Continuation of Living with the Lord Always before them
In following the flow of this essay after these preliminary considerations, there will first be a brief, yet significantly foundational, look at Ignatius of Loyola and Dallas Willard in a way that can help to establish some of the needed contextual understandings of their lives and selected works. However, the main work of this essay will attempt to respond to the three areas of interest highlighted above by a consistent focus on our two spiritual guides regarding their message, their guidance, and the experience of contemporary spiritual seekers who reflect on The Spiritual Exercises and Renovation of the Heart, respectively. In order to establish somewhat of an “orderly process” (6) for reflecting on spiritual formation in Christ in the company of Ignatius of Loyola and Dallas Willard, five key movements will be offered as unifying threads for our consideration of the work of spiritual transformation as follows: (1) building on graced foundations; (2) experiencing God’s healing love and reconciliation; (3) discerning the call of Christ Jesus; (4) taking up our cross with Christ Jesus; and (5) learning the ways of God’s love.
In the process of tracing these five spiritual movements through The Spiritual Exercises and Renovation of the Heart, it needs to be noted that there are some significant differences inherent in the paradigms of both medieval and evangelical piety, relevant to Ignatius of Loyola and Dallas Willard, respectively. In an effective summary of such distinctions in the context of dynamics of the spiritual journey, theologian Timothy George makes the case that
evangelical piety turns upside down the medieval paradigm of a pathway to God. There the journey of faith began with purgation, moved on to illumination, and finally, ended in unification, that is, union with God. In the evangelical understanding, we begin with union with Christ (the new birth) and move on through Word and Spirit to illumination and the process of sanctification until, at last, in heaven we see Christ face to face. (7)
While it is appropriate to acknowledge such key distinctive elements as found in the medieval and evangelical paradigms, the main task of this essay will be to explore the more unifying and fluid aspects of the above-named five key movements of the spiritual journey in the company of our two spiritual guides, Ignatius of Loyola and Dallas Willard. Our explorations into the richness of The Spiritual Exercises and Renovation of the Heart can offer fruitful reflections and encouragement to contemporary spiritual seekers who find themselves earnestly on the pathways of their own spiritual transformation in whatever “order” they might be drawn to the commonly shared awareness, inherent in both forms of piety, that “we can never earn God’s favor and goodwill toward us–[for] that is what is so amazing about grace!” (8)
IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA AS SPIRITUAL GUIDE
To say that Ignatius of Loyola [1491-1556] can be considered as a spiritual guide with experience would be to complement the way that Harvey Egan describes Ignatius in his Anthology of Christian Mysticism as follows:
Ignatius of Loyola became known for his role as ascetic, spiritual director, champion of the poor and sick, reformer of the Church, a counter-reformer, advisor to popes, cardinals, bishops, kings, princes, and other heads of state, founder of the Society of Jesus, leader of men, and initiator of world-wide missionary activity. As educational innovator, his Spiritual Exercises changed the course of the history of spirituality from the 16th century to the present day. (9)
And yet, before the shattering of his leg by a cannonball while in battle during his days as a soldier, Ignatius “drove himself toward success, recognition, and esteem … [however,] neither gambling, womanizing, nor dueling filled the void within his heart.” (10) For it was during his time of recuperation from his wounds from the battle at Pamplona, that Ignatius was led by God’s grace to the path of true conversion and formation in Christ that can be succinctly described as follows:
True conversion comes when we turn to God, acknowledging that only God can fill our emptiness and that God's love has already been poured out by Jesus. We cannot earn God's love because Jesus gives it to us freely and constantly--if we will open ourselves to it. Ignatius needed to let go and trust God. Only then could God fill the emptiness in his heart. (11)
It is important to note that in the process of his series of conversion experiences from his period of solitude and healing while at Loyola, Ignatius was in the early stages of developing his gift of discernment of spirits whereas he developed his capacity to stay with certain thoughts and desires and then afterwards he would notice where they led him interiorly. Gradually, the thoughts of serving Christ as his King brought him great interior joy and lasting peace, and “after his conversion, Ignatius strove to serve the greater glory of the one true ruler of the world: Christ” (12) rather than dedicating himself to an earthly monarch. As George E. Ganss aptly points out in a quote from The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, containing the guiding principles for the Jesuits, the religious order of men later founded by Ignatius:
God was the center and preoccupation of Ignatius' thoughts, and the object of his special love, and the beloved Person for whom he wanted to do all the little acts which make up daily living. He wanted to be bound irrevocably to God, with the bridges burnt which might lead back to another way of living in which he might have interests other than God--God and [all others] for whom Jesus Christ had shed His blood. (13)
Ignatius of Loyola spent the rest of his life desiring and seeking the greater glory of God in his inspired attempts “to reach a balance of prayer and action, realizing that one without the other puts our spirituality out of harmony.” (14)
It was during his time of his conversion, particularly while at Manresa, that Ignatius developed what came to be known as the first draft of The Spiritual Exercises, a spiritual manual that was to be frequently revised throughout his life. According to Ignatius’ intention, The Spiritual Exercises were designed for working along with a spiritual guide. (15) The four weeks into which The Spiritual Exercises are divided are “fixed and equal periods only by courtesy, like the days of creation. Each ‘week’ represents a stage–a true week being the optimum duration” (16) with section numbers sequentially bracketed in order to designate the content for each of these weeks. (17) For our purposes here, the main sections of The Spiritual Exercises under consideration in this essay can be adequately summarized as follows:
The First Principle and Foundation [SE 23]: Ignatius designed the First Principle and Foundation in order to awaken the spiritual desires of the spiritual seeker [or retreatant].
The First Week [SE 24-90]: It is likewise important to note that it is “the loved sinner [that] stands at the center of the First Week which really dwells on love, God’s love, which is greater than human sin.” (18)
The Second Week [SE 91-189]: Given the extensive and Gospel-oriented content of the Second Week, the spiritual seeker is led through prayer and experience into the mysteries of the life of Christ while developing a keener sense of discernment of spirits.
