The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola are best suited for prayer during a silent retreat. However, Ignatius knew that they could also be effective when employed in a less isolated environment. It is the hope of the authors of this blog that you, the reader, find the meditations that we offer here useful in your own search to encounter Christ in prayer in your daily life. The meditations are intended to be prayed in order, from as close to the beginning as possible, perhaps over the course of a dedicated time such as the season of Lent. (more…)
Grace: To have an intimate knowledge of our Lord, Who has become man for me, that I may love Him more and follow Him more closely.
Text for Prayer: Spiritual Exercises nos. 101-109
Reflection: In Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict, following Origen, describes Jesus as the Kingdom of God personified. Christ Himself is the place where the will of the Father is carried out perfectly, and to be in His presence is to be in the presence of the Kingdom of God. This puts a new twist on parables dealing with the Kingdom, such as that of the mustard seed. In this parable we read that
The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard see which a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the biggest shrub of all and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and shelter in its branches. (Mt. 13:31-32)
If the Resurrection is the mustard plant (and Kingdom) fully bloomed, then the Incarnation is the mustard still in seed form. The Son of God comes to Earth, and takes a form which appears totally insignificant. The Word is made flesh in such a way that upon His birth, He cries out for any of His needs to be met (fairly often, for an infant) and as He sleeps, He does so not far from the mess of animals. Smallest of the seeds, indeed.
Grace: For an interior knowledge of the Lord, Who sees what I don’t see and took on flesh so that I may love and follow Him more.
Point 1: God knew creating material beings with freewill could get a bit messy to say the least, but He also knew that the potential for these beings to love would in actuality resemble His love like no other. From the beginning, He loved humans and all creation into being, and out of love, He continues to sustain them.
Imagine the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, looking at the world racked with poverty, wars, human trafficking, genocide…envy, lust, pride, rage…lies, betrayal, neglect, apathy…“My people, My people, for why have you abandoned Me?”
Take a moment to gaze at the Divine Persons gazing at humanity, gazing at you.
See God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit zooming in on every human heart (try doing that on Google Earth!). They know every heart by Heart and count every beat of every heart. How do They react to what They see?
“Let Us work the redemption of the human race.”
Then They send the angel Gabriel to Nazareth.
“God became man so that man might become a god.” -St. Athanasius, De Incarnatione
Grace: For an intimate knowledge of our Lord, who has become human for me that I may love Him more intensely and follow him more closely.
Text: Luke 1:26-38
Reflection: Today we have the opportunity to step back momentarily from our world and all its demands and focus on the Trinity. Take deep breaths and think about how each person of the Trinity sees you. See how the Father is present in your own personal history as the Creator of life, working so that you might be with Him, revealing to you His love. See how the Holy Spirit is present in your very existence as the Giver of life. He is present in all your relationships, blessing them with fruitfulness. See how the Son kneels to wash your feet as the Redeemer of life. He comes to you as Love Incarnate.
Ignatius proposes that after we consider the call of Christ the King we begin to enter into the mystery of the Incarnation through the eyes of the Trinity. They gaze upon the world and see suffering, destruction, and hopelessness. Without salvation, many are going down to hell. The Trinity freely decides to enter into this tragedy not with all the glory due to Them as God, but by sending the Son to take on our humanity, and be like us in everything except sin. This is so that we may be saved—so that we may share in the glory of our Creator, life-Giver, and Redeemer.
Grace: an intimate knowledge of our Lord, Who has become man for me, that I may love Him more and follow Him more closely.
Text for Prayer: Contemplation on the Incarnation, Spiritual Exercises no.101-109
Reflection: There’s an old saying that “truth is stranger than fiction”. Some things are just so unbelievable that we wouldn’t even imagine them if they didn’t actually happen. An infinite, omnipotent God becoming a finite, weak human being would have to fall into that category.
The ancient Greeks had a story about the creation of humans where there were five races, one after the other, each one worse than the one before it. The first four ended in different ways: some died out, some destroyed themselves violently, one was destroyed by Zeus for its impiety. The Greeks thought that eventually, things would get so bad that Zeus would have to destroy us, too. This goes to show what C.S. Lewis said about Christianity being a religion no one could have guessed up. The Greeks, for all their poetry, philosophy, and learning, never even imagined the possibility of the Incarnation. Zeus never took on human nature, just the appearance to disguise himself in order to seduce some maiden he found attractive. What we expected to happen was not even close to what actually occurred. The contrast between how we imagined the gods to respond to our actions vs. how the Trinity views us could not be sharper. We thought that the gods would destroy us for being so evil, but the Trinity thought us worth saving.
The Trinity looks down on us and sees our worst behavior, but still loves us and desires to save us. Gabriel and Mary likewise act out of love in their generous response to the Trinity. The Trinity looks at the world, literally going to Hell in a handbasket. Their response to put an end to the sin and evil in the world is not to send thunderbolts down to destroy us, but to send the Second Person of the Trinity among us to draw us closer to Themselves. And the Second Person will hold nothing back or keep anything from us, but give Himself totally to us, giving even His life.
However, it is never simply an issue of the Trinity acting alone. Just as Christ the King invited us to follow Him to conquer His Father’s enemies in the previous contemplation, so the Trinity invites Gabriel and Mary to co-operate in bringing about our salvation. The occurrence of the Incarnation was never a question of the love of the Trinity. It was a question of whether Gabriel and Mary would choose to participate in the saving work of the Trinity and give themselves fully to this work, even after Mary is promised that her heart would be “pierced by a sword” (Lk. 2:35).
The situation with us is much the same. The Trinity’s saving work both in us personally and through us for others is never a question of the Trinity’s love. The question is whether we have the love and generosity of Gabriel and Mary to co-operate in the Trinity’s project of salvation. Are we willing to accept Jesus into our lives as Mary did, and follow our King wherever He leads us? Even if, like Mary, we have to suffer numerous anguishes?
Questions: Do I look at the world as the Trinity does? When God asks something of me, do I respond with the same generosity as Mary? What is the reason that Mary is so completely generous in her response to the Trinity?