“You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you” – Augustine, “Confessions” I, 1, 1
St. Ignatius of Loyola: An ascetic ex-soldier engaged in mapping the strategy for the war against the forces of evil, or grace-soaked mystic, passionately committed to the heart of the Trinitarian God, revealed in Jesus Christ?
Harvey Egan, S.J. (“Soundings in the Christian Mystical Tradition”) tells the story of a conversation he held with a fellow Jesuit. Egan argued that Ignatius indeed was much more than a soldier sprinkled with the holy water of conversion basically qualifying and defining his spirituality according to his still-lingering military instincts. Ignatius, Egan, argued, was a mystic in the best and deepest sense of the word. Egan tells how his friend recoiled at this notion: Ignatius, a mystic? Impossible, he said. The wounded soldier of Pamplona did not exhibit the qualities proper to a mystic, nor did he experience the extraordinary phenomena that, in his mind, were part and parcel of a mystic’s experience.
Egan says that this dialogue prompted him to dive deeper into the texts of Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises, as well as the surviving fragment of his Spiritual Diary and his Autobiography. The Ignatian features that began to emerge persuaded him that Ignatius, indeed, belonged in the company of those women and men that have, somehow, elicited the rubric of “mystics.”
Further, Harvey Egan, following the theology, spirit and analysis of Hugo Rahner, S.J. (older brother of Karl Rahner, S.J., the eminent conciliar theologian) and other Ignatian theologians, became convinced that Ignatius’ mysticism was shaped by the contours of a strong, Trinitarian-based Christology.
The purpose of this essay is to explore, analyze, reflect upon, and eventually show, along with Egan, H. Rahner, K. Rahner and others, that Ignatius was, indeed, a genuine mystic, shining with the splendor of Jesus Christ’s Paschal Mystery engraved in his heart.
First: The English text of the Ignatius’ “Spiritual Exercises” are taking from David Fleming’s “Draw Me into your Friendship: The Spiritual Exercises. Literal Translation and Contemporary Reading,” the Institute of Jesuit Sources; the English text of the Autobiography and the Spiritual Diary are taken from “Ignatius of Loyola: The Spiritual Exercises and Selected Works,” edited by George Ganss, S.J, Cla The Spanish (original) texts are from “Obras de San Ignacio de Loyola,” edited by Ignacio Iparraguirre, S.J., and Candido de Dalmases, S.J., 6th edition, BAC.
Second: a consensus of Ignatian scholars agree that, when Ignatius uses the words “Lord” (“Señor”), or sometimes, “Creator,” he is referring to Jesus Christ.
The Mystical Christology of the Spiritual Exercises.
Preamble: Ignatius begins the Exercises affirming that:
“The first Annotation is that by this name of Spiritual Exercises is meant every way of examining one’s conscience, of meditating, of contemplating, of praying vocally and mentally, and of performing other spiritual actions, as will be said later. For as strolling, walking and running are bodily exercises, so every way of preparing and disposing the soul to rid itself of all the disordered tendencies, and, after it is rid, to seek and find the Divine Will, as to the management of one’s life for the salvation of the soul, is called a spiritual exercise.” (SE 1)
Egan, H. Rahner, Dalmases and others argue that, though Jesus Christ is not alluded to by name in this text, Ignatius will lead the exercitant along the Four Weeks by meditating on the mysteries of Christ’s life. Hugo Rahner holds that, indeed, Christ’s life as witnessed to in the Gospels, define the core of Ignatius’ dynamics in the Exercises. We will return to this later.
At the Heart of the Christological Challenge: The Principle and Foundation. (SE 23)
The “Principle and Foundation,” for someone trying to argue the Christ-centered core of Ignatius’ spirituality, is a theological mess. How can we argue for a Christology in a text where Christ is nowhere mentioned? But it is precisely because of this (thus Gerald McCool, S.J.) that the “hidden Christology” of the Principle and Foundation” shines more brightly. The text reads:
“Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and
by this means to save his soul. And the other things on the face of
the earth are created for man and that they may help him in prosecuting the end for which he is created.
From this it follows that man is to use them as much as they help him on to his end, and ought to rid himself of them so far as they hinder him as to it. For this, it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all that is allowed
to the choice of our free will and is not prohibited to it; so that, on our
part, we want not health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty,
honor rather than dishonor, long rather than short life, and so in all
the rest; desiring and choosing only what is most conducive to the end
for which we are created” (SE 23)
An often-unmentioned element of the “Principle and Foundation” is its eschatological core: “the end for which we are created.” Eschatology, therefore sotereology, presupposes Christology. Karl Rahner has argued that here, the “Principle and Foundation” exhibits its symmetry both with the Third Degree (Manner, Kind, Way) of Humility, and with the “Contemplation to Attain the Love of God”(SE 230-237) and more specifically, with the “Suscipe” prayer (SE 234): “Take, Lord, and receive, all my liberty, my memory, my intellect, and all my will: You gave it to me, to you I return it. All if yours; do with it according to your will. Give me your love and grace, that is enough for me.”
