«Insights from the Revelations of Divine Love and the Contemplation to Attain Love Kerrie Hide Abstract: Religious conversion, following Bernard ...»
Though the identification of the exercise as a Contemplation to Attain Love can convey a sense of obtaining or attaining love, or achieving through effort, there is nothing further from the spirit of Ignatius. A closer examination of the Spanish of the autograph Contemplación Par Alcanzar Amor and the Latin translation Contemplatio ad Amorem Obtinendumreveals the intention of the exercise. While Peters emphasizes that the verb alcanzar means to obtain or attain in the sense that the love of God is not contemplated as given or infused but as a great good that human beings can attain when we have a deep understanding of the favours received,25 we cannot come to a deep understanding of love unless we know in the depths of our being that we are intimately involved in an ongoing love relationship with God both as an individual and as part of humankind.26 When we are mindful that we participate in the love of the Trinity the Contemplation to Attain Love is contemplatio in the classic sense of the word, of a loving encounter where we surrender to God, are held in God and rest in God. It is out of this deep interior knowledge of love that we express this love in action. We become so permeated in love that our only response is to love with Love. The Latin translation of alcanzar, obtinendum gives a heightened sense Meditation has an active sense of the use of the mind.
There is some evidence that the shows evidence that the contemplation was added at a later date. In the autograph text it appears outside the fourth week. See William A. Peters, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Exposition and Interpretation 4th ed. (Rome: Centrum Ignatianum Spiritualitatis, 1980), 153. There are a variety of opinions as to when the Contemplation should be given. Some directors leave it to the very end of the Exercises. Some place it within the fourth week. Cf. Marian Cowan and John Carroll Futrell, Companions in Grace: A Handbook for Directors of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, 3rd ed., Studies on Jesuit Topics IV.22 (Saint Louis, MO: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2000), 136.
See Anthony Mottola (trans.), The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius (New York: Image Books, 1964), 5.
Michael Ivens, Understanding the Spiritual Exercises (Leominster: Gracewing, 1998), 172.
Peters, The Spiritual Exercises, 154.
See Cowan and Futrell, Companions in Grace, 136.
of the union or oneing that Love draws us to participate in. Obtinendum expresses a desire to hold, to possess, to preserve, to keep.27 Thus, in the contemplation to attain love, we place ourselves in the presence of love so that we may be possessed by this presence, hold and keep this presence. We become one in love, beings in love, who act in love.
Furthermore, the Latin translation of contemplación as contemplatio suggests being attentive, considering, viewing, looking.28 Contemplation for Ignatius certainly has this active sense. We see this especially at the beginning of the second week where Ignatius invites us to see (Ex 106) to listen (Ex 107) and to consider (Ex 108). The stress is on coming to a bodily awareness of all the details of Christ’s life, seeking, searching, examining, watching the colours, shapes, facial expressions and visual emotions, listening to conversation. Looking, listening and considering evokes a maturing sense of mutual recognition and engagement. Critically though, considering is not so much an analytical considering of the facts of Jesus life, but meditating, remembering, pondering, dwelling on, staying with the experience of Jesus. Towards the end of the second week, the use of the physical senses further awakens the inner or spiritual senses of seeing in imagination, hearing, smelling, touching, (Ex 121-126),29 until we engage the whole of our sensual being, physically and spiritually in contemplation. We then settle into a contemplative phase of silence, stillness and deep interior knowing that intensifies throughout the retreat and continues throughout our lives, so that we become contemplatives in action or beings in love.
The Contemplation to Attain Love, given when we are deeply at home in the contemplative phase, gives further expression to our desire for an intimate knowledge of love (Ex 233). Intimate knowledge is not head knowledge, but knowledge acquired through the intimacy of the heart. It is a way of knowing that we experience when we fall completely in love with our God. The contemplation incites our desire. It becomes an icon of desire, uniting us with the divine desire. It gives us an intimate knowledge of God’s desire for us and makes us one in desire. This sense of intimacy is evoked from the opening lines where Ignatius invites us to call attention to two points (Ex 230). Call attention to, does not merely mean look at, but tend to, engage with, be moved by, and take to the heart of the meaning of these points to inform our actions. Each point engages us in conversion. The first point, that love ought to manifest itself in deeds rather than words (Ex 230), describes a conversion of heart that evolves from words into deeds. The fruit of falling in love is to allow this love to express itself in actions. Our consolations must be incarnated.30 In the second point, Ignatius reminds us that love consists in the mutual sharing of goods…. The lover gives and shares with the beloved what he possesses…and the beloved shares with the lover (Ex 231). Notice the maturing sense of mutuality. We could describe this mutual giving and receiving of love as oneing, of giving unconditionally to the other in a way that unites and makes one. Prayer, Ignatius says, is as usual (Ex 231). In other words, Ignatius is no longer giving more material for prayer. Rather, he invites us to contemplate God’s very presence with us. Two preludes follow. In the first prelude Ignatius instructs us to behold ourselves standing in the presence of God (Ex 232). Recall Charlton T. A. Lewis (ed.), Latin Dictionary: Lewis and Short: Founded on Andrew’s Edition of Freund’s Latin Dictionary, rev. exp. ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), 1246.
