doing the repetition of the First and Exercises we stop to contemplate the parts of our contemplation, which had been the most significant for us. It means that we recall what gave us consolation, or what caused desolation, sadness, or where we felt inspired or had some insights. We ought to stop with these points long enough to let them evoke again feelings and thoughts and doing so maybe we receive further insights.
We end also this exercise with the usual prayerful conversations, sharing and review and close with an Our Father…
This exercise is another repetition of the precedent two in the same manner as we did in the Third Exercise.
Here we do a different kind of contemplation of the same mysteries from the Incarnation to the Nativity, the Trinity, the world Nazareth and Bethlehem; we will use the so-called “application of the senses” which we did already in the “Meditation on Hell” [65-71]. It involves not only to see or hear in our fantasy what we are contemplating, but also to try as well to use the other senses, to smell, to taste and to touch the scene in our imagination. The repetitions and this contemplation intended to lead us to simpler prayer with less and less reasoning. The “application of the senses” helps to reach the concreteness of the history, to involve us also emotionally and have an experiential knowledge of these mysteries. Through this personal experience the contemplated reality might become more deeply ours, imprinted in our thinking and desiring and our decision-making process.
This kind of prayer might be unusual for some of us and might not feel attracted to it and feel that are not capable to use the fantasy in this way. Whatever poor or rich imagination we might have, in a certain degree everybody can use it and we can put it in the service of our prayer as it is. Maybe we need not to force nothing special but let our mind lingering on the subject as in a sort of daydreaming, let it wander around and something surely will happen. Also for this contemplation is valid the rule that we should give more time to the points that we feel more significant for us, both in positive and in negative sense, because God waits us there with some message; and we can let go the parts that meaningless for the moment. The repetitions serve exactly to let emerge the significant points from the general context and this way the subject matter involved becomes something very personal experience for us in the time of living through the Exercises, an experience that we will not forget and which will orient us later.
The beginning of the Fifth Exercise is similar to the precedent ones, and then we will do the “application of the senses”.
“Taste and see how good the Lord is” (Ps 34:9)
“How sweet to my palate are your promises,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Ps 119:103)
We let our senses one after the other to explore the scenes we are presented in the precedent exercises. Following each sense we stop for a while to recollect what we understood. We will begin with seeing the persons and their ambient in a detailed manner and after it we will hear them to speak. The application then continues with the senses of smell and taste; we try to feel the fragrance and sweetness of the Trinity, of the angel and Mary, of the baby Jesus. If we find difficult to use our imagination to feel God, some metaphors from Scriptures might help: God is compared to rock (Ps 144:1), to thundering waters (Ps 93:4), to shade in the scorching sun (Ps 121:5-6), to a soaring eagle (Jer 49:22), under who’s wings there is refuge (Ps 17:8;36:7) and his feathers cover us (Ps 91:4). We try to feel the smell and taste of the birthplace of Jesus as we imagined it, and so on. Finally we apply the sense of touch for the scenes of the Incarnation to the cave of Bethlehem. For example we can imagine to kiss or embrace the persons, touch the walls of the place where they are and similar.
We do a similar conversation with the Three Divine Persons and Mary as before, and then have our sharing and take notes in the diary. Close with an Our Father…
1. From this point in the Exercises the companions should read only at the actual mystery contemplated at that time. That means not to go ahead and read other mysteries from Appendix B to avoid interference with the present contemplation.
2. If the companions do these Exercises in the secluded full-time form, the order of the contemplations might be the following: The first on the Incarnation can be done during the night if the companions like the nightly hours for common prayer, otherwise they can do it early in the morning. The second exercise might be done during the morning, too. The remaining three exercises of the first day we can schedule for the afternoon and the evening. It is important to take breaks between the contemplations and go outdoors, walk, get fresh air and do similar activities. Also the following days can be arranged in this manner.
If we do the Exercises in the everyday life, the five contemplations of the first period can be done in five days, as well as in several weeks depending how the companions are able to organize the prayer sessions, daily, weekly or biweekly. It is important to give enough time for each contemplation in order to make clear which points are significant and what is their meaning in the given existential circumstances. Indeed, the repetitions have as their goal to have time to gain a personal experience of the mysteries involved, to let emerge feelings and emotional commitment to the recognized truth while our prayer become more and more simplified. Also, it is very important to reserve enough time for sharing between the companions who act as guides for each other in this interpretation of the Exercises process.
3. There is a tradition that sustains the value of the prayer during the night. This question needs to be considered with freedom and according to personal sensitivities. As it is true for everything in spiritual life individuals will find that different things work for them. From the fruits we can decide if a certain practice is good for us or not. If the nightly hours help us to find what we search in prayer then we use it. If it disturbs our sleep so that we get too tired for the next day (maybe we cannot fall asleep again if we wake up for prayer) then we need not to force the late hours for prayer. Neither we need to do it if our personal rhythm is so that our prayer during the night is reduced to a fight against falling asleep or we find hard to get up next morning. There are people who is more active at night, while others at the early hours of the morning, and so on. In consequence the first exercise of each day in a secluded retreat might be made during the night if it is a good time for the companions to pray or in the morning otherwise. Similar is true for choice of the time of the prayer sessions in a retreat in everyday life. Of course the companions need to find a common schedule for prayer, sharing and other moments and it should be so that both find well in it. Most of the times this schedule will be object of experimentation and after a period of time the companions will find their rhythm of prayer life.
4. We need to take into consideration also the Additions in [73-90] adapted to the Second Phase. These guidelines are helpful in deepening our contemplations, as for example by recalling the matter we are dealing with as first thing in the morning and then as many times as we can during the day. The companions need to insert also times spent outdoors, walking and contemplating nature, and capture the presence of God in the creation.
5. To mark the moment of beginning one exercise we can establish a sort of little ritual. As soon as we recall that it is time for our reflection or contemplation, we stop for a short while to think about what exercise we will do and realize God’s presence surrounding us. Then we stop for a moment in front of our place of prayer and with a sign or gesture we begin the exercise, as described also in the third Addition in .