The Third Week [SE 190-217]: The “entire paschal mystery grounds the Third Week. Followers, then and now, must choose their response to this encounter with mystery, an encounter that can lead to new depths of compassion, friendship, and love.” (19)
The Fourth Week/Contemplatio [SE 218-237]: The nature of the grace of joy that Ignatius had in mind here can be described as follows: “We are concerned with paschal joy, the joy proper to Easter, the joy which springs from a still more fundamental grace, that of the faith and love that make the Risen Christ, though invisible, the very core of the believer’s existence.” (20)
Thus, the “genius of The Spiritual Exercises is that they combined the accumulated spiritual wisdom of the Christian centuries with the direct lessons by [Ignatius] himself.” (21) As George E. Ganss so effectively summarizes:
St. Ignatius [has] a dynamic spirituality which [is] ordered toward both personal spiritual growth and energetic apostolic endeavor. It [is] firmly based on the chief truths in God’s revelation, with a particular focus on God’s plan for the creation, redemption, and spiritual development of the human beings who use their freedom wisely–that plan of salvation which St. Paul calls “the mystery of Christ.” (22)
DALLAS WILLARD AS SPIRITUAL GUIDE
In her insightful article, “A Divine Conspirator,” Christine A. Scheller contends that Dallas Willard [1935- ] is most familiar to many Christians from his books, and it is philosophy that is “both his primary vocation and the foundation of his devotional writing.” (23) As he continues his long tenure as a professor at the University of Southern California, Willard is known to his students and colleagues for his academic honesty, and he asserts that “while he doesn’t believe anyone will be saved except by Jesus, he adds: ‘How that works out, probably no one knows.'” (24) And yet, with evidence inherent in Willard’s legacy of prolific writings, there is a palpable reassurance at work that Dallas Willard continues to make “the search for deeper spirituality and efforts to understand spiritual formation” (25) accessible to contemporary seekers who desire “a renovation of the heart into Christ likeness.” (26) For who could fail to be inspired by a spiritual guide who can say the following: “All scripture is inspired, but some of it is electric. The power of the Holy Spirit hums in the lines so thrillingly that you hardly dare to touch them.” (27) Willard’s compelling message that there is a need for a “thoroughgoing inner transformation through Christ” (28) is one that can draw spiritual seekers who are “out of shape, spiritually speaking.” (29) A possible remedy offered for some soul-shaping exercises designed for spiritual fitness may be found in Dallas Willard’s book, Renovation of the Heart.
Renovation of the Heart is clearly divided into two major parts with the first part (chapters one through five) dealing with the right understanding of the relationship between human existence and divine operation and the second part (chapters six through thirteen) dealing with the essential dimensions of human personality and how they should be transformed. (30) All through the book, Willard makes the significant claim that “the renovation of the heart into Christ likeness is not something that concerns the heart (spirit, will) alone.” (31) Therefore, “it is important for us to understand the idea that we renovate the heart by changing it, but we can’t truly transform the heart without changing the other essential parts of the human personality.” (32) It is this assertion that leads Willard to effectively develop his VIM schema (Vision, Intention, and Means) as necessary for transformation. (33) Believing that the work of spiritual transformation by necessity involves a community aspect, Willard offers a key clarification of the difference between vessel [traditions and denominations] and treasure [the Great Commission] with a rightful caution to avoid making the vessel the treasure. (34)
Since, according to Willard, the process of spiritual formation involves “those who love and trust Jesus Christ [and] effectively take on his character,” their “outward conformity to His example and His instructions rises toward fullness as their inward sources of action take on the same character as His. They come more and more to share His vision, love, hope, feelings, and habits.” (35) Thus, through the work of his book, Renovation of the Heart, Willard desires that through “spiritual formation in Christlikeness as the sure outcome of well-directed activities that are under the personal supervision of Christ and are sustained by all of the instrumentalities of his grace,” the benefits offered to what Willard refers to as our “aching world” will be enormous. (36) Given his assertion that “it is only spiritual formation in Christ that makes us at home on earth,” Willard then urges us as spiritual seekers to notice that “Christ brings me to the place where I am able to walk beside my neighbor, whoever he or she may be. I am not above them. I am beside them: their servant, living with them through the events common to all of us.” (37)
Movement One: Building on Graced Foundations
God who loves us creates us and wants to share life with us forever. (38)
–Ignatius of Loyola
Genuine transformation of the whole person into the goodness and power seen in Jesus and his “Abba” Father–the only transformation adequate to the human self–remains the necessary goal of human life. (39)
In pondering the First Principle and Foundation at the beginning of The Spiritual Exercises, it seems evident that Ignatius simply and profoundly prioritizes his acknowledgement of the level of God’s desire for us. Here Ignatius creates a context of “the sense of creaturehood that underlies the First Principle and Foundation … For we are beings of love, created out of love … [and] a person must begin the Exercises with the awareness of being a creature of love.” (40) This sense of creaturehood may seem as basic as “the answer to the catechism question, ‘Why did God create me?'” (41) However, a “sense of creaturehood is not just an intellectual realization.” (42)
Rather, creaturehood is a deep awareness. In some ways it comes from our human condition, and in some ways it comes from grace. Creature-hood contains a mixture of feelings involving a feeling of fear and at the same time a feeling of security. Christians know themselves as dependent beings who are surrounded by love. At the very least, Christians should be sure that they are safe in the arms of their Creator. (43)
Thus, in our growing awareness of ourselves as loved and created by a God, we may come to know our “desirableness” where “we come to know that [God’s] desire makes us desirable, makes us ‘the apple of [God’s] eye.'” (44) For “such an experience of our creation is the affective first principle and foundation upon which not only the Ignatian Exercises rest, but upon which any development of a personal relationship with God must rest.” (45) However, as we shall see, there is often difficulty in claiming this degree of “desirableness” since our life histories can hold countless examples of how others did not always see us as so desirable or lovable. As a result, significant interior conflicts can often occur in spiritual seekers who experience degrees of difficulty in believing in their graced identities.
Building on his foundational focus, Ignatius succinctly frames the retreatant’s response to the unconditional love of God, our Creator, as follows: “Our love response takes shape in our praise and honor and service of the God of our life.” (46) For “the Foundation outlines a vision of life and the most basic criteria for making choices. It says that we live well and attain our ultimate purpose by loving just one thing, or rather some One … [For] according to the Foundation, serving God is what makes us happy.” (47)
Given that spiritual seekers may struggle with where to begin in pondering the deeper implications of Ignatius’ Principle and Foundation in their day-to-day living, some valuable questions (48) for further prayer and reflection in light of Ignatius’ foundational premise may be considered:
(1) How would you describe your world and how it influences you?