Lewis, Latin Dictionary, 448. See Franz Jalics, “The Contemplative Phase of the Ignatian Exercises,” The Way Supplement 103 (2002): 25, who emphasises contemplation as looking. Jalics distinguishes looking with the outer senses, looking with the inner senses and mental looking.
See especially, to apply these senses to the soul and its virtues…Ex124.
This is a helpful expression I heard from Fr Michael Smith SJ.
Julian’s preference for the prayer of beholding. The word behold awakens our sense of seeing, in a way that unites. When we behold ourselves in the presence of God, gazing and holding in our hearts the fruit of our gazing, we experience ourselves immersed in Presence. Subsequently we express our desire for intimate knowledge for all the blessings we have received so that we can give thanks and love and serve in all things that filled with gratitude for all we may in all things love… (Ex 233). This intimate knowledge, is the knowledge Lonergan identifies in religious conversion. It is knowledge that is mysterious and hidden, and yet absolutely real. It transforms our way of being and doing. Four points then encourage us to live from total and permanent surrender. In the first point we remember creation, redemption and all the gift we have been given (Ex 234). We ponder with deep affection. Again this sense of re-membering, pondering and reflecting has a sense of meditatio, of savouring, chewing over, opening our being to feel what it is we have to give as lover to the beloved. This enables us to be present to, to stay with our experience in a way that unites us with God’s presence in our experience. We then reflect and consider what we ought to offer (Ex 234). Again this reflection involves the whole of who we are.
Consequently, moved by great feeling, we offer ourselves (Ex 234) and express from deep
within our being the great prayer of abandonment:
Take Lord and Receive my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To thee, O Lord, I return it. All of it is thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me thy love of thy grace for that is sufficient for me (Ex 234).
This song of abandonment is a prayer of one who has fallen completely in love and who is creating an environment where this love can blossom forth. It describes love that has taken over and become the first principle where all desires and fears, joys and sorrows, discernment of values, decisions and deeds have their source, without conditions, qualifications, or reservations. In this prayer of giving what we have received, we are utterly transparent. We entrust all that we are, our memory, understanding and will, our consolations and desolations, our desire for control. Subsequently, the following exercises almost seems an anti-climax, but they draw us to seeing God in all things and all things in God. They invite us to participate in oneingas we reflect on how divine life indwells creatures (Ex 235) and consider how God works and labours on our behalf giving being to all (Ex236). Finally, we consider how every blessing is a gift of the graciousness of God (Ex237). We conclude by reflecting on ourselves conversing with the Beloved and reciting the Our Father.
Ignatius reminds us how natural the union of love and the action of love is within us.
He emphasizes the absolutely unconditional nature of love through which God loved us into being and longs for us to become beings in love. He reminds us that God’s love for us and ours for God is our immediate reality. He teaches us how to love. The grace of the exercises is to grow in loving the way God loves, to become being in love. The contemplation reflects Lonergan’s description of religious conversion. It creates a dynamic process of deeper and deeper oneing. In this experience of attaining love, of being immersed in love, oned in love, God’s love for us and ours for God includes all things, the totality of the self, every element of God’s world. The world becomes the divine milieu in which the love of God is so sensed in everything that nothing can come between God and us. Everything is a means of union or oneing. The image of being knit in a knot and oned in oneing and made holy in holiness again comes to mind. And we are reminded that this is not a definitive experience, it broadens and deepens to the length and the breadth the height and the depth all the days of our lives until we are one in the face to face vision.
AEJT 3 (August 2004) Hide / Insights from Revelations and Contemplation
IMPLICATIONSBernard Lonergan’s theology of religious conversion has an important message to impart to those seeking to live a life in harmony with God, all human beings and creation today.
He gives a foundational model for reflecting on our experience and choosing what will be the ground and informing principle of all that we are and do.
We have examined the Lonergan’s idea of religious conversion from two very different perspectives, the contemplative vision of Julian of Norwich in the Revelation of Divine Love and Ignatius of Loyola in the Contemplation to Obtain Love. Julian writes long before Ignatius. Ignatius probably never knew of Julian, and yet both were inspired by their passion and love for God, to share the fruit of their experience of the lavishness of God’s love, so that others may experience union with God. Both are classic examples from the Church tradition that, when engaged with, draw us to awareness of the mystery of being created in love, to live in love and return to Love. Julian does not give a method or instructions in prayer, and yet her perceptive descriptions of prayer in desolation and consolation, and insights into the dynamic of oneing draw us to a place of deep surrender.
Ignatius gives us a systematic method and instruction in prayer that gently leads us from active contemplation to deeper and deeper silence, stillness and oneing. Both show us a way of echoing the Grail prayer: I give you my heart that you may pray in me. Depending on our personality, our time and stage in life, and the history of our life of prayer, one voice may speak more loudly and clearly than the other. But when we listen to the voice of each, and allow each one’s wisdom to inform our way of prayer, opposites begin to unite, we cease to desire to control and surrender more freely to depthless, breathless, endless oneing. We dance and sing with all our being: Your love and your grace are enough for me.
Author: Kerrie Hide is the Head of the School of Theology at Signadou Campus ACU, Canberra.