Ignatius’ “magis,” H. Rahner suggests, begins to surface here: “Desiring only what is most conducive to the end for which we are created” The Spanish text renders it more evidently: “Solamente deseando y eligiendo lo que MÁS nos conduce para el fin que somos criados.” The “más” finds echoes elsewhere: SE 97: “The Call of the Temporal King,” where it reads: “Those who Will want to be more devoted and signalize themselves in all service of their King eternal and universal Lord ” (“Los que MÁS se querrán afectar en todo servicio de su eterno y señor universal, etc. ”
Is this sufficient to argue for a Christology in the “Principle and Foundation”? Egan points out that Ignatius “grasped mystically” that all things (“the other things on the face of the earth”) hold together in Christ because he had mystically experienced him as his “Creator and Lord” and “Eternal Lord of all things” (cf. SE 23, 50-54, 60, 71, 93, 95, 102, 103, 106-108, 235-237( Further, Egan points to a key text of Ignatius’ own “Catechism”:
“After God, Our Lord, has created heaven, earth, and all things.
And after the first man was in paradise, it was revealed to him
that the Son of God had resolved to become Man. And AFTER
Adam and Eve had sinned they recognized that God had resolved
to become man in order to redeem their sins¨(Capitals mine)
Here Egan claims that Ignatius presupposed implicitly (not at the level of scholarly argumentation – though Ignatius might have done so, had he so desired – Ricardo García Villoslada, S.J., has shown that, in 1535, upon completing his theological studies at Paris, Ignatius received not only his Licentiate, but also his Doctoral degree: “Magister in Sacra Pagina,” as “Doctor Theologiae”) the position of John Duns Scotus, the Franciscan “Doctor Subtilis” (1266/67-1308).
Scotus held (“Ordinatio” III, dist. 19) for the “Predestination of Christ.” That, simply put, meant Creation and Incarnation are integral moments of God’s plan: God creates in, through, and for Christ (cf. John 1: 3; Colossians 1: 15) – Creation and Incarnation are two moments of God’s self-communication. The consequence, for Scotus, is that even if there had been no sin, there still would have been Incarnation.
Franciscans, to this day, cheerfully gloat in the face of Thomas’ disciples, that, unlike their own Franciscan master, the Dominican doctor reduced the Incarnation to a sort of “Plan B” in Salvation History – Thomas presumably held that had there been no sin, the Incarnation would not have occurred – Scotist accuse Thomas and his school of debasing the glory of the Incarnation of the Word of God by making it a predicate of sin.
H. Rahner follows suit with Egan (perhaps more cautiously), agreeing that Ignatius’ mystical Christology is cut from Scotist cloth. But, here I must offer a respectful disagreement – or, if disagreement is too strong a word, a “respectful nuance” – concerning Egan and H. Rahner’s analysis. I do have the impression that Egan, H. Rahner and others, may be guilty of oversimplifying John Duns Scotus´(1266/7-1308) and Thomas Aquinas´ (1224/5-1274) answers to the “Cur Deus Homo?” (“Why did God become man (human)” / already proposed by Anselm of Canterbury in his similarly-titled work).
The Crux of the Issue
More properly, the issue centers on the correlated question: “Had there been no sin, would the Son of Gid still have become incarnate?” - Let us briefly review the main parameters of the issue:
The common narrative is that for Scotus, the answer is affirmative -cf. the outline of his position above. Scotus refuses the predicate the infinite act of love of the Incarnation to the event of sin – Hence, as I have stated above, for the “Subtle Doctor” had there been no sin, still there would have been Incarnation – In a sense, as he prefaces in Ordinatio III, Christ was “predestined”.”
Scotists (mostly Franciscans, but many of other stripes as well) flaunt in the faces of Thomas´ followers the sublimity of the “Doctor Subtilis”´ teaching. The Incarnation in Scotus´ system, they argue, it´s all about love, infinite, divine love, not – as they hold against Thomas – a ghastly bit of remedial impertinence (as a beloved professor of mine, in my Ph.D. program told me, in rather pedestrian terms: “The Incarnation reduced to the Pepto-Bismol for the indigestion of sin”)
But are Scotus´ theological disciples right? Do they make a fair assessment of Thomas´ incarnational theology? – Did Thomas hold forth for a notion of the Incarnation as a mere whitewashing of the stain of sin, a secondary moment of divine intervention that God could easily have dispensed with, if only our early ancestors had been more faithful? – in other words, is it true that the Thomists that the Scotist criticize, hold that the Incarnation was Plan B in the Trinitarian mind, resorted to only as an inevitable remedy?
