An Ignatian Prayer Adventure: Week 8

An Ignatian Prayer AdventureWe come to the Fourth Week of the Spiritual Exercises–the end of the Exercises and the final week of our retreat. We encounter the risen Lord as he consoles his friends and disciples, who were once scared, confused, and despairing. Accompanying the One we have walked with all along, we savor the distinctive grace of this final movement of the Exercises: joy.

Four days will be taken up with reflection on the resurrected Jesus. We contemplate the risen Christ consoling others. We notice how his friends both recognize and fail to recognize the One they have followed and loved. We marvel at how Jesus in the resurrected life—where his divinity is no longer hidden—does very human things: eating, talking, consoling, teaching, and enjoying the company of others.

We conclude the retreat with three days of reflection on the love of God and our response. For this we use St. Ignatius’s Contemplation of the Love of God from the Spiritual Exercises.

Day 1

Resurrection

We do not contemplate the actual resurrection event, which is a mystery, beyond time and space. Resurrection refers to the event of God’s transformation of life, making all things new, as in a new creation. Resurrection is a conquering of sin and death, once and for all.

The Grace I Seek

“I ask for what I desire. Here it will be to ask for the grace to be glad and to rejoice intensely because of the great glory and joy of Christ our Lord” (SE 221).

Read

Read John 20:1–18 (the disciples find the empty tomb and Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene).

Imagine finding the empty tomb with the disciples. Then notice how Mary at first does not recognize Jesus until he lovingly says her name. Imagine her confusion, her relief, her excitement, her joy! Hear and see how Jesus commissions her (and you).

For Reflection

The Resurrection Brings Joy by Gerald M. Fagin, SJ

Day 2

Jesus Appears on the Road to Emmaus

The Fourth Week reminds us that death, despair, violence, and sadness will not have the last word: joy does. Walking with the risen Lord, we appreciate how Easter is happening all the time, with joy surprising us everywhere.

The Grace I Seek

“I ask for what I desire. Here it will be to ask for the grace to be glad and to rejoice intensely because of the great glory and joy of Christ our Lord” (SE 221).

Read

Read Luke 24:13–35 (Jesus appears to the disciples on the way to Emmaus).

Notice how Jesus’ disciples do not recognize him at first. Notice too how Jesus just walks and listens to the disciples in their sadness and confusion. How has Jesus walked with you these weeks? How do the disciples—and how do you—recognize the risen Christ? How have you experienced your heart burning these weeks? What desires are stirring in your heart now?

For Reflection

3-Minute Retreat: In the Breaking of Bread

Day 3

Jesus Appears to Thomas

In the reading today, notice how compassionately Jesus deals with doubts, which are a natural part of a faith journey. Periods of doubt and questioning can lead to a stronger, more deeply held faith. The key is to keep the conversation going with the Lord, as you have been doing throughout your retreat and as Thomas does with Jesus.

The Grace I Seek

“I ask for what I desire. Here it will be to ask for the grace to be glad and to rejoice intensely because of the great glory and joy of Christ our Lord” (SE 221).

Read

Read John 20:24–31 (Jesus appears to “doubting Thomas”).

Can you relate to Thomas’s doubting? Can you say with him the great proclamation of faith that concludes this Gospel story: “My Lord and my God!”

For Reflection

We will never win the Olympics of humanity, racing for perfection, but we can walk together in hope, celebrating that we are loved in our brokenness: helping each other, growing in trust, living in thanksgiving, learning to forgive, opening up to others and welcoming them, and striving to bring peace and hope to the world.

—Jean Vanier

Day 4

Jesus Appears to Peter and the Disciples

Today’s reading shows Jesus appearing to Peter and the disciples on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias. Imagine yourself in this very dynamic and tender scene. Can you feel the disciples’ excitement and wonder and Peter’s enthusiasm? Listen to the intimate dialogue between Jesus and Peter. Imagine Jesus saying the same to you.

The Grace I Seek

“I ask for what I desire. Here it will be to ask for the grace to be glad and to rejoice intensely because of the great glory and joy of Christ our Lord” (SE 221).

Read

Read John 21:1–19 (Jesus appears to Peter and the disciples).

Notice the command that Jesus leaves Peter. How are you called to “feed” and “tend” to others?

For Reflection

A Prayer by St. Teresa of Ávila

Christ has no body but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes
with which He looks compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet
with which He walks to do good.
Yours are the hands
with which He blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands.
Yours are the feet.
Yours are the eyes.
You are His body.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Day 5

The Contemplation of the Love of God, Part One

We conclude this retreat with three days of reflection on the Contemplation of the Love of God—the last meditation in the Spiritual Exercises. This is the culmination of the retreat. In this contemplation, we let God’s overwhelming love empower our lives. We see that the whole movement of the retreat has been rooted in and oriented toward love.

Before he offers this contemplation, Ignatius says two things about love:

1. “Love ought to manifest itself more by deeds than by words” (SE 230). Love must be put into action; words are not enough. Having been schooled as disciples these many weeks, we must now do something. Ignatian spirituality is one of mission.

2. “Love consists in a mutual communication between the two persons” (SE 231). Just as the love between two persons is marked by giving and receiving, the love we share with God enjoys a certain mutuality. God wants our friendship. God wants to be known by us. These divine desires are the source of our desire to know, love, and serve God.

