I was introduced to imaginative prayer when on a retreat. The retreat master introduced us to Anthony de Mello and his meditation methods. Years later, I was introduced to the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola which rely heavily on the use of imagination. The Rosary also relies on imagination to visualize the lesson in each mystery.
So, one day, I decided to use my imagination at Mass. We are taught that we enter the crucifixion of Jesus during the consecration. I had tried, in the past, to visualize myself at the foot of the cross and had failed miserably. Nothing happened. My mind was a blank. I had no visualizations. So, I stopped trying.
On another day, I was feeling quite playful and decided I would have some fun with Jesus. So, I visualized him sitting on one corner of the altar facing me. He was supporting himself with both hands at his sides and swinging his legs. As I write this, I can see him again clearly. He was laughing.
But then, something strange happened entirely outside my own volition. Suddenly the scene changed, the altar was bare. No candles. No altar cloth. Instead, there was Jesus lying on His back on the altar. He was very obviously dead. He was naked except for a loin cloth. He was not covered in blood. His body was clean. I stared and stared. In shock. I had not entered the crucifixion scene, I had entered His death, having been washed and prepared for burial.
But why was He on the altar? Why was I seeing Him dead? The scene remains vivid. What was I to learn from this?
I have never approached Mass playfully again. I can resurrect this scene at will now, at any time during Mass. If I find myself being distracted, the scene floats before my eyes.
I wish I knew why I had this visualization. It wasn’t one I would have chosen. It is indelible.