(2) How do you imagine God?
(3) What is your relationship to others and all of God’s creation?
(4) What is your part in creation?
(5) What are the dominant influences on your sense of God, humans, heaven and earth?
(6) What does it mean to exist in this vast unfolding universe? (49)
In accompaniment with the focus on the wonder of our creation in the image and likeness of God as put forth by Ignatius of Loyola in his First Principle and Foundation [SE 23], spiritual seekers may also greatly profit from the spiritual guidance of Dallas Willard as they reflect and pray with various sections of his Renovation of the Heart. At this point in our consideration of our two spiritual guides, it can be instructive to note that where Ignatius offers four paragraphs of concise construction and exhortation at the outset of his Spiritual Exercises, Willard more extensively clarifies what he means by the orderly process of spiritual formation in Christ as creatively woven and reinforced all throughout his book. For example, Willard asserts: “Instead of focusing upon what God can do, we must humble ourselves to accept the ways he has chosen to work with us. [For] these are clearly laid out in the Bible, and especially in the words and person of Jesus.” (50) For the goal is to
leave our burdensome ways of heavy labor–especially the ‘religious ones’–and step into the yoke of training with [Jesus]. This is a way of gentleness and lowliness, a way of soul rest. It is a way of inner transformation that proves pulling his load and carrying his burden with him to be a life that is easy and light (Matthew 11:28-30). (51)
Willard effectively offers what he deems to be essential reflections on each of the six dimensions of the human person in Renovation of the Heart, summarized here as follows:
1. Thought–brings before our minds in various ways (including perception and imagination) and enables us to consider them in various respects and trace out their relationships with one another. (52)
2. Feeling–inclines us toward or away from things that come before our minds and thought. (53)
3. Will (Spirit, Heart)–volition or choice, is the exercise of the will the capacity of the person to originate things and events that would not otherwise be or occur. (54)
4. Body–the focal point of our presence in the physical and social world. (55)
5. Social Context–the human self requires rootedness in others. (56)
6. Soul–that dimension of the person that interrelates all of the other dimensions so that they form one life. (57)
In light of these six dimensions, Dallas Willard, similarly to Ignatius of Loyola, acknowledges the holistic nature of the process of spiritual transformation into Christ-likeness as the integration of these six areas requiring consistent attention. No small task for the spiritual seeker “who has been found by Christ” and who places oneself “at the disposal of God!” (58)
Movement Two: Experiencing God’s Healing Love and Reconciliation
I raise my mind and think how God our Lord is looking at me. (59)
–Ignatius of Loyola
When God stands before us, we stand before him. Refusing to worship him is a way of trying to avoid his face and his eyes. (60)
For the spiritual seeker who has allowed Ignatius’ First Principle and Foundation to become essential in his or her life, it is important that there has been an “experience of God as the Creator who loves us into existence for community with God.” (61) As Ignatius himself asserts: “Our love response takes shape in our praise and honor and service of the God of our life.” (62) This awareness helps to lead the retreatant from pondering the Principle and Foundation into the spiritual work of the First Week of the Ignatian Exercises.
However, apparent progress in this First Week may be slow since “it is often difficult to let our experiences of God’s dream and creative love take root in our hearts.” (63) What might be the cause of such difficulty? It is likely that a poor self-image can get in the way as well as distorted images of God can reveal themselves in people’s illusions that “God needs to be placated, and yet that God is really implacable … The illusion comes down to the belief that I am rotten to the core and unlovable.” (64) For “the fact that we need reassurance about God’s love of us sinners indicates that at this stage of our spiritual journey we also labor under an illusion. It is difficult for us to believe in our bones that God loves sinners.” (65) It is important to note that Ignatius is not as interested in a detailed list of past sins as much as clear attentiveness to areas of disorder that can serve as the backdrop for everyday decisions that can lead to darkness and desolation.
Thus, it is with a growing spirit of gratitude that we can allow ourselves to stand in the face of God’s tenderness and mercy where Ignatius exclaims: “This is an exclamation of wonder and surging emotion, uttered as I reflect on all creatures and wonder how they have allowed me to live and have preserved me in life. The angels: How is it that, although they are the swords of God’s justice, they have borne with me, protected me, and prayed for me? The saints: How is it that they have interceded and prayed for me?” (66) As Ignatian scholar, Michael Ivens, so well expresses: “In this final point, with its mood of wonder and ‘intense affection,’ the exercitant [retreatant] is already moving towards the concluding prayer of gratitude.” (67)
At the beginning of Chapter Three of his Renovation of the Heart, Dallas Willard makes the following astute observation: “One of the greatest obstacles to effective spiritual transformation in Christ today is simple failure to understand and acknowledge the reality of the human situation as it affects Christians and non-Christians alike. We must start from where we really are.” (68) Similar to where Ignatius of Loyola can exhort me as a retreatant to “raise my mind and think how God our Lord is looking at me,” (69) so too Dallas Willard reinforces that “when God stands before us, we stand before him.” (70) As Willard effectively emphasizes further while complementing the more concisely expressed spiritual guidance of Ignatius: “The tender soul of a little child shows us how necessary it is to us that we be unobserved in our wrong. The adult carries the same burden–but now so great as to be crushed by it…. The so-called ‘right to privacy’ of which so much is made in contemporary life is in very large measure merely a way of avoiding scrutiny in our wrongdoing.” (71) To illustrate the need for accountability in our quest for transformation, Willard showcases the Twelve Steps used by Alcoholics Anonymous and other similar 12-Step programs that include “the personal and social arrangements in which they are concretely embodied, including a conscious involvement of God in the individual’s life.” (72)
In light of our need to bring God and others into our process of transformation that contains a plan that complements one’s good intentions, Dallas Willard offers what he calls the VIM pattern that includes the essential components of (1) vision; (2) intention; and (3) means. Since Willard rightfully acknowledges that “vim” is a “derivative of the Latin term ‘vis,’ meaning direction, strength, force, vigor, power, energy, or virtue,” (73) it seems appropriate that this acronym contains the essential elements inherent in our process of being spiritually formed in Christ. The goal of this VIM process is not merely outward conformity to Gospel teachings, but rather a progression “to the point where what Jesus himself did and taught would be the natural outflow of who [we] really are ‘on the inside.'” (74) More will be said about how the VIM process relates to the glimpse of the Kingdom of God that is necessary to proceed while considering Movement Three in the next section of this essay.