Let us go to Thomas´ own words. First, the text of the Summa Theologiae, III q. 1 a 3: here, at first glance, Thomas´ own wording would seem to prove his Scotist critics right. Yet, Thomas´ language is not that straightforward or as simple. He begins by using an expression not found anywhere else in the ST – or, as far as I can tell, anywhere else in his known corpus: He says that “there are different opinions about this question” (“aliquid circa hoc diversimodo opinantur”).
Thomas then tells the reader that “since everywhere in Sacred Scriptures the sin of the first man is assigned as the reason for the Incarnation, it is more in accordance with this to say that the work of the Incarnation was ordained by God as a remedy for sin (“in remedium peccati”); so that, had sin not existed, the Incarnation would not have been” – and here Thomas springs his surprising, never-to-be-found-elsewhere language: “And yet, the power of God is not limited to this; - even if sin not existed, God could have become incarnate” (“Quamvis potentia Dei ad hoc non limitetur; potuisset enim, etiam peccato non existente, Deus incarnari”)
A number of authors (McCool, K. Rahner, Thomas O´Meara, and others) have argued that the way Thomas frames his argument, it basically amounts to saying that Thomas wishes to be cautious, go along with the seemingly accepted thesis of his time – yet, deep in his theological and mystical heart, Thomas wishes to believe that the Incarnation was not predicated on the tragedy of sin,
And Thomas himself, by the time he penned down the above text, had already given us his true answer to “Cur Deus Homo?” About 5-7 years before he completes the “Summa Theologiae,” in his “other” Summa – “Contra Gentiles”: “Whether it was fitting that God become incarnate” (“Quod convenientur fuit Deum incarnari” (“Summa Contra Gentiles”, IV, 54)
His main – and decisive – argument is this: “But nothing moves us to love something as the experience of reciprocal love.,But God´s love for man (humankind) in no fashion could be shown more efficaciously than by the fact that He wished to united Himself to man (human being) in person, for it is proper to love to unite the lover with the beloved (“est enim proprium anirus unire amantem cum amato”), inasmuch as such a thing is possible. Hence it was necessary for man, who moves towards perfect beatitude, that God become man (human being)” (“Necessarium igitur fuit homini, ad beatitudinem perfectam tendenti, quod Deus fierit homo” – “Summa Contra Gentiles,” IV, 54)
Here Thomas is arguing – in very uncharacteristic language – that the Incarnation was “necessary” to allow and empower humanity to be fully moved towards perfect beatitude (i.e., the beatific vision) – No mention at all of sin!
How does all this help us peek into Ignatius´ Incarnational theology?
After his third encounter with Inquisitorial tribunals, this time at Salamanca (1527), Ignatius was forbidden to preach until he acquired formal theological formation. After attempts and frustrations, seeking to be admitted to the University of Alcalá (“you are too old,” he was told – Ignatius was 35 at the time), he finally arrived, on February 2, 1528, at the University of Paris (Ignatius arrived in Paris the same semester that the future reformer, Jean Calvin, was graduating).
Ignatius begins his theological program at a time when Scotism and Nominalism, which had held sway in the theological faculty since the early 14th century, were on the wane. After the Flemish professor, Peter Crockaert (1465-1514), a committed Nominalist, entered the Dominican Order (1503?) and became a convinced Thomist, the Common Doctor´s “Summae,” for so long suspect of heterodoxy, began rapidly co-opting the attention and adherence of the Parisian masters. During his theological formation at Paris, 1528-1535, Ignatius was surely exposed to the theories and the opinion of the masters of the different schools.
Hugo Rahner holds that Ignatius´ mystical Christology brings, in happy convergence, both Scotus and Thomas – why not? We have just seen that, after all, both of them seem to converge, somehow, and however tenuously and cautiously, upon the same point: the Incarnation is NOT Plan B in the History of Salvation. Ignatius´ incarnational theology goes beyond the debates of the medieval schools. It is Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, the Redeemer of Sin, the center of human existence, that truly matters to him, as borne out by Harvey Egan´s careful analysis. At the beginning of the 1960’s, Gerald McCool,S.J., in his monograph on the Christology of the Principle and Foundation, follows a parallel path. We will explore this more in detail below.
