St. Ignatius presents one with a powerful meditation on Christ, the King, and Lucifer, the Usurper. Each person is called to bear the standard of one of these leaders.
Being a military “guy”, St. Ignatius provides one with a powerful image of both Christ and Lucifer offering the standard of loyalty. Christ, seated in glory, as King of Heaven and Earth, invites all people to follow Him in the spiritual battles on this earth. Christ invites. But, so does Lucifer, who calls people to follow him under his standard.
Some follow Christ, and some follow, freely, Lucifer. Lucifer, in opposition to Christ, set up his own kingdom which Ignatius calls Babylon. Christ’s kingdom is labeled Jerusalem, the New Jerusalem, the Kingdom of God.
How moving and even scary to know that Lucifer invites and is answered by those who want money, status and power, the pride of life.
Spiritual poverty combats the desire for money and status. Spiritual poverty creates a humble heart which can withstand the pride of life and self-will.
But, how terrifying it is to realize that Lucifer succeeds in gathering his own army under his standard, in battle with Christ army, gathered under His standard.
Lucifer gives riches, honor and pride of life to those who come to him. Christ give us what Ignatius suggests we ask for—”insight into the deceits of the evil leader, and help to guard myself against them, and further, for insight into the genuine life which the supreme and truthful commander sets forth, and grace to imitate him.”
We are not left without arms, without weapons, without strategies against the evil one. Christ gives us what we need, if we follow Him under His standard.
Years ago, I was in a foreign country where an enactment of the standards of the different cavaliers were presented. This demonstration included kneeling before the standards of the “good guys”, the pledging of oaths to follow that leader into war.
A moving spectacle of bravery and loyalty…
But, when I reflected on this meditation, I realized that those who have chosen to follow Lucifer are also brave and loyal, but to him, not to Christ.
One fights a strong army, not a weak one. Ignatius describes Satan as sitting on a throne of fire and smoke, terrible to be seen. Ignatius writes that “he summons uncountable devils, disperses some to one city, and others to another, and thus reaches into the whole world, without missing any provinces, places, states, or individual persons.”
He tempts by honors, riches, glory, power, pride and many other vices.
What can withstand this onslaught for those under the standard of Christ, those apostles, disciples and all who spread His doctrine to the whole world? The answer is spiritual poverty, the total reliance on Christ Himself, the killing of the desires for riches, honor, and power. If one does not choose or have real poverty, spiritual poverty combats the lure of riches, contempt of the world combats honor, and humility combats pride.
Spiritual poverty comes first.
One cannot “have it all”. Ignatius tells his retreatant to pray to Mary for real and spiritual poverty, then to pray to the Father and the Son for the grace to follow under the standard of Christ. Ask Mary first for the gifts of spiritual and actual poverty. Ask for humility, for total reliance on Christ.
Also ask Mary, the Father, and Christ for the ability to bear graciously the malice, the hatred, the reproaches of others.
The army against us is huge, bigger, to be honest, than the army which has gathered under Christ. But, we have the Victor of the war on our side-Christ Himself.
When I first read and meditated on this section of the Exercises, I was astounded at the timeliness of this part. I was also made aware, again, of how people choose evil, choose Lucifer, choose riches, honor and pride.
This knowledge makes me sad for the lost souls who have chosen this way, to go under the banner of Satan, rather than under the banner of Christ.
Remember my common saying on the old blog—there is no middle ground. Either one is for or against Christ. Period.
You may recall the Desert Fathers on the Temptation of Christ in the Desert, and how Christ showed us how to fight the devil.
In the temptation for food, Christ quoted Scripture, showing us that the Word gives life and power in spiritual warfare.
In the temptation to reveal pride, Christ refused to give in through humility.
In the temptation for power, Christ rebuked the devil directly and we who are baptized and in sanctifying grace can do the same.
To be continued….