Movement Three: Discerning the Call of Christ Jesus
I ask Jesus our Lord that I might not be deaf to his call in my life and that I might be ready and willing to do what he wants. (75)
–Ignatius of Loyola
If we are concerned about our own spiritual formation or that of others, the vision of the kingdom is the place we must start. (76)
As we become more aware of our desires in light of God’s desires, “we discover what we should do and what we should choose as we grow in our capacity to act and choose. As a result, we find that we are not making a choice after all; rather, the Spirit is constantly disposing us.” (77) It seems that before spiritual seekers can authentically consider what more they might do for God, most people “want to experience the closeness and care of God, but hold little hope that God will actually be a felt presence. In other words, some people expect so little of God and have an image of God as being more niggardly than God actually is.” (78) To further illustrate this point here, I remember one of my directees named “Carol” saying to me many years ago: “You know, I have come to believe that I have a spirituality of deprivation rather than abundance when it comes to my relationship with God. I often expect so little of God! I think that God wants me, rather, to have a spirituality of abundance where I can expect great and wonderful things of God!”
Perhaps it can be most helpful for us to remember in the company of Ignatius that “God always moves first, searching for us.” (79) Awareness of our true dependence on God is of greatest importance to facilitate our understanding that “another prerequisite for the freedom that comes from knowing God’s love is prayer to the Holy Spirit. We seek what is solely a gift from God.” (80) Jesuit John English so well captures the spirit of Ignatius as follows:
Jesus said, "The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all I have said to you" (John 14:26). He also said, "The truth will make you free" (John 8:31). The basic truth that makes us free is that God loves us with an overwhelming love. It follows that our prayer ... should ask the Holy Spirit to make us aware of God's love, to help us so "abide in God's love," and to give us the trust to surrender in all freedom to God's loving desire for us. (81)
As indicated, Ignatius’ own process of discernment began while he was recuperating at Loyola when he noticed “that two sets of daydreams led to different affective states, and he drew the conclusion that God was leading him toward a new way of life, away from the life of chivalry that gave him so much apparent pleasure.” (82) As we, as contemporary spiritual seekers continue to plumb the depths of our own desires, we may be drawn to notice that “God desires that the actions of each of us be in tune with God’s one action; in our best moment, we too desire to be in tune with God’s action.” (83) This metaphor of being “in tune” with God may be aptly described and enhanced as follows:
Have you ever experienced a time when you were "in the flow," able to live with relative unambivalence and lack of fear in the "now," attuned to the presence of God? Then you have an idea of what it might be like to be at one with the one action of God. In such a state you are a contemplative in action. You know that you are in the right place at the right time ... To be attuned to the one action of God, to [God's] will, is to be extraordinarily free, happy, and fulfilled even in the midst of a world of sorrow and pain. (84)
To the spiritual guide walking with a discerning person, the following sound advice may be appropriate to recall: “When guides are discerning whether good or evil is at work, they should remember that ‘you will know them by their fruits’ (Matthew 7:20).” (85)
As surprised as we may be that Christ would choose us, it is important to remember that the call “of Christ brings with it further gifts–a soul-expanding generosity; new burning desires for service; and a remarkable confidence in what Christ can do. Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten One, offers us the chance to work at his side. How can we refuse?” (86) Christ offers personal love, but he offers it in a new way. Jesus is saying ‘Come and labor with me.’ He is offering companionship.” (87) Thus, with the spiritual guidance of Ignatius of Loyola, we seek to understand how we can serve Jesus Christ. How can we be with Christ, working for the fulfillment of the world?” (88)
As promised and as a fitting complement to Ignatius’ clear focus regarding our need to respond wholeheartedly to the call and mission of Christ, it is now that our discussion of Movement Three continues with a closer look at Dallas Willard’s VIM process including vision, intention and means, with an emphasis on the quality of discernment that involves our clear “intention to be a kingdom person.” (89) One might ask: How do I know that I am following the call of Christ in my life? What reassurance do I have that I am not just listening to myself and doing what I want? In response to such concerns, Dallas Willard affirms that “in the clear and forceful vision of Jesus and his kingdom, as our personality becomes progressively more reorganized around God and his eternal life, self-denial moves beyond more or less frequent acts to settled disposition and character.” (90)
As a practical guide to this progression toward complete identification of our will with God’s, Willard offers the following distinctions to be noted: (1) Surrender–a person’s consent to God’s supremacy in all things; (2) Abandonment–there is no part of oneself that holds back from God’s will; (3) Contentment–we are assured that God has done, and will always do, well by us–no matter what; and (4) Participation–the accomplishing of God’s will in our world. (91) Given the thoroughness of these key four distinctions of complete identification of our will with God, Willard astutely asks what many others may be asking at this point: “Do we then lose ourselves?” (92) While responding that it would be impossible for a fully functioning human person not to have a will, Willard reiterates what true spiritual transformation really means when he clarifies that “for the first time to have a will that is fully functional, not at war with itself, and capable of directing all of the parts of the self in harmony with one another under the direction of God.” (93) The good news is that “for the first time we not only have a fully functioning will, but we also have a clear identity in the eternal kingdom of God and can day by day translate our time into an eternity embedded in our own life and in the lives of those near us. The will of God is not foreign to our will. It is sweetness, life, and strength to us. Our heart sings.” (94)
Movement Four: Taking Up Our Cross with Christ Jesus
I continue to pray with the gift of being able to feel sorrow with Jesus in sorrow, to be anguished with Jesus’ anguish, and even to experience tears and deep grief because of all the afflictions which Jesus endured for me. (95)
–Ignatius of Loyola
And then [Jesus] uses an absolutely shocking image–one all too familiar to his hearers, but rather hard for us to fully appreciate today. It was that of a man carrying on his back the lumber that would be used to kill him when he arrived at the place of execution. “Whoever does not come after me carrying his own cross cannot be my apprentice” (Luke 14:27, par). (96)
As spiritual seekers continue to travel with Jesus on the journey that takes him to Jerusalem, they often develop a deepening desire to stay with Jesus on this difficult road that eventually leads to Calvary. Even here the focus remains on the Lord. In asking for such a grace, retreatants “are not seeking to shoulder a heavy burden of guilt, but to ponder a mystery of love–that Jesus could love us enough to suffer and die for us.” (97)
In moving more deeply into the contemplative exercises related to Jesus’ journey to Calvary as progressively detailed in Ignatius’ Third Week, it may be well to recall that these reflections are “intended to help us escape our narrow selves–we die to ourselves. This demands a deeply personal union with Jesus in suffering … [We] ask for the grace to be drawn beyond ourselves. In dying to ourselves through union with Christ suffering, we gain strength and courage, freedom and conviction–all those graces that are necessary to do the desire of God.” (98) In order to facilitate the depth of one’s heartfelt longing for this grace, Ignatius invites each spiritual seeker to “maintain a certain attitude of sorrow and anguish by calling to mind frequently the labors, fatigue, and suffering which Jesus our Lord endured from the time of his birth down to the particular mystery of the Passion which I am presently contemplating.” (99)
