Savoring our Experiences

In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius invites us to savor our religious experiences – to spend time with experiences that move us so as to mine from them all that God has to offer us. This is the reason that Repetition is such an important dynamic in Ignatian prayer. In a particularly good explanation of this dynamic, David Asselin, S.J., once wrote:

The activity characteristic of an Ignatian repetition is not a simple review of matter covered in a previous exercise; rather, it means returning to and dwelling on those points in that exercise where affective responses or spiritual experiences were stimulated in the retreatant, consolations, desolations, inspirations, and so forth. In the Ignatian repetition it is not so much the points of subject matter as the points of personal sensitivity that are revisited, so as to reinforce, deepen, or better appreciate them….By virtue of repeatedly entering the mysteries of the Lord at successively more intimate levels, [one] can be expected to see, savor, and know the Word in a new and wholly personal way — eventually, to borrow Ignatius’ favorite prayer phrase, to “find the Lord in all things.

I love that word, “savor.” It carries a a sense of dwelling with enjoyment in something. Of relishing it. Of swimming in it until we’ve appreciated everything there is to appreciate about it.

I think we do not spend enough time savoring our experiences, of whatever nature, not just our prayer experiences. We move from one encounter or activity to the next, often without a breath in between. I know that I’m sometimes already worrying about planning my next visit with someone with whom I have a close relationship before the current one has even come to an end. Our on-line activity contributes (although it is not the causal factor) to this tendency. If we are not multi-tasking, we are switching from e-mail to facebook to a blog or other website without a pause.

We need to stop now and then. To linger in our experiences. To appreciate them more fully. To savor them. That is as true for our experiences with each other as it is for our experiences in prayer.