The “Fourth Week”: Week Twenty-Nine/Session Two.
Theme: The Contemplation of the Love of God.
Our reading for today: St. Ignatius SE 234.
I will consider how God dwells in creatures; in the elements, giving them existence; in the plants, giving them life; in the animals, giving them sensation; in human beings, giving them intelligence; and finally, how in this way He dwells also in myself, giving me existence, life, sensation, and intelligence; and even further, making me His temple, since I am created as a likeness and image of the Divine Majesty. Then once again I will reflect on myself, in the manner described in the first point, or in any other way I feel to be better. (St. Ignatius SE 235)
I’m guessing if Ignatius lived today, some well-meaning Christians just might call this dear saint one of those green environmentalists who go around hugging trees. Much like his earlier counterpart, Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola became one who truly appreciated the world around him, finding the love of God in even the smallest aspects of creation. Here in Ignatius’ writings (our text for today) we find him encouraging those who journey through his Exercises to consider how the Divine Majesty dwells in nature; in the plants and animals around us, in human beings, and throughout the entirety of the cosmos.
It seems from reading their histories that both Francis and Ignatius were abducted by God on this journey inward and upward, ending up at the latter part of their lives at a much different place than where they began. Both men labored intensely as gallant soldiers when they were young, serving their earthly kings and kingdoms with dedicated zeal. But then God, the Peacemaker, intervened. For Francis, God came through a bout with a high fever and near-death illness that reduced him to next-to-nothingness. For Ignatius, it was a cannon ball that shredded his legs, placing him in a recovery bed for months, leaving him both helpless and hopeless. Yet, while both men experienced their earthly dreams being dashed to bits, God eventually sent His redeeming love to not only rescue these broken soldiers, but to transform them into two peace-lovers who saw the world around them through a completely different lens.
As I see it, that unique lens that transformed two worldly war-makers into saintly lovers was God’s agape love. You see, once you and I begin to allow God’s un-relenting, un-yielding, un-merited love to penetrate deep into our sin-sick hearts and souls, the radical reformation of how we view God, His creation, and yes, even ourselves, has begun. Thus a man who was once a war-monger, consumed with gathering worldly bounties into his own war chest can become so radically transformed by the agape love of God, that he no longer hungers for war, but becomes a pro-active advocate for peace.
This kind of radical transformation is reflected in so many of the stories left for us about men and women who once wanted the world on a string but then, once touched by the love of God, would trade it all for one precious moment in the presence of our Loving Creator.
Let me conclude today’s session by once again bringing us back to a classic hymn. This time, let’s look at one I referenced a few sessions back. Isaac Watts, in 1707, wrote the classic hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross; a hymn so well-crafted that the famous composer, Charles Wesley, once said that he would give up all his other hymns to have written this one.
Legend has it that one Sunday afternoon, the young Isaac Watts was complaining about the deplorable hymns that were being sung at church. At that time, metered renditions of the Psalms were intoned by a cantor and then repeated mindlessly by the congregation. His father, the pastor of the church, rebuked him with “I’d like to see you write something better!” Isaac retired to his room and appeared several hours later with his first hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, and it was enthusiastically received at the Sunday evening service the same night! Although this tale probably is more legend than fact, Isaac Watts did go on to pen over six hundred hymns, rightfully earning him the title, “the father of English hymnody.”
As I was reflecting today on Ignatius’ call to consider the plants and animals that fill God’s wondrous creation, finding the Divine Majesty fully evident in all these things, my thoughts took me back to the fifth and final verse of Watt’s famous hymn.
Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.
Though all three men were separated by approximately 200 years or more of church history, I wonder of Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola and Isaac Watts alike might have truly found that sweet spot in God’s agape love when they expressed how the “whole realm of nature” was used to point them all to a “love so amazing, so divine.”
My prayer: Father God, I see Your love in everything around me. The whole realm of nature speaks of Your glory. And most of all, when I’m indwelled and empowered by the Holy Spirit, I not only feel Your love coming toward me, I also can release that love back into Your hands and into my world. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: What needs to change in me today so that I can become much more aware of the Divine Majesty dwelling in me, in others, and throughout His creation?
So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together The Ignatian Adventure?
Over an eight month period, you and I will be working our way through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. For more information on our journey and how to begin…click here!
To go onto the next journal entry…click here.