In order to allow this level of desire of being with Jesus in his suffering to be increasingly connected to areas of suffering experienced by contemporary spiritual seekers, the following questions may prove to be helpful: “(1) What happens as a result of this suffering? (2) How can I learn to suffer for the right reasons and what are they? (3) How can I see meaning in this suffering, leading me to greater faith, hope, and love? (4) How do I identify the value of living with pain and how do I get out of pain that is destructive?” (100) As rightfully noted by the authors of The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: “Past interpretations of spirituality and theology uncritically accepted the value of suffering. Today, however, the insights of psychology and liberation theology demand the alleviation of demeaning and unjust suffering and expose the ways people and systems legitimate this kind of oppression.” (101)
As an enhancement to what has been observed about the loving labor needed to be present to Jesus in his suffering both on the cross and in our contemporary world, the following points effectively characterize the depths of compassion needed since “contemplating the passion draws us closer to Christ and deeper into the procession of suffering humanity … We discover the divinity hidden in weakness today. We share God’s grief over humanity and our wounded earth. We locate our own suffering in a larger context. Finally, we are strengthened for the persecution that befalls all who take the gospel, and life itself, seriously.” (102)
While Dallas Willard does not try to mitigate Jesus’ words in Luke 14:27, he is also quick to point out that “one of the great dangers in the process of spiritual formation is that self-denial and death to self will be taken as but one more technique or ‘job’ for those who wish to save their life (soul).” (103) A key point of emphasis that serves to clarify the meaning of the interior work entailed in the carrying of our cross with Jesus in our daily lives can be summed up by Willard as follows: “This dreary and deadly ‘self-denial,’ which is all too commonly associated with religion, can be avoided only if the primary fact of our inner being is a loving vision of Jesus and his kingdom. This is where correctly counting the cost comes in.” (104)
It seems important to note at this point that while Ignatius of Loyola tends to render practices of penance or self-denial as “always seen in terms of my love response to God,” (105) Dallas Willard offers an essential vigilance that can be instructive regarding such penitential practices where he asserts: “Practices of ‘mortification’ can become exercises in more self-righteousness. How often this has happened!” (106) Willard extends his caution about how the phrase “death to self” can be interpreted when he makes the following observation: “Self-denial will then externalize itself in overt practices of group identity that may seem very sacrificial, but can leave the ‘mind of the flesh’ in full control. We see this, for example, in many who wear what they regard as plain clothing or who abstain from certain foods.” (107) Likewise, the authors of The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed echo Willard’s rightful caution regarding ascetical practices as follows: “Paying close attention to his [Ignatius’] insight about inner conversion leading to outer asceticism can help keep penances in their rightful place as useful means to a significant goal: assuming one’s rightful freedom as called, graced, and missioned.” (108)
Perhaps a viable reinterpretation for our times of what it means to “carry one’s cross” could rightfully include the following discernment question: “To what am I attached and therefore unconsciously substitute for the source of life?” (109) Even beyond the individual reinterpretation of what it means to “come after Jesus while carrying my own cross” (Luke 14:27, par), it may also be helpful to engage in the communal process of “expanding Ignatius’ perspective to include cultural and social systems and the natural environment within which each individual dwells as an interdependent member [in order to uncover] new possibilities for reclaiming asceticism.” (110)
The true spirit of such a giving up of one’s life as it has been understood before following Jesus can be made clear in the words of Saint Paul to the Philippians where Paul shares his compelling perspective on his desire to be formed into Christ Jesus: “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, in order to participate in the life of His resurrection (Philippians 3:10-11).” (111) As Dallas Willard appropriately asks: “What are we to say of anyone who thinks they have something more important to do than that?” (112)
Movement Five: Learning the Ways of God’s Love
I beg for the grace of being able to enter into the joy and consolation of Jesus as he savors the victory of his risen life. (113)
–Ignatius of Loyola
Jesus’ resurrected presence with us, along with his teaching, assures us of God’s care for all who let him be God and let him care for them. “Do not be afraid, little flock,’ for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). (114)
Ignatius allows the retreatant to gently move from praying with Christ’s passion and death to praying for the grace to know Jesus’ joy and consolation in the fullness of his risen life. In order to assist the retreatant in praying for the grace of this intense joy with risen Jesus, Ignatius includes thirteen apparitions [SE 299-311] and this is “a beautiful way of showing how Jesus goes about bringing joy, hope, and confidence to people. All of the Resurrection appearances have the Immanuel theme–the continuation of the Incarnation today. God continues with us and is present to us.” (115)
Another factor so common “to many of the appearance narratives [is] the importance of witness. The experience of the risen Jesus by one of his followers opens the way for his revelation to another.” (116) As eloquently expressed by Neil Vaney in Christ in a Grain of Sand:
As dawn cast a livid scar across the sky Mary hurried to the tomb through streets heavy with morning ... Racing back to tell Peter and John that the stone was gone One thought held all: where had they hidden her love? Tell me, gardener, where is my love? Is hardly a sane question at six at a rock tomb. His response, Mary, was an echo of past days And an identity rediscovered at this feet ... That ageless moment of recognition "I have seen the Lord" Now becomes a sign of witness and a call to all. (117)
It needs to be noted, however, that a significant number of spiritual seekers often experience unexpected difficulties in praying for this depth of joy with Jesus in “the office of consoler that Christ our Lord exercises.” (118) In light of such concerns and challenges, the following reminder can be instructive: “Remember that you are asking for a grace, a personal revelation of Jesus, not something that is in your power to attain on your own. It may take some time before this grace is given … At any rate, be patient with yourself as you contemplate these resurrection scenes and keep insisting with Jesus that you want to share in his joy.” (119) For, “to receive the grace of the joy of the resurrection we must accept the full reality of the horror of the crucifixion. Jesus, glorified, still bears the marks of that horror in his hands, feet, and side.” (120)
Toward the end of The Spiritual Exercises, a spiritual seeker can experience a growing sense of transformative completion by reflecting on Ignatius’ Contemplation to Attain Love [SE 230-237] as a way of inviting us to see God working in all creation to ‘make all things new’ and to respond in loving service.” (121) It is important to consider that Ignatius skillfully lays the important groundwork for entering into this Contemplatio in “supplying two pre-notes: ‘The first is that love ought to manifest itself in deeds rather than in words’ [SE 230]. ‘The second is that love consists in a mutual sharing of goods, for example, the lover gives and shares with the beloved what he possesses’ [SE 231].” (122)
