Grace: To distinguish between the deceitful tactics of the enemy of our human nature and the gentle mastery of Christ our King, and to desire to imitate Christ.
Text for Prayer: Please briefly read Spiritual Exercises 136-147 before reviewing the Reflection below. After reading the Reflection, please review the text from the Exercises, and feel free to repeat this exercise as long as you are drawing fruit from it.
Reflection: What do we mean by the term “standard?” In medieval battle scenes, the two dueling kingdoms would raise their respective standard or banner (flag), representing each kingdom. This was particularly important because in the midst of a heated battle, a soldier would often rely on the positioning of the standard to help gauge if he is amidst his comrades-in-arms or if he has drifted far into the enemy’s camp, with the possibility of having little or no support from his own camp as well as the likelihood of becoming a prisoner of war.
At this point in the Spiritual Exercises, we have consented to desire to know, love and follow Christ more closely. Thus, we are not being called to simply choose Christ’s standard over Satan’s standard, but to remain under Christ’s standard. Everyday we are spiritually in combat. While we seek and desire to follow Christ, we may often drift, as in a canoe or a small boat in the sea, by not recognizing and combating Satan’s current.
My experience of praying with the Two Standards meditation became more tangible after reading and watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Seeing how Saruman tries to coerce Gandalf to serve the evil Lord Sauron is analogous to how Satan, the enemy of our human nature, seeks to subdue each one of us so that we may serve his evil will. There is no regard for our dignity and freedom. Power is lorded over to insight fear in us. Saruman’s speech, in my opinion, reveals the enemy’s desire to destroy humanity and God’s creation. Additionally, the minions of Saruman in this scene reveal the ugliness of the minions of Satan, whose ugliness is only a shadow of their revolting nature.
St. Ignatius is revealing the enemy of our human nature in his true light, exposing the unattractiveness of Satan’s design and discipleship. Our world, on the other hand, masks the standard of Satan in the form of supermodels, posh houses and fancy cars.
After reeling in disgust over the vileness of Satan, his manner of dealing with his minions and his aim of destruction, Ignatius calls us to consider Christ as our true commander. This commander does not have the bombastic nature of Satan but speaks to each one of us with gentleness, humility and love. He looks each one of us in the eye, calls us by name and leads us to His Sacred Heart. This is a very different form of leadership. We are not slaves of Christ, but his esteem warms our hearts, inspiring us to serve and follow Him. Seeing Christ’s gentle mastery calls us to imitate Jesus, our commander and Lord.
Ignatius highlights three tactics of the enemy. Additionally, as a good strategist, he proposes three counter-tactics to remain under the standard of Christ.
1) Riches: Satan may seek to entice us with monetary or conceptual riches.
2) Honor: These riches translate to honor and esteem before others.
3) Pride: The aim of riches and honor is self-idolatry, serving oneself and not Christ.
1) Poverty: A healthy love of poverty can prevent us from falling into the trap of the enticement of riches.
2) Contempt: A healthy acceptance of not being well-regarded by those around us can prevent us from becoming attached to other people’s opinion of us.
3) Humility: Poverty and contempt, when done in the right spirit, can lead us to live no longer for ourselves but for Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 5:15).
May we desire to remain under Christ’s standard, seeking to imitate and love Christ poor, Christ mistreated and Christ humble.
Questions: How do Satan’s tactics play out in my life? How may I consider adopting Christ’s tactics as a counter-measure? What comes to mind when I imagine myself standing before Christ, my commander and Lord?