The Grace I Seek

“I ask for what I desire. Here it will be to ask for interior knowledge of all the great good I have received, in order that, stirred to profound gratitude, I may become able to love and serve the Divine Majesty in all things” (SE 233).

Thank God for So Many Gifts

The first point of the Contemplation of the Love of God: thanking God for so many gifts.

I will call back into my memory the gifts I have received—my creation, redemption, and other gifts particular to myself. I will ponder with deep affection how much God our Lord has done for me, and how much he has given me of what he possesses, and consequently how he, the same Lord, desires to give me even his very self, in accordance with his divine design.

Then I will reflect on myself, and consider what I on my part ought in all reason and justice to offer and give to the Divine Majesty, namely, all my possessions, and myself along with them. I will speak as one making an offering with deep affection, and say:

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and all my will—all that I have and possess. You, Lord, have given all that to me. I now give it back to you, O Lord.

All of it is yours. Dispose of it according to your will. Give me love of yourself along with your grace, for that is enough for me.(SE 234)

The “Take, Lord, Receive” prayer is an offering made in freedom. We have been praying for indifference throughout the retreat: to become free of disordered loves. Now we focus on why this freedom is necessary: we become free from excessive attachments so that we can love and serve God and others more. Basking in the love of God, we are empowered to love as God loves.

For Reflection

Fall in Love, attributed to Pedro Arrupe, SJ

Day 6

The Contemplation of the Love of God, Part Two

With the eyes of faith, we realize the infinite depth of reality. We begin to understand how much of heaven is here on earth. God is with us. Ask: How have I encountered God dwelling in me, in others, and in creation? Be very concrete. You may consider praying outdoors in nature.

The Grace I Seek

“I ask for what I desire. Here it will be to ask for interior knowledge of all the great good I have received, in order that, stirred to profound gratitude, I may become able to love and serve the Divine Majesty in all things” (SE 233).

Finding God in All Things

The second point of the contemplation: finding God in all things, in all people, and in myself.

I will consider how God dwells in creatures; in the elements, giving them existence; in the plants, giving them life; in the animals, giving them sensation; in human beings, giving them intelligence; and finally, how in this way he dwells also in myself, giving me existence, life, sensation, and intelligence; and even further, making me his temple, since I am created as a likeness and image of the Divine Majesty. Then once again I will reflect on myself, in the manner described in the first point, or in any other way I feel to be better. (SE 235)

Use your senses and imagination to find God in all things and all people. Be attentive to the movements of grace within you. Conclude with the “Take, Lord, Receive” prayer.

For Reflection

Let Your Love Play by Rabindranath Tagore

Day 7

The Contemplation of the Love of God, Part Three

German poet Rainer Maria Rilke captures the movement of this Contemplation (indeed the whole Exercises) perfectly: “We are cradled close in your hands—and lavishly flung forth.” We have answered the call to “come and see” (John 1:39), and at this point reach a critical juncture. Now we must take the love and grace that God has given us during this privileged time of retreat and incarnate it in our own lives.

The Grace I Seek

“I ask for what I desire. Here it will be to ask for interior knowledge of all the great good I have received, in order that, stirred to profound gratitude, I may become able to love and serve the Divine Majesty in all things” (SE 233).

Praise God

The third point of the contemplation: praising God who constantly labors for me.

I will consider how God labors and works for me in all the creatures on the face of the earth; that is, he acts in the manner of one who is laboring. For example, he is working in the heavens, elements, plants, fruits, cattle, and all the rest—giving them their existence, conserving them, concurring with their vegetative and sensitive activities. Then I will reflect on myself. (SE 236)

God is not static. God—revealed to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is dynamic, alive, always stirring, and always laboring to bring life to God’s beloved creation. God is love overflowing. In your prayer, consider the activity of God in your life and your world. Marvel at how God creates in, through, and with us. Can you see and hear God laboring in the world around you? Can you appreciate how God has “labored” specifically in and through you? Can you recognize how the labor of others supports you in your living?

Continue with the fourth point of the contemplation: praising God, who is the source of all goodness.

I will consider how all good things and gifts descend from above; for example, my limited power from the Supreme and Infinite Power above; and so of justice, goodness, piety, mercy, and so forth—just as the rays come down from the sun, or the rains from their source. Then I will finish by reflecting on myself. (SE 237)

Love sees clearly into the depths of reality. With your vision sharpened by the Exercises, try to see in all things—in all creation and all people—the reflection of God’s very self. Recall specific occasions when you or someone else acted with justice, goodness, mercy, or another virtue. Appreciate how these actions were like “rays come down from the sun,” who is God. Conclude with the “Take, Lord, Receive” prayer.

For Reflection

Some journeys end so that others may begin. The risen Christ gave the Holy Spirit to the disciples, and the Spirit stirred up in them bold, holy desires and animated them to continue the mission that Jesus entrusted to them throughout his earthly life. The Spirit of Jesus is with us now, summoning us for the adventure ahead, as we respond ever more to the call of Christ to build a more just and gentle world where God’s love reaches every nook and cranny.

—Kevin O’Brien, SJ

Additional Video for Week 8

Kevin O’Brien, SJ, on the Contemplation on Divine Love

Bloggers’ Reflections on These Spiritual Exercises

Reflections by Paul Brian Campbell, SJ, Vinita Hampton Wright, and Jim Manney:

Joy Is a Decision
The Resurrected Christ Appears
Gratitude Is the Key
Because of the Resurrection
Friday’s Reflection: Resurrection


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