As the spiritual seekers continue their sustained reflections on Ignatius’ Contemplatio, they are led into four distinct, yet related, “points” that can be simply summarized as follows: (1) First Point: I will call back into my memory the gifts I have received–my creation, redemption, and other gifts particular to myself; (2) Second Point: I will consider how God dwells in creatures; (3) Third Point: I will consider how God labors and works for me in all the creatures on the face of the earth; that is, [God] acts in the manner of one who is laboring; and [4) Fourth Point: I will consider how all good things and gifts descend from above. (123)
Beginning with the First Point and after each of the subsequent three points, Ignatius suggests that retreatants “make an offering of themselves in terms of the ‘Take, Lord, and Receive’ prayer:” (124) “Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and all my will–all that I have and possess. You, Lord, have given all that to me. I now give it back to you, O Lord. All of it is yours. Dispose of it according to your will. Give me love of yourself along with your grace, for that is enough for me.” (125) If “this offering is approached in the biblical way of a covenant relationship with God, it is much more meaningful.” (126)
Dallas Willard rightly observes the following: “In laying down my life I must experience much more than ‘my strength, my wealth, my power.’ … The necessary support for giving and forgiving is abundantly supplied by Jesus through the reality of the Kingdom of God that he brings into our lives … when we experience cross and tomb, but resurrection is not yet.” (127) Thus, as one moves through the Paschal Mystery while reflecting on the implications of what it means to have Jesus’ resurrected presence with us, Dallas Willard asserts that “it is the love of God, admiration and confidence in his greatness and goodness, and the regular experience of his care that free us from the burden of ‘looking out for ourselves.'” (128)
As a fitting complement to the four points of Ignatius’ Contemplatio, Dallas Willard outlines what he calls “Four Movements Toward Perfect Love” which can be summarized as follows: (1) First Movement of Love–the acknowledgement that no other source, whether inside or outside of religions, even comes close to what God in Christ shows of love, particularly exemplified in Christ’s laying down His life for us (1 John 3:16); (2) Second Movement of Love–the acknowledgement that the first great commandment, to love God with all our being, can be fulfilled because of the beauty of God given in Christ; (3) Third Movement of Love–the acknowledgement that the first great commandment makes it possible to fulfill the second: love of neighbor as oneself (1 John 4:12); (4) Fourth Movement of Love–the acknowledgement that the fellowship of Christ’s apprentices in kingdom living is a community of love (John 13:34-35). (129) Thus, Willard offers the articulation of these movements of love as a way for us to “live in the community of goodwill from a competent God” with an assurance that “those who live in the fulfillment of God’s redemptive love in human life will no longer experience fear and the [resulting] torment that is incompatible with living in the full cycle of love (1 John 4:18, par).” (130)
However, love is inextricably bound to joy and peace, according to Willard’s reflections on living one’s life in the presence of the Risen Lord. Similar in tone to Ignatius of Loyola, Dallas Willard asserts that “joy is a basic element of inner transformation into Christlikeness and of the outer life that flows from it … [since] full joy is our first line of defense against weakness, failure, and disease of mind and body.” (131) Likewise, Willard describes “peace as the rest of will that results from assurance about ‘how things will turn out’ [since] when ‘I am at peace about it,’ we say, and this means I am no longer striving, inwardly or outwardly, to save some outcome dear to me or to avoid one that I reject.” (132) When Willard talks about peace with God, he is reflecting on the quality of peace that “comes only from acceptance of his gift of life in his Son (Romans 5:1-2). We are then assured of the outcome of our life and are no longer trying to justify ourselves before God or others.” (133)
Dallas Willard aptly reflects that “spiritual formation is not only formation of the spirit or inner being of the individual, though that is both the process and the outcome, it is formation by the Spirit of God and by the spiritual riches of Christ’s continuing incarnation in his people–including most prominently, the treasures of his written and spoken word and the amazing personalities of those in whom he has most fully lived.” (134) The work of this essay has been to shed the spotlight on Ignatius of Loyola and Dallas Willard as two viable spiritual guides for our contemporary times since they have indeed given evidence of having “walked the walk” of following Christ with “the Lord always before them.” (135) Thus, “we learn from them how to do that by making them our close companions on the way” in our ongoing quest to engage in the process of spiritual formation and transformation into Christ-likeness. (136) As a result, we can be filled with thanks for the lives of Ignatius of Loyola and Dallas Willard who continue to give testimony to the essence of what it means to “take love itself–God’s kind of love–into the depths of our being through spiritual formation [that will] enable us to act lovingly to an extent that will be surprising even to ourselves, at first.” (137)
In the process of giving thanks for the graces given for being drawn by God in this process of spiritual transformation, spiritual seekers soon realize that these desires “move beyond thanksgiving to thankfully giving ourselves in return–to serve, to love.” (138) As Jesuit John English rightfully asserts: “We should move from an attitude of thanks to one of welcome, saying, ‘For all that has been, thank you, God. For all that will be, yes!'” (139)
However, given the humanness of our efforts in our quest to “love God with the totality of our being, we know that we do not do it. God loves us, but how can we love God?” (140) And yet, even with the deepening awareness of our own limits in loving God and others, Ignatius encourages that, “accordingly, the ‘Take, Lord, and Receive’ prayer starts from a recognition that God desires to share everything, including the persons of the Trinity,” with spiritual seekers. (141) As rightfully articulated in the spirit of Ignatius, “this sharing should continue to grow until the Spirit stirs up in retreatants the longing to live in the present all God’s loving acts of the past and share all in Christ’s name: ‘where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them’ (Matthew 18:20).” (142)
Thus, the mutual love and intimacy experienced by spiritual seekers at this stage of transformation can be greatly enhanced by praying with Dallas Willard’s effective paraphrasing of Jesus’ Great Commission: “As you go through this world, make apprentices to me from all kinds of people, immerse them in Trinitarian reality, and teach them to do everything I have commanded you” (Mathew 28:19-20, par). As Willard continues to note: “These instructions are bookended by categorical statements about the plentiful resources for this undertaking: ‘I have been given say over everything in heaven and earth’ and ‘Look, I’m with you every moment, until the work is done’ (verses 18, 20, par).” (143) The assurance of “the great cloud of witnesses” who, having gone before us, can offer great reassurance as I desire to “see myself as standing before God our Lord, and also before the angels and saints, who are interceding for me.” (144) We are surely not alone in our “joining the mighty project” of God who “wants people like us to become fit enough to follow Jesus inside the ‘infinite rule of God,’ becoming searchers for his kingdom, agents within it, witnesses to it, and models of it.” (145)
CATHERINE LOOKER, SSJ
Chestnut Hill College (Philadelphia, PA)
(1) Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2002), 114.
