Archives for posts with tag: IIC2013

 

… The problem is really the problem of the self that I am busy protecting. All my fears come from concern about the self; all my thrills come from catering to the self. How can I become “unselfed” from the self so that I can attain total freedom?

… As long as [the self] is the focus of attention, we will get nowhere. What we need is the state of thoughtlessness, the state of illumination, or the state of love where we melt into another.

… How do we measure our progress in the spiritual life? The more we get out of our self-love, self-will, and self-interest, the more we progress. Unself the self. “For everyone must keep in mind that in all that concerns the spiritual life his [or her] progress will be in proportion to his surrender of self-love and of his own will and interests” (Sp. Ex. 189)

… [A]s long as I have my self-love, self-will, and self-interest, can I do the will of Christ? The love, the will, and the interests of Christ might be different from mine.

… What Ignatius is trying to bring about is rather the following. If I could mystically identify with Christ, then there are no longer two different interests, there is only one… “[It] is no longer I who live but it is Christ who lives in me” (see Gal. 2:20). That is what can happen on the experiential, mystical, and emotional levels. So there are no longer two interests, just one. Then we have unselfed the self.

Anthony de Mello, Seek God Everywhere, pp. 139-143

Last Spring, after six weeks in Manresa with the Ignatian Immersion Course, I came home with the concept of kenosis, which I tried to develop in a blog on this theme. In a way, if Jesus emptied himself of his divinity to become human (Phil. 2:7-8), we are invited to empty ourselves of our humanness to let the divine in…

I am reading Anthony de Mello’s book with the greatest interest because I am preparing for a thirty-day retreat in the Fall. I want to be ready for what is awaiting me and enter the mystagogy of the Spiritual Exercises.

Anthony de Mello, with his experiences of Eastern and Western spirituality, has a way of using one to explain the other. As I looked for an illustration for this post, I remembered a small Jain statue which represented just the outline of someone which was filled with space. He or she had reached enlightenment and was totally liberated from his or her self.

The idea of unselfing the self amuses me tremendously because I am so very self-involved, and have been for as long as I can remember. In the course of my life, however, every so often when I think, “How does this make me feel?” or “What do I want to do with this?”, the question, “Who is the “me” or the “I” I am talking about?” comes up. It never failed to give me a feeling of lightness and detachment. I can suddenly place a distance between a situation and myself.

Does this mean that I will ever unself my self, that I will indeed become one with Jesus or Godde’s will for me? I do not know. What I know, however, is that I would like to reach this point and had been dreaming of it long before I became a “returning Catholic”. It seemed to be the most beautiful path there is; and I still feel this way today. Hence, my fascination with this section of Anthony de Mello’s book.

 

Art: Sukhi Barber, The Presence of Absence.

[The Jains have an unusual concept in their art of the Siddha Pratima – the realized soul who is represented by a void. For more information on this, see here.]

 

As they approached the village to which they were going,he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him…

Luke 24:13-35

 

The experience of the gifts of the Spirit are nothing else but manifestations of the living presence of the Risen Jesus in our lives.
Fr. Cecil Azzopardi, SJ, 2013 Ignatian Immersion Course, 2013

 

The Easter Octave tastes and feels like a feast. Each day offers another divine treat. Today, Emmaus.

Many of the books I read explain that the two disciples walking to Emmaus were in fact a couple, a man, Cleopas, and his wife, forever nameless like so many women in the Bible. 

Paul and I, then, are forever returning home, discouraged and lost, now that we feel cheated by the death of our Master, ex-future King of the Jews, hung on a cross like a criminal. 

We pour our hearts out to this stranger who drew near and now walks with us. When we grow silent, emptied out of all thoughts and feeling numb, the stranger starts talking. And he talks and he talks. He fills us with a fire we have not felt since that last meal we shared with Jesus. 

As we reach home, we invite him to stay with us. Then, you know the story, the stranger takes the bread, says the blessing, breaks it, and gives it to us. This is when we understand who has been with us all this time. And he disappears! Oh, Godde… 

In an instant, we are up again, grab our walking stick,s and walk back, our hearts filled with joy and wonder, the seven miles we have just finished with ‘Him’. All the way to Jerusalem, we repeat what he has told us going to Emmaus. Every so often, we stop to catch our breath and exclaim, ‘He is Risen’. He was not a hoax! Alleluiah!

We each have those Emmaus moments after we meet someone we know, or do not know. I can think of two different scenarios. When walking the Camino, every so often someone catches up with us and strikes up a conversation, and we engage in sharing our lives and our faith. It is an Emmanuel moment, Godde-with-Us. 

Or again, I can think of two or three women friends whom I meet for a coffee or a bite to eat. We always end up talking about Godde’s presence in our lives. Once back at home, I realize that my heart was burning as we were sharing stories of how Godde moves through our daily life. These moments, these friends, are Godde’s gifts to me, to us.

Can you think of specific friends with whom you have Emmaus moments?

