Arts & Faith: Easter Imaginative Prayer Exercise

The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection by Eugene Burnand

Happy Easter! Today, we provide an Ignatian prayer for you, inspired by the Arts & Faith: Easter video. The video and prayer for Easter Sunday are based on John 20:1–9. The art is Eugène Burnand’s “The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection.”

[Mary Magdalene] ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together…

—John 20:2–4a

Preparation

The union in openness of body and mind and heart that is prayer begins with attention to each.

First your body: Sit upright, legs crossed or not, feet on the floor or not, lower back pressed against the chair. Or not. Breathe.

Now the mind: As you are able, let these words spill through the mind and down your spine into the earth. Let your thoughts puff away with each breath. As new ones come—knotted as they are with joy or pain—hold them like wounded birds. Set them aside to heal. Breathe.

And the heart: Vulnerability means able to be wounded. Of course there is resistance. Notice it. With your breath and with energy, pull back the vines and push open the gates. Breathe.

Tilt your chin up to the heavens and, with eyes open or closed, look back at the One who gazes at you with great affection.

Breathe.

We Have Been Loved

It is not always possible to run toward that which we desire. There are times when we are too afraid to move or too worn down to let the soles of our feet be lifted from where they rest. There are times when we are too wounded to run. But not now.

  • Turn again to Burnand’s painting; find yourself in it.
  • Are you John? Moving easily yet torn with anxiety, clasping your hands together as you run?
  • Are you Peter? Almost too hurt to hope that the news is real? Your muscles warming in pace with the air?
  • Are you yourself? Clothed with the robes the last 40 days have woven? The sun rising at your shoulder as you approach the tomb?
  • How do you feel as you run? How does the soil feel under your feet?
  • Do you speak between breaths? What do you say?
  • What are you afraid of finding? For what do you hope?

Once death has taken everything, all that is left is love—a love that reaches and reaches. A love that, from the center of your chest, pulls so hard it seems you will be torn apart. A love that feels like pain.

  • Can it last, this love? Can it continue after all we’ve been through?
  • Peter’s eyes are wide. His right hand covers his heart. What pain is he covering? Can it be healed? Can he still love?

Even if Peter cannot love anymore,
even if our hearts are fully broken,
even when the love that ruptures us finds no purchase,
then there is this:

It is not our love, our loving, that makes the difference.
It is that we have been loved.

This is what Peter was afraid he would not find, the love that had washed his feet, provided for him the great catch of fish. But find it he did.

  • What is it like when you arrive at the tomb?
  • What do you feel when you see it lying empty?
  • What is it like when you stand up, turn around, and Jesus is there?

Our Lenten journey is done. We have reached the empty tomb. We have been loved there.

Speak with the Lord about it. Speak with honesty about what has happened in your prayer. Speak with him as one friend does with another.

Then—when you are ready, if you are able—pray in these or similar words.

Concluding Prayer

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding, and my entire will,
all that I have and possess.
You gave it all to me;
to you, Lord, I return it.
All is yours; dispose of it wholly according to your will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
and that will be enough for me.

About Paddy Gilger, SJ 11 Articles
Fr. Paddy Gilger, SJ, is a pastor and teacher of sociology at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. He is the editor-at-large of The Jesuit Post and editor of the The Jesuit Post book. He lives in hope of the Milwaukee Brewers being known for something other than the sausage races.

5 Comments on Arts & Faith: Easter Imaginative Prayer Exercise

  1. The prayers really actualize the meaning of Easter. It lets the one who is praying grows into spiritual maturity. I was very touched when I was to identify with either Peter or John.. …while running to the empty tomb, I ask Jesus to forgive my so many times falling into sins.

  2. Thank you. A prayer to experience with any feeling I need to bring to the examen. I heard Him called my name. He is Risen.

  3. Very nice article and exercise. And as a Milwaukeean living abroad, I sympathize with your hope about the Brewers. Happy Easter!

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