Contemplation of Place

Ignatius taught a method of prayer that he called a mental ‘representation of the place’ which consists in seeing in the imagination the material location of the Scripture we wish to contemplate (i.e. the temple, the mountain, by the Jordan, etc.)


A ‘mental representation of the place’ involves seeing, in the imagination the scene contemplated’”the people, the buildings, the nature, etc. In our contemplation we consider all the people involved in the scene, including ourselves, and consider their words, actions and relationships.

Contemplation of place also consists of applying the five senses to the matter.

This consists in seeing in the imagination the persons, and in contemplating in detail the circumstances in which they are-to hear what they are saying, or what they might say-to smell the fragrance or taste-and to touch, for example, by embracing or holding. (Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.# 122-125)


1. The gospels are sacred stories. Let the Holy Spirit lead you to them, into them, and through them. Contemplation of Place is an opportunity for you to be a ‘co-worker’ with God. Don’t too much assume self-direction in your prayer.

2. Each ‘scene’ is like a room waiting to be entered. Don’t force the imagery, but feel and respond to the invitation to enter.

3. You needn’t follow the story-lines chronologically. Simply sit with the feelings that the scenes evoke in you and wait for the details to emerge. There’s nothing wrong with being ‘stuck’ at a certain frame or episode of the story. Nor is there any need to go through the whole narrative of the story if God is leading you to simply ponder a particular aspect of it.

4. It’s sometimes better to keep returning to a fruitful encounter in order to let it develop further, rather than feel the need to contemplate a different story each day.

5. The most important thing is to simply ‘feel’ Jesus’ presence in these stories.

6. The practice of Contemplation of Place requires both an active and a passive skill. Passively you should be allowing the Holy Spirit to move your imagination in a spontaneous manner; actively you should be remaining within the ambiance and sense of the gospel story.

7. Make note of where you situate yourself in the scene. Are you a participant? An observer? How do you feel about being there? Can you feel what the other people in the scene are feeling? Are they aware of your presence? How do you feel about them? Are you active in the story? Do you communicate your presence in any way?