(3) Dallas Willard frequently clarifies the depth of his meaning regarding spiritual “formation” by adding the word “transformation” to his phrasing, as illustrated in the following example found on page 21 of Renovation of the Heart: “The quest for spiritual formation (really, as indicated, spiritual transformation) is in fact an age-old and worldwide one.”
(4) William J. Walsh, review of Discernment of Spirits According to the Life and Teachings of St. Ignatius of Loyola, by Piet Penning de Vries, Theological Studies 34 (1973): 727.
(5) Willard, 25. Staying with his emphasis on the need for a hands-on approach to working with Renovation of the Heart, Willard continues: ” [This book] aims to help those who are ‘seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness’ to find them and to fully live in them” (pp. 25-26). For a similar assertion regarding the practical use of Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises, see George E. Ganss in his introduction to The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius: A Translation and a Commentary (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1992), where he states: “The present translation is intended for practical use, especially by retreatants, directors” (p. 10).
(6) Willard, 10.
(7) On these distinctions between medieval and evangelical piety, see Timothy George, introduction to For All the Saints: Evangelical Theology and Christian Spirituality, eds. Timothy George and Alister McGrath (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), 4.
(8) George, 4.
(9) Harvey Egan, An Anthology of Christian Mysticism (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1991), 421.
(10) Jacqueline Syrup Bergan and Marie Schwan, Praying with Ignatius of Loyola, Companions for the Journey Series (Winona, MN: Saint Mary’s Press, 1991), 30.
(11) Bergan and Schwan, 30.
(12) Ibid., 69.
(13) Ignatius of Loyola, The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, cited by Bergan and Schwan in Praying with Ignatius of Loyola, 40.
(14) Bergan and Schwan, 86.
(15) See H. Outram Evennett, The Spirit of the Counter-Reformation, 4th ed. (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1986), and Evennett’s description of the personal approach needed by this “spiritual guide” while giving The Spiritual Exercises: “Flexibility, indeed, was to be the main concern of the giver, who was to adapt the technique and the general plan to the particular needs, state, psychology, character, intelligence, stamina, of each individual concerned, without, however, altering the actual of making what meditations were included: the composition of the mental scene, the application of the senses, the subsequent prayer and resolution. This recognition of the separateness and difference of each individual person is surely a high tribute to the perceptive humanity of Saint Ignatius” (pp. 50-51).
(16) Evennett, 48.
(17) For the sake of clarity and ease of navigating the material in each of the weeks of The Spiritual Exercises, the designation [SE #(s)] will be used throughout this essay for each of the referenced sections of the Ignatian text.
(18) Katherine Dyckman, Mary Garvin, and Elizabeth Liebert, The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating Possibilities for Women (New York: Paulist Press, 2001), 153.
(19) Dyckman et al., 217.
(20) Michael Ivens, Understanding the Spiritual Exercises, Text and Commentary: A Handbook or Retreat Directors (Trowbridge, Wiltshire: Cromwell Press, 1998), 162.
(21) Evennett, 46.
(22) George E. Ganss, introduction to Ignatius of Loyola: Spiritual Exercises and Selected Works (New York: Paulist Press, 1991), 9.
(23) Christine A. Scheller, “A Divine Conspirator,” Christianity Today 50, no. 9 (2006): 45.
(24) Scheller, 46.
(25) Purushotham Francis Burgula, review of Renovation of the Heart, by Dallas Willard, Journal of Youth Ministry 3, no. 1 (2004): 117.
(27) Cornelius Plantinga, “Dr. Willard’s Diagnosis,” Christianity Today 50, no. 9 (2006): 49.
(28) Willard cited by Plantinga, 50.
(29) Plantinga, 50.
(30) Burgula, 117.
(31) Willard cited by Burgula, 117.
(32) Burgula, 117.
(34) Ibid., 120.
(35) Dallas Willard, “The Spirit is Willing: The Body as a Tool for Spiritual Growth,” in The Christian Educator’s Handbook on Spiritual Formation, ed. Kenneth O. Gangel and James C. Wilhoit (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1994), 225.
(36) Willard, Renovation of the Heart, 255.
(38) Ignatius of Loyola, The Spiritual Exercises , in David L. Fleming, Draw Me Into Your Friendship: The Spiritual Exercises, A Literal Translation and a Contemporary Reading (St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1994), 27.
(39) Willard, 20.
(40) John English, Spiritual Freedom: From an Experience of the Ignatian Exercises to the Art of Spiritual Guidance, 2nd ed. (Chicago: Loyola Press, 1995), 26.
(41) Ibid., 27.
(44) William A. Barry, Paying Attention to God: Discernment in Prayer (Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 1992), 18.
