Archives for posts with tag: Ignatius’ Prayer

Take, Lord, and receive
all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire 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 your love and your grace,
for that is enough for me.
Sp. Ex. # 234

The first time I ever encountered this prayer, I was in the chapel of a Jesuit Center not far from Paris for an eight-day retreat. The chapel was lovely, light and luminous, with stained glass windows which prayed these words. As I deciphered them, my blood turned to ice and I felt filled with dread. How could anyone come up with such a prayer?

I was new to Ignatian spirituality. I had attended several one-day retreats over the years, but I knew very little of Ignatius, his life, and his writings. I had wanted to discern Godde’s will for me, to find out if there was indeed such a thing, and I had been told that Ignatian spirituality was the way. So I went. Otherwise, I had no background in Ignatian matters. The Society of Jesus was frowned upon where I grew up.

As I look back on this first eight-day retreat, I realize that on this occasion, as in every other following retreat, my heart was set on fire. Encountering Godde face to face is rather inebriating.

This time ‘away’ gave me an opportunity to go back over my life and look at those moments when I had not been at my best. It is then that I was glad to hand over my memory to Godde, a sort of first break into the prayer. My memory was not a gift to Godde, but rather a “Please take this away from me. I can hardly stand it.”

In the eleven years since I saw this prayer, it has grown to be part of my life. Like any other favorite prayer, some line suddenly comes up to my mind when it’s relevant or needed. I often find myself saying it during the night, when I cannot sleep, bothered by one preoccupation or another. When Life does not go my way, Take, Lord, appears on the threshold of my consciousness and I now feel relieved to say it.

I will never be able to fathom Ignatius‘ spirituality, however much time I spend practicing it and reading about it. Maybe this is why it attracts me so much: I see no end to it. It is only now, for example, that I begin to grasp the idea of Ignatius‘ mysticism. Our time in Manresa last Spring did much to help me in this. I have grown to love Ignatius very much, and I certainly wish he could accompany me the way the Trinity did accompany him, the way he accompanied so many women in his day.

My latest glimpse of understanding came when I remembered this passage from the Principle & Foundation:

Consequently, on my own part I ought not to seek health rather than sickness, wealth rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, a long life rather than a short one, and so on in all other matters

Sp. Ex. # 23,
George E. Ganss, SJ, ed.

not to seek health rather than sickness… I was being confronted once again by the limitations osteoporosis has brought into my life. Finally, I could make the link between the prayer, Take, Lord, which comes at the end of the Spiritual Exercises, and those lines which come from its beginning.

Accepting Life as it comes, uncovering Godde’s love in whichever situation I find myself, discovering liberation in what looked like shackles in a first time, being able to soar above a situation — for just a moment, of course — and seeing it from another angle, all this Ignatius‘ prayer helps me to do.

This is why I can say, Thank you, Ignatius… Gracias, Ignacio…

Photo: Cova de Sant Ignasi, Manresa, Spain

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 “… And this leads all of us Jesuits, and the whole Company, to be “decentred,” to have “Christ more and more” before us, the “Deus semper maior”, the “intimior intimo meo”, that leads us continually outside ourselves, that brings us to a certain kenosis, a “going beyond our own loves, desires, and interests” (Sp. Ex., 189). Isn’t it obvious, the question for us? For all of us? “Is Christ the centre of my life? Do I really put Christ at the centre of my life?” Because there is always the temptation to want to put ourselves in the centre…” Pope Francis, on the occasion of St Ignatius’ Day at Gesú in Rome.

Kenosis. Imagine my surprise when I read the Pope’s address to the Jesuits in Gesú, the church of Ignatius in Rome, on the occasion of St Ignatius’ Day, and saw that he had used the word ‘kenosis.’

In Christian theology, kenosis (from the Greek word for emptiness κένωσις), kénōsis) is the ‘self-emptying’ of one’s own will and becoming entirely receptive to God’s divine will (Wikipedia). The word ἐκένωσεν (ekénōsen) is used in Philippians 2:7-8:

Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.

I came across this word studying theology some years back. It became real to me, however, and part of my vocabulary, in the final week of the Ignatian Immersion Course in Manresa this Spring. We were explained kenosis as in ‘the dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises [that] can be envisaged as a gradual, systemic unfolding of the Paschal Way’…  The Paschal Way, the dying on the cross, is the Cruci-form of all.” (George Pattery, SJ, Pune).

I left Manresa and the Ignatian Immersion Course with a mind and a heart filled with new insights and Ignatian experiences. The word standing out most of all that I had gathered and learned there was ‘Kenosis,‘ for it seemed to me that the Risen One, the One who had emptied himself of all divinity and died on the cross for us is calling all of us to follow him in this self-emptying. “Take up your cross and follow me.” (Mat 16:24)

What does kenosis mean in ‘real life’? I would say it is pretty much everything I have not chosen, whether health issues, a breakdown in relationship, a death, a pregnancy, job difficulties, money problems, thorny exchanges. My normal reaction is to fight what I don’t want, to resist, to avoid, to ignore. With kenosis in mind, it becomes a sort of mantra, a reminder that what is coming to me uninvited is in fact an invitation to let go, to let Godde, to find Godde in what is coming to me. Kenosis is also a way of accompanying Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane all the way to the Calvary, not carrying his cross, but the one I received.

