ÂOnce the soul awakens, the search begins and you can never go back.Â
On the evening of the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6th) we met at Launde as usual for Evening Prayer. But on this night we did something different. We did a sort of ÂExamen,Â not of our day, but of those turning points in our lives when we had encountered God in some special way and experienced our own epiphanies.
St Ignatius wrote that if we prayed any prayer in our day it should be the Examen, which is usually a time of reflection on the day or week we have just had. In the Examen we ask various questions of ourselves like, where was I present and awake to God today; what gave me life and energy; where did I connect with others? Then the reverse question is asked; where did I turn away from God today? What deadened me? Where did I harden my heart?
The power of the Examen is that you see, often for the first time, those moments that have really touched you in your day; those moments of encounter with another person Â sometimes just in a smile or a kind word ; those moments of creativity; those moments when you felt more fully alive. You become more aware of creation in all its beauty. It is amazing that very often you have taken these things in on one level but not fully into your consciousness so there is surprise and joy as you see what you have received. Alongside this seeing you engage with the feelings that are stirred up, the most important of which is gratitude, which generally leads in turn to thankfulness to God, for life and for the richness that it offers. The reverse question of where you turned away from God is not supposed to lead to a sense of failure or guilt, but to sorrow, self-knowledge and ultimately repentance.
This is the usual work of the Examen, but as I have already said, on the Feast of the Epiphany we looked especially at moments in our lives when God had been disclosed or shown to us in a very special way. To go back and to look again prayerfully at those moments can be a very powerful experience. We can be taken once again to the feelings engendered by those encounters. We can rediscovered our Âfirst love.Â More than anything else we can know the truth that prayer is a response to the God who always called us, is already calling us now, praying in us. The moment we turn and see; the moment of revelation, is when our soul awakens to the God who has always been there. Then as John OÂDonohue puts it, paradoxically the search begins for what we have already found, and we can never go back to the person we were before. We want more epiphanies.