We go to our place of prayer quiet down a short while and begin with some prayer:
We place ourselves in the presence of God and pray that everything we do would serve the good for us and for all.
Asking what we want, orientation and meditation:
In this step we will meditate upon hell, which is an unusual object for reflection for most of us but we need to understand the importance of such meditation and make efforts to visualize this “place”. Hell is the extreme end of the logic and dynamic of the mystery of evil, a definite and free alienation from God. At the beginning of this meditation we ask the grace to know at least by imagination the pain the of being definitely lost and damned might be; and pray for that we don’t fall in this danger of rejecting God if not for the love of him at least for the fear of the consequences.
“It is a realistic point, appealing to the basic love of self, which involves trying to avoid pain and it is a valid motive to begin with. This basic level of motivation is working in the aversion therapy that helps addicts to reject the object of their addiction by a sort of negative physical feedback (1).
“…maybe everybody had used or heard expressions such as “this is a hell”, or “hellish situation”. Language comes to our help, since we can see in these expressions an indication of something visible. These are situations that we describe as hell. Now we get closer to the idea of the “location of the damned” (which is not a physical place anyway), and we can recall these everyday “hell-experiences” and extend them to a totality (if we are able to do it at all). So the image of hell might be for us an extreme hellish situation. Loneliness, frustration or fighting with someone can be such a situation. Others might be more touched by the vision of hell as nuclear war, concentration camps, goulags and auschwitzes, or some of the wars actually raging in our world. Then there are the hellish situations of psychiatric clinics, addictions and violence, hunger and disease in Africa, Asia or South America, oppression under terrorist regimes and dictators, the emptiness of the life of the “common people” in the developed world, the eternal circle between job and television and so on. Our age offers sadly many such experiences, all consequences of sin. In this exercise after the opening prayer we will use our imagination to recall one of these situations as a definite state of being…
“Here we will try to see a scene, to hear some noise, to smell the odors lingering around, to taste and to touch something associated with the situation that we chose in the visualization as a representation of hell. We stop at each sense and give some time to our imagination to form an experience…
“Knowing that we are able to become unfaithful to everything that is good and life-giving, with the knowledge of our brokenness we go now to speak with Jesus Christ. Realizing the danger of ending up rejecting God we feel our gratefulness toward the Father because he kept us from falling and will be always available for us to renew our life through forgiveness and love. We thank Jesus for teaching and showing us that God is Mercy and Love and want to save everyone and everything, even the last little creature in the entire creation” (2)
1. Hosea 2:16-25
2. Hosea 14:4-10
3. Isaiah 54:1-10
4. Luke 15:11-32
5. Ephesians 2:1-10
6. Psalms 32
7. Psalms 103
We spend some time speaking with God about our experiences in this session and thank him for the graces received. Close with an Our Father...
(1) The different levels of motivation in the tradition and in developmental psychology and the value of aversion therapy is placed in the context of the meditation on hell in Tyrrell, “Christotherapy II,” pp. 156-157.
(2) See “Fifth Exercise: meditation on hell” in the Manual