Art: Arcabas, Emmaüs

 

 

 

 

The cross is not merely Christ’s passion, Volf writes, but it is God’s passion. It reveals the total self-giving love of God that reaches out to estranged humanity and embraces every stranger as the beloved. In the cross we are embraced by the Trinity of love, who loves us with the same love with which the persons of the Trinity love one another. The crucified Christ signifies a space in God’s self for the other and an invitation for the enemy to come in.
— Delia, Ilia. The Emergent Christ. Orbis Books. Kindle Edition. (1120-1124)

Note: Volf is Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation.

 

    The whole of Jesus’ life is an unfolding towards fullness of life. So even at this stage of his life, as he invites us to stay with him, he has something to reveal to us about life. 
    But to come to sense how this unfolding is taking place in Jesus, even at this stage as he goes though his passion and death, it is absolutely essential that we do not place ourselves on the road to Calvary as roadside watchers of a drama that is happening.
    We need to reach intimately into his heart, to sense what is happening in Jesus’ heart as he is going through all of this. For ultimately what makes a difference to life is not what happens to us, but how we respond to what happens to us. And this is only known from within the depth of one’s heart.
— Fr. Cecil Azzopardi, SJ, Ignatian Immersion Retreat, May 2013, Manresa

 

Here I am, ready (can I ever be ready enough?) to walk with Jesus this week all the way to the Golgotha, with his mother, his friends, and his enemies. I hope some day to love him so much that I will indeed be able ‘to reach intimately into his heart’, to understand how he did all of this. 

I imagine his love for and his trust in Godde stronger than the pressure of the society around him or the fear of his friends for him. 

He had to die, said Caiaphas, not only for the nation, “but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God.” And gather, Jesus did, or Christ rather, in a way Caiaphas could never have imagined.

Walking with Jesus this week will be a privilege. All I can do is stand by him as he goes through all that is awaiting him. I might enter the mystery of his death and then maybe not. Most of all, I feel I owe him to be with him, to be there for him, while giving him the best my heart and mind have to offer.

May the Spirit accompany each one of us on our journey to Jerusalem.

Photo: Cristo de la Sonrisa, Javier, Spain

 

 

 

I wish my Spanish were better and I would translate for you the many parts I love in this book, La Mistagogia de los Ejercicios, written by Javier Melloni SJ, a great ignacianista from the University of Catalunya in Barcelona and residing in Manresa. There he gives wonderful lectures to the participants of the Ignatian Immersion Course (IIC) every Spring.

Javier Melloni looks at the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola from the point of view of ‘mystagogy’:

Mystagogy is a Greek term that literally means “initiation into the mysteries.” It is composed of two roots: “Mystos”, “belonging to the mysteries” and “Agia” noun of the verb “ago”, meaning “lead”. “Mystery”, in turn, means literally “the secret, what is hidden.” It comes from the Greek verb “myo”, “keeping lips and eyes closed”. Mystagogues, in the Hellenic world, were those priests who were initiated into the mystical experience of the sacred, through very precise rites.” (p. 21)

… “Applying the term mystagogy to the Exercises. we intend to show that the act of freedom that the Exercises encourage, springs from a bottomless Depth, which does not originate in us. The Exercises free us because they transform us; and they transform us because we come in contact with the Source of our being. Being re-created, we generate new events, for participating in the Source which gives us our being. The Exercises lead to such a Source. And they show that there is much more participation with more dispossession. Such is the Mystery in which we delve: the more we lose ourselves in God, the more we meet ourselves again. “Unless a grain of wheat dies …” (Jn 12:24).” (p. 22) …

Anyway, when my Spanish improves, I’ll be able to share more of it. Until then, I am just translating the book for myself. This morning I came upon a section in chapter 2, “The Anthropological Elements in the Exercices” dealing, among many other things, with disordered attachments (76-77).

“The disorder indicates the error of the direction, which will always be a form or another of self-centeredness and of being ‘devoured’. … The attachments are driving forces that are to be integrated, not neutralized. The “ridding oneself of all disordered attachments” is not to find oneself without attachments, but to direct them to their true purpose: the God who gives himself without possessing or devouring.”

It turns out that the “Meditation on the Three Types of People” in the Exercises is “dedicated to a becoming aware of the passive force of the afecto (the affect, or attachment), illustrating three possible relationships between affect and things. The election is held on this release and transformation of the attachments.”

The three types of people show three different reactions to the same situation. Each person receives a vast sum of money. Ten million dollars are mentioned today. I find it interesting that money seems to have always been a decisive factor in showing what sort of person one is.

The first person takes the money, thanks Godde, and spends it on herself and her family. The second person takes the money, thanks Godde, and proceeds to spend the money on causes and NGOs that will contribute to the building of the Kingdom (or the Christ Project, Louis Savary would say), all the while remaining in control of the money. The third person has ‘”no inclination either to keep the acquired money or to dispose of it. Instead [she] desires to keep it or dispose of it solely according to what Godde will move her will to choose, and also according to what [she herself] will judge to be better for the service and praise of her Divine Majesty… [She] earnestly strives not to desire that money or anything else except when she is motivated solely by the service of Godde…”(Ganss, 157)

What particularly moved me in this meditation was the grace I was to ask for: i.e. “to choose that which is more to the glory of her Divine Majesty and the salvation of my soul.” … Saving my soul somehow is not so important, but pleasing Godde is…

This morning then, thanks to Javier Melloni’s book, I had a great conversation with both Godde and Ignatius. It was one of those moments when suddenly I felt thoroughly alive and involved in something I would never have imagined otherwise. I did receive some money not so long ago, and I did spend it on myself and my family. I am thus a first person type. Agh.