(46) Ignatius of Loyola, The Spiritual Exercises , in Fleming, Draw Me Into Your Friendship, 27.
(47) Dean Brackley, The Call to Discernment in Troubled Times: New Perspectives on the Transformative Wisdom of Ignatius of Loyola (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2004), 11.
(48) Dyckman et al., 99.
(49) Regarding the importance of considering the evolving universe story in relation to the Spiritual Exercises, refer to The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed where Katherine Dyckman et al., offer concise and relevant insights regarding the importance of the new cosmology in their Chapter Four, “Grounding in Truth” where they assert: “No longer can a human story be told apart from a universe story; the two are inextricably bound together … Human beings are radically interconnected with all other creatures” (p. 97).
(50) Willard, 10.
(51) Willard, 10. As acknowledged by Dallas Willard, all Scripture quotations referenced in his book, Renovation of the Heart, are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) unless otherwise noted.
(52) Willard, 32.
(54) Ibid., 33.
(55) Ibid., 35.
(56) Ibid., 36.
(57) Ibid., 37.
(58) Ibid., 94.
(59) Ignatius of Loyola, The Spiritual Exercises , in George E. Ganss, ed., The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius: A Translation and Commentary (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1992), 48.
(60) Willard, 108.
(61) William A. Barry, Letting God Come Close: An Approach to the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises (Chicago: Loyola Press, 2001), 72.
(62) Ignatius of Loyola, The Spiritual Exercises , in Fleming, Draw Me Into Your Friendship, 27.
(63) Barry, Letting God Come Close, 72.
(64) Ibid., 72-73.
(65) Ibid., 76.
(66) Ignatius of Loyola, The Spiritual Exercises , in Ganss, The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius: A Translation and Commentary, 44.
(67) Ivens, 58.
(68) Willard, 45.
(69) Ignatius of Loyola, The Spiritual Exercises , in Ganss, 48.
(70) Willard, 108.
(71) Ibid., 108-109.
(72) Ibid., 84.
(73) Ibid., 85.
(74) Ibid., 86.
(75) Ignatius of Loyola, The Spiritual Exercises , in Fleming, Draw Me Into Your Friendship, 83.
(76) Willard, 86.
(77) English, 35.
(78) Barry, Letting God Come Close, 44.
(79) English, 41.
(80) English, 42.
(81) English, 42. As acknowledged by John English, all Scripture quotations referenced in his book, Spiritual Freedom, are taken from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) unless otherwise noted.
(82) Barry, 116.
(83) Ibid., 126.
(84) William A. Barry, Spiritual Direction and the Encounter with God: A Theological Inquiry (New York: Paulist Press, 1992), 78.
(85) English, 127.
(86) Ibid., 97.
(87) Ibid., 104-105.
(88) Ibid., 150-151.
(89) Willard, 87.
(90) Ibid., 71.
(91) Ibid., 150-151.
(92) Ibid., 156.
(93) Ibid., 156.
(94) Ibid., 156.
(95) Ignatius of Loyola, The Spiritual Exercises , in Fleming, 153.
(96) Willard, 66.
(97) Michael Harter, ed., Hearts on Fire: Praying with Jesuits, 2nd ed. (St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2005), 106.
(98) English, 219-220.
(99) Ignatius of Loyola, The Spiritual Exercises , in Fleming, 155.
(100) Dyckman et al., 223.
(102) Brackley, 185.
(103) Willard, 67.
(104) Ibid., 67.
(105) Ignatius of Loyola, The Spiritual Exercises , in Fleming, 71.
(106) Willard, 67.
(108) Dyckman et al., 75.
(109) Ibid., 74.
(110) Ibid., 75.
(111) Willard, 43.
(113) Ignatius of Loyola, The Spiritual Exercises , in Fleming, 169.
(114) Willard, 70.
(115) English, 230.
(116) Neil Vaney, Christ in a Grain of Sand: An Ecological Journey with the Spiritual Exercises, with a foreward by William A. Barry (Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2004), 157.
(117) Ibid., 157-158.
(118) Ignatius of Loyola, The Spiritual Exercises , cited by John English, in Spiritual Freedom, 230.
(119) Barry, What Do I Want in Prayer?, 112-113.
(120) Ibid., 112.
(121) Brackley, 211.
(122) Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises [230-231], cited by John English, in Spiritual Freedom, 235.
(123) This summary of the four points of Ignatius’ Contemplation to Attain Love is based on The Spiritual Exercises [234-237], in Ganss, The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius: A Translation and Commentary, 94-95.
(124) English, 237.
(125) Ignatius of Loyola, The Spiritual Exercises , in Ganss, 95.
(126) English, 237.
(127) Willard, 70.
(129) Ibid., 132.
(131) Ibid., 133.
(132) Ibid., 134.
(134) Ibid., 24.
(135) Ibid., 114.
(136) As already acknowledged earlier in this essay (see footnote #3), Dallas Willard frequently clarifies his meaning of spiritual “formation” in light of ” transformation” in Renovation of the Heart by emphasizing that “spiritual formation for the Christian basically refers to the Spirit-driven process of forming the inner world of the human self in such a way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ himself” (p. 22).
(137) Willard, 24.
(138) English, 236.
(140) Ibid., 234.
(141) English, 238.
(143) Willard, Renovation of the Heart, 240.
(144) Ignatius of Loyola, The Spiritual Exercises , in Ganss, 94.
(145) Plantinga, 50.
Catherine Looker, SSJ. Title: Assistant Professor of Religious Studies. Affiliation: Chestnut Hill College (Philadelphia, PA). Highest Degree: Doctor of Ministry, Lutheran Theological Seminary (Philadelphia, PA). Areas of interest/specialization: History of Christian Spirituality, with a particular interest in the mystics of the Christian tradition.
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Is this something you wrote for a class? Very erudite! I am thinking it would be worthwhile to ponder and answer for myself the questions posed in the essay:
(1) How would you describe your world and how it influences you?
(2) How do you imagine God?
(3) What is your relationship to others and all of God’s creation?
(4) What is your part in creation?
(5) What are the dominant influences on your sense of God, humans, heaven and earth?
(6) What does it mean to exist in this vast unfolding universe? (49)
Thanks for visiting me! Gail
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It’s something I found online. I’ve included the citation in the post. I will ponder your questions and try to answer them soon.