Category: Fourth Week


AMDG

In the current spate of stabbings in London, poisonings around the world and threats of war,  the post-resurrection stories of peace have a particular resonance.  It seems that Jesus’ favourite word after his resurrection is “peace.”    It is almost always the first word on his lips when he appears to his apostles: “Peace be with you.”  In the Gospels, this greeting appears after the trauma of his death and amidst the joy of his resurrection.  He is not recorded as giving this peace before his resurrection,  In fact, famously in Matthews Gospel, he said I did not bring peace to the world but a sword. However the risen Christ does offer this peace and it is an antidote to our modern, secular society where is so much stress, depression, and anxiety.

Christ’s peace is different to the peace that the world can give. The Resurrection unleashed a power that reached down to the dead, even to hell. Similarly, the power of his peace reaches all aspects of our life.

So imagine you are one of the disciples, encountering the risen Lord.  He invites you to look upon his glorious but wounded body and even to touch those wounds. As we gaze on those wounds we can see how far Christ’s gift of resurrection peace goes…

  • First, peace for our minds.  When we look at the wounds on his head left by the crown of thorns, we know for certain that his forgiveness is everlasting; our consciences can be at rest.
  • Secondly peace for our hearts. When we see the large wound in his side caused by the spear of the soldier,  we see that this opens up to us a way to his heart.  Thus we have the powerful devotion to the Sacred Heart and more recently the Divine Mercy.  We know for certain that we are loved with an undying, unconditional love.
  • Third, peace for our soul. When we look at the wounds caused by the nails in his hands and is feet, it reminds us that now, in the words of Teresa of Avila, we are his hands and feet.  He is asking us to continue the work that matters. This is a worthwhile mission, that will satisfy our thirst for meaning.

Only the risen Christ can give a peace that reaches into all areas of our complex and complicated lives. Let’s pray that it is something our political leaders start to experience.

 

AMDG

At the end of the fourth week – after contemplating various post-resurrection narratives – we reach a beautiful and original Ignatian contemplation – often referred to by Jesuits as just The Contemplatio.  The goal of this is to know how to love as God loves….. wait a second ….. go back and read that last sentence again…..  the goal of this is to know how to love as God loves!  If that is not something worth investigating then what is!

Ignatius starts with 2 suppositions…

1) Love shows itself in deeds not in words

2)Love is a constant and generous sharing between the lover and the beloved and vice versa.

Let us recall that Ignatius is famous for the gift of tears. Most of his spiritual notes / diaries were burnt at his request before his death, but what survives of his spiritual diary is full of references to ‘tears’.  Tears whislt saying mass, whislt making a discernment, even whilst gazing at the stars.  It seems that he frequently and intensively felt the magnificent sense of Gods love. Some of his contemporaries even claim that his face would be luminous at times as though radiating an inner light. Seomething quickkly notice by children on the streets of Manresa, Paris or Rome.  So he is worth listening to when he talks about Gods love!

After the presuppositions there are four points of consideration that lead into the Contemplation  A) God Gives Gifts

B)You are a guft (God is present in you as well as other gifts)

C) God is dynamic – He is constantly giving and recieving

D) He (She) deisres us to be part of this dynamism – so that we become co-creators

Love is a powerful word – we are limited in English – but this love of God is close to the agape of the Greeks – self giving love (as opposed to eros – the possesive love that is exhausted, philia – friendship, or storge- affection).  When we experience this self-giving love we are drawn into responding (not compelled)  but this uncondition – self giving love – calls us out of ourselves.

That is definately worth meditating on! How much is this type of love part of my life?

AMDG

So we have arrived in the fourth and final week of the Exercises…. hopefully still intact!  The Third Week really stretches your compassion as you attempt to accompany Christ through his passion and suffering, not just as an onlooker but as a friend and companion who is suffering too. The third week really plunges you into the mystery of evil.  However after a ‘tomb’ day, now the retreatant can rejoice with Mary and the Disciples as we live through those first history-changing moments of the Resurrection. Ignatius points out how in the third week Christ allows His Divinity to be hidden – now His Divinity is manifested in full glory. And you watch as Jesus brings the consolation of his risen presence to his mother and his friends. Of course sharing in someone’s joy seems a lot easier than sharing in their pain and suffering – but it seems that somehow the depth of this joy is linked to the depth of our compassion.

As Kahlil Gibran once wrote –

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?

The rest of this beautiful poem is here

When I was a teacher and chaplain I used to like standing in the school hall and telling startled year groups of 200 boys that if the Resurrection wasn’t a historical fact, i.e. if i didn’t really happen than I was the biggest idiot in the hall. As you can imagine some of them quite liked that! But for me it is true – without the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus, Christianity is a sham.  In the second week we were using our imaginative contemplation to follow Jesus in his ministry so that we could know, love and follow him – or as Richard of Chichester once said ‘ know him more clearly, love him more dearly and follow him more nearly’ – we arrive at the truth and destiny of His and our lives in the resurrection. A love that destroys death and suffering. A light that cannot be swamped by the darkness.

This Easter Joy is celebrated every year by 2billion+ Christians but here in the Exercises it is experienced with a particular intensity. This Easter Joy is the dynamo of Christianity. It is why at every funeral we place the Easter Candle by the coffin of the deceased.  It is a privelege and a joy to share in the Joy of that first Easter – its what makes life worth living for and death worth dying for too!