“No matter which of the three classes you may fall into,” writes Louis Savary in The New Spiritual Exercises in the Spirit of Teilhard de Chardin, “Godde can use whatever you do to further the Christ Project.” (109)

Javier Melloni’s book is not translated yet into English or French, which is a pity. I find that Ignatian Spirituality comes in many flavors, Anglo-Saxon, Latin American, Spanish, French, Italian… Javier Melloni seems to have fallen into Ignatius’ magic potion at birth: he lives and breathes Ignatian Spirituality as are the other lecturers we had in Manresa this Spring. Hopefully some time soon a good translator and a fine Ignatian mind will tackle Fr. Melloni’s book. Then, expect quite a treat!

 

 “… 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

Ignasi. This is the way Ignatius is called in Manresa, Catalunya where he lived eleven months of his spiritual journey. He was Iñigo in the Basque country where he was born and at the court of the King where he served, from the age of fourteen till he was thirty. At the battle of Pamplona in 1521 his life changed. He became Ignatius later in Paris.

The picture here comes from a tiled portrait in a corridor leading to the cave where Ignatius lived while in Manresa in 1522-23. It represents the last night he spent as a knight in a vigil in front of the Black Virgin at the Monastery of Montserrat. He offered her his sword and changed his clothes for some beggar’s rags. He had planned on leaving for Jerusalem shortly afterwards, but life decided otherwise: He remained in Manresa instead.

In the weeks I spent in Manresa this last Spring, I often stopped at this portrait, putting my hand on his hand, as much in prayer as in appreciation or in communion.

I could identify with Ignatius at this time in his life. He was still very much willful and desirous to impress God as he had wanted before to impress the king or the ladies at the court. Willful, I often am.

A fire burnt in his soul, a fire that led him to fast for days on end and to pray throughout the nights. He worked at a hospital, he prayed at the cathedral, he strolled along the river Cardoner, and he regularly walked the 25 km to Montserrat. He experienced visions, was in a rapture for several days, he wrote in his notebook, and he already helped souls.

I had my moments with Ignatius during those six weeks. I talked to him, I asked for his help, I questioned him how he did all that he did. I discovered a mystic that was arrested twelve times by the Inquisition because he helped souls encounter the Living Godde — and this was not meant to be possible. I saw a man who chose not to call his order the Ignatians, but rather the Society of Jesus, for all that he wanted was to lead people to Jesus and help them see how they could help the Risen One build Godde’s Kingdom.

My most precious moment with Ignatius during these six weeks happened on the first day of our eight day silent retreat. We had had a first meeting the night before, where I had found out that the theme would be, Thy Love and Thy Grace are enough for me. This came as a sort of answer to a question I had had at our last meeting before the retreat, “How do we dare say, Your grace and your love are enough for me, when that is so very much?”

That first morning, then, I sat at a breakfast table where I was alone for a while. This is when I thought of Ignatius and imagined him at another table, with all his early companions, Peter Faber, Francis Xavier, Diego Lainez, Alonso Salmerón, Nicholas Bobadilla, and Simón Rodriguez. They were there to pray with us and to accompany us through this retreat. From this thought on, tears started rolling down my cheeks and within minutes I felt that I could not stay at my table for fear of making a fool of myself. So I grabbed my cup of coffee and my oatmeal and left the room. I went out and sat on the stairs leading to our rooms, in tears. I must have been a strange sight.

I had other moments thanks to Ignatius. During the retreat, I encountered the Risen Christ, so similar in many ways to the statue by Subirachs which I had seen in the silent chapel in Montserrat.

A good friend of mine recently asked me why I liked Ignatian Spirituality so much, since it is “so totally devoid of the feminine.” I am not sure I can answer her question. To me, Ignatius shows me a path to Godde, the Trinity, Jesus; he gives me guidelines on how to discern what comes my way, whether choices or challenges. He helps me see what sort of a person I want to become, what kind of a world I want to work toward. And then, of course, now, I have found companions on the journey, other pilgrims heading to Jerusalem, Rome, or Santiago, and with our universe breathing, groaning, and striving with me.

Ignatian spirituality came to me in a crisis. One thing led me to another till twenty years later when I came to Manresa, where Ignatius’ ‘primitive Church’ began. I found myself in Manresa after having prayed to Ignatius years ago asking him to help me understand what he was all about. One morning, during the retreat, I walked over to the Chapel of the Rapture, this small hospital where he worked and also laid there on the ground at one point for over a week, without eating, drinking or speaking. I prayed for a while and, as I was leaving, I turned to Godde and said, “You gave me so much more than I asked for.” At that point, it was as if, once again, Godde gave me a hug for understanding how divine love works.

One with you in the Risen One.