Friday of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time
“If Christ has not been raised, then empty too is our preaching, empty too is your faith.” This was a line of St. Paul’s that I had my sophomores memorize in Scripture class–one of a small collection they had to be able to identify, chapter and verse. It really does get to the heart of Paul’s preaching about Christianity–at a specific point in recorded time, the Son of God was born of a virgin, grew up in a specific place in the world, was killed on the orders of a real man named Pontius Pilate, and at a specific point after having died, rose from the dead, conquering death itself in the process.
At the end of the day, Christianity is not a set of commandments to keep us in line or platitudes to keep us at peace. It is an affirmation that God has entered into the world in a unique and tangible way, transforming it in the process. There is an inescapable historical element to Christianity–as St. Paul observes, our faith stands or falls on the proposition “this actually happened.” This is part of the reason why, in Ignatian contemplation, great stress is placed upon situating ourselves in the place where the gospel story. Ultimately, in Ignatian contemplation, we are placing ourselves in contact with concrete realities and allowing them to transform us. Let us be mindful of St. Paul’s words today, of the fact that the Resurrection has actually happened, and allow this to transform our lives.
Grace: An intimate knowledge of the many blessings received, that filled with gratitude for all, I may in all things love and serve the Divine Majesty.
Reflection: In the meditation upon sin, we made reference to Dante’s vision of hell, a cold, desolate place where the fire of love has been extinguished and all lies in a spiritual torpor. This is the perfect image of the heart grown cold to the stirrings of love which God places within it. At the opposite end of Dante’s journey lies a vision that perfectly encapsulates the final meditation of the Spiritual Exercises, the Contemplation to Attain Divine Love. From the lowest reaches of the spiritual universe, Dante ascends to the heights of heaven, where he views “the love that moves the sun and the other stars.” At the heart of the universe lives the Trinitarian God, whose perfect love draws all being into an ordered symphony of praise. Dante feels himself drawn into this harmonic vision through the enflaming of his passions and desires. No one with eyes to see can sit impassively at the vision of God’s love. From the disordered state in which Dante had fallen at the beginning of the poem, he becomes progressively cleansed of his disordered affections through the grace of God and the intercession of Beatrice until finally he is able to pass through the heavens and stand in the presence of God. But notice that Dante only sees God’s depths after he has been interiorly transformed.