The more I follow Ignatius’ Exercises and the commentary I have to accompany these, the more I have discovered how entrenched in the long spirituality of the Church this great saint is.
To be a saint involves knowing the teaching of the Church, and St. Ignatius knew his spirituality and theology, and although commentators do not always know his direct sources, the ideas of these sources may be traced in the Exercises.
As one steeped in the Rule of St. Benedict and a great lover of the writings of St. , (the name I took when I made my solemn promises), I have been delighted to see and learn the overlaps in the Exercises.
Just one example is Ignatius’ ideas on humility. In Week Two, he gives, not as a meditation but as the commentator notes, a “consideration” which flows through all the weeks,
Because the goal of the Exercises, either for choosing a vocation or for growing on the road to perfection, is to become more like Christ, to put on the mind of Christ, and to lovingly desire to be with and in Christ, humility becomes a root virtue for the plant of holiness.
As seen in past posts on the old blog, the Rule of St. Benedict has twelve steps to humility, and St. Bernard wrote a great deal on these steps, again found in the posts on St. Bernard. I do not want to repeat those here, but move to St. Ignatius’ way of leading one to a humble position before God.
St. Ignatius notes that there are “three ways of being humble”. Some of these ideas I have already referred to this week, but as the Exercises involve repetition with more and more insights, revisiting some of these ideas seem appropriate.
The first two degrees have to do with being orthodox and obedient to Holy Mother Church, and as I have written much on this on the previous blog, I shall skip to Ignatius’ third level or way of humility.
BTW, the commentator notes that the Spanish for “way” may be translated as “mode”, or “stage” or “manner” of humility. These various translations form a meditation in and of themselves.
Maneras is the word used. The second stage also involves “indifference” or detachment, again, referred to in a previous post here. The more one is obedient and detached, the more one can discern the Will of God in one’s life, and move towards greater love of God.
This love is what informs the third stage of humility. One desires to love God so much that one wants only to do His Will. At this stage, one wants not only to serve Christ, but to be like Him in all things, a desire which any lover understands from experience. Do we not want to become one with the beloved?
The will, intellect and all the affections finally “come into line” as one commentator states, in order to love and serve God.
Recalling the post on the movements or motions of the soul, the mociones, the commentator notes that as one moves through the three stages of humility, one changes, and this consists of the movements of the spirit.
However, here is the tricky part and why one must have a director guiding one through the Exercises.
There are two different types of movements. The first are called mocion racional, “a change of the soul from one’s own intellectual activity”, which I add may happen through reflection (meditation) or acquired contemplation. The other type of movement of the soul is called mocion sensual, coming out of one’s sensitive human nature.
The first is caused by God, angels or devils,while the second is caused by one’s own self.
I listed these the other day, but after reading the commentary wanted to develop these ideas so that one can understand the process of becoming humble more readily.
Let me give examples of the two types of motions, starting with the second type, mocion sensual.
A person is in a hotel lobby and accidentally drops a bag of liquids, which spill out onto the floor. This person must go to the concierge and explain what happened, admitting the accident and asking for someone to help clean up the mess. One may be humbled by this experience and move into a humble state of admitting error and carelessness, even purposeful neglect. The sensual experience leads to a motion of the soul wherein one accepts being humbled in public and accepts either the limitation or the sin involved.
In the first movement of the spirit towards humility, mocion racional, God may directly show a fault or imperfection to one in prayer or in a situation wherein no one else sees these. Or, in a meditation about Christ, reflecting on Christ’s own acceptance of humility, one is led to appreciate the virtue and desire it, in order to become like Christ.
If one is gifted with infused virtue, one is given humility directly, as gift. This would be a third motion, not referred to in this week in the Exercises. Infused knowledge of God may be asked for in Week One and Two, as the prayer for knowing Christ interiorly may be answered by God in infused knowledge.
This is called infused contemplation, and is a gift of union with God, a gift which is one of the goals of the Exercises, and a goal shared by St. Ignatius with SS. John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila.
To be continued…