For quite a while now, I have seen the cross as the narrow gate through which one goes and passes on to another level of understanding and faith. Thus, kenosis is a way to the cross, another sort of Camino if you wish.

It does not mean that I will go out of my way to provoke kenosis in my life. I don’t really need to. It has come to me throughout the years. It is just now that I see it for what it was, for what it is — a way to be a companion on the journey.

What came through my mind also when I read Pope Francis’ remark on kenosis is that this theme may be familiar to all Jesuits, something introduced and often repeated in the course of their many years of studies. The mention of kenosis in the Immersion Course, therefore, would have been just a reminder to the many Jesuits in our midst. For me, it was entirely new and thoroughly enticing. I felt called to kenosis, without ever having the slightest idea of what this would entail. I just know that from the moment we left, anything mildly unpleasant coming my way prompted the word kenosis to my mind and helped me breathe better, to accept it rather than to reject it — all being part of a process of self-emptying.

I am not quite sure where this will all take me — even though  the famous Suscipe prayer of St Ignatius seems to be all about kenosis:

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, All I have and call my own. You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me.

Inviting you to a kenotic way of life,

One with you in the Risen One.

Art: Jane Davies, Cruciform Series

How can we live our brokenness?  Jesus invites us to embrace our brokenness as he embraced the cross and live it as part of our mission.  He asks us not to reject our brokenness as a curse from God that reminds us of our sinfulness but to accept it and put it under God’s blessing for our purification and sanctification.  Thus our brokenness can become a gateway to new life. Henri Nouwen

I found this quote today in my inbox. Living my brokenness. I face it every day right now, a physical brokenness, from within, with a severe osteoporosis discovered these past weeks. Suddenly, life has changed, a new life which, strangely, I am welcoming.

As our weeks in Manresa came to an end, it dawned on me that the Christian path was for each one of us to become Christ-like, cruciform, Christic, i.e. to follow Jesus in his self-emptying, on a day-to-day basis. As St Paul said:

Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Phil. 2:7-8

As our immersion into Ignatius’ world came to a close, I sensed, from the Mystagogy (mystical understanding) of the Spiritual Exercises to the cosmic vision revealed at the end, that “I was called to a Christic [self-emptying] pilgrimage, in the company of Ignatius, my family and friends, and Ignatian companions — with the hope of helping some souls on the way.”

During the Course, as I followed Ignatius’ life and work, I started to comprehend how he saw, experienced, and followed Christ. It became obvious that to join Christ in his building of the Kingdom, I too needed to let myself be emptied, to die to myself [however one does this]. I was to accept kenosis, the ‘self-emptying’ of one’s own will and becoming entirely receptive to God’s divine will. (Wikipedia)

A call to kenosis… I have no idea of what this call entails. Is this madness?

‘The Spirit is the vulnerability of Godde; we too are invited to be vulnerable,’ our lecturer, George, told us. I had never thought of Godde as vulnerable, but in fact this is the way She is with us, ever hoping we will turn back to her; this is the way Jesus was, going to the end of his logic of compassion and self-giving…

This vulnerability, Godde’s or ours, comes in so many flavors,  colors, shapes, and ways. Challenges at work, heartbreaks with loved ones, health issues, sudden unexpected and unwanted changes and, finally, aging.

Hasn’t Ignatius taught us to say,

“Take, Lord, and receive my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will. All that I am and possess. You gave it all to me. Now I return it all to you: Do with it as you wish. Just give me your grace and your love, that is enough for me.”

Godde’s grace and love is such an enormous gift. How can anyone say, ‘Just’ give me…

Vulnerability, or brokenness, has come to me this time with a physical illness, hidden in my spine. How fortunate I am to discover this now, when there are ways of taking care of it! Still, doctors have prescribed for me to do ‘nothing.’ I find and express so much of what I am in what I do…

With every challenge comes a grace. The grace which comes immediately to my mind is the ability to notice all those around me who are suffering, often much more than I do.

I like to remember that our vulnerability, our suffering, and our brokenness are scooped up in Teilhard de Chardin’s Mass on the World:

Over every living thing which is to spring up, to grow, to flower, to ripen during this day say again the words: This is my Body. And over every death-force which waits in readiness to corrode, to wither, to cut down, speak again your commanding words which express the supreme mystery of faith: This is my Blood.

Henri Nouwen, from his own experience, tells us that our brokenness, with its purifying and sanctifying impact, can become a gateway to new life. A new life, a new understanding, a new freedom.

May it be so.

Art: Mary Southard, It Takes A Universe