Let us see why the above-discussed, seemingly irrelevant scholarly debate, is crucial for our comprehension of Ignatius’ mystical theology of the Incarnation, To pursue this objective, we must go to the Contemplation on the Incarnation, at the beginning of the Second Week (SE 101-109):
“Here it is how the three divine persons looked at all the plain of the circuit of all the world, full of men, and how, seeing that all were going down to hell, it is determined in their eternity that the Second Person shall become man to save the human race, and so, the fullness of time being come, they sent the St. Gabriel to Our Lady” (SE 102).
Here we see how Ignatius integrates Scotus with Thomas: the Incarnation, as he says in his “Catechism,” is pre-ordained on account of Creation and fullness of humanity, but, since sin did happen, that fullness of loving self-communication is also redeeming – But this is not our main point here.
The Incarnation: Foundational Theology
Karl Rahner, in his “Meditations on the Exercises of Saint Ignatius,” argues that, since the Exercises must be taken as a whole, and that whole is unmistakably defined by Ignatius’ Trinitarian Christology, we can legitimately draw out the implicit theology of the Incarnation of this and Ignatius’ subsequent contemplations on the mysteries of the life of Christ- and such contemplations on the mysteries of Christ are, in Hugo Rahner’s vision, the substance of what the Exercises are all about.
Rahner, taking as starting point Ignatius’ own experience of the humanity of the Logos, ponders on the different components of the classical affirmation: “And the Word (Logos) became human” (man, flesh “sarx”, vulnerable, mortal humanity)
First: The Word became “MAN” (“HUMAN”)
Man is, in his essence, in his nature, mystery – Not because he is the infinite and inexhaustible plenitude of real mystery, but rather because his peculiar essence, its nature, is to be “referred-to, poor and self-attaining, to such plenitude.” “Mystery,” points Rahner, is not the unknown reality that lies alongside what is known, but rather the Incomprehensible whole that becomes the ground, horizon and possibility of all our knowledge and love (cf. Thomas Aquinas, “De Veritate,” q. 22 a. 2). This can be understood only if we allow ourselves to be freely apprehended by the Incomprehensible One . . . Mystery is, rather, that which, precisely in so far as it is ungraspable, is there, is given – Mystery is given in so far as it is an untamed all-encompassing horizon of all comprehension . . .
This undefinable nature, whose limit – its “definition” - is the unlimited being-referred to infinite mystery, upon being assumed by God, it has reached the point toward which, by virtue of its own being, is always moving towards. God has assumed human nature because such nature is, by virtue of its essence, open and assumable. Being-human is being radically self-dispossessed into the very being of God. God creatively projects the creature always as the grammar of a possible speaking-of-himself.
Ultimately, When God became non-God, man emerged. Rahner pursues this: “If God himself is man and remains so for all eternity, if therefore all theology is eternally anthropology, if it is forbidden to man to think little of himself because then he would be thinking little of God; and if this God remains the insoluble mystery, then man is for all eternity the expression of the mystery of God which participates for all eternity in the mystery of its ground.”
Second: The Word “BECAME” man (human).
Here, traditional theology and philosophy begin to blink, to stammer. Can God, the immutable, the eternal, who cannot be swayed or manipulated by any force of Creation, actually “become” something? The key here is the word “alienation” – or more precisely, “self-alienation”
God alienates Himself into what God is not – it is His self-alienation that allows Him, the “unmovable One,” according to traditional theology, to become something other than Himself – and to make that “something other” a defining dimension of what, from all eternity, He truly is! In that sense, Scotus and Aquinas, from different departing points, agree: In the eternal mind of the Father, the Son has ALWAYS been the Incarnate, Crucified and Risen Son – not just the “Filius Incarnandus” – the Son for the Incarnation – The Son, consubstantial with the Father, has always been the Son consubstantial with us (cf. Council of Chalcedon).
Third: The WORD became man (human)
Since the time of Augustine (at least, in the Western Latin tradition) there has existed the uncritically assumed theory (never part of the official magisterium of the Church) that “anyone of the Trinity could have become incarnate.” But the Greek Fathers and to a good extent, both Scotus and Thomas, argue that is the Logos, the Word, that always conveys the Trinitarian God’s self-communication to us – hence, only the Word could have been the subject of the Incarnation. This is crucial for Ignatius: he desires “to be placed” only with the Son, in whom the Father reveals Himself.
The Third Degree (Manner, Kind, Way)
If questions persist as to how the preceding analysis, founded upon Karl Rahner’s theology of the Incarnation, pertains to our theme, he daunting challenge of the Third Manner of Humility draws out the outlines of an answer. The First Manner: to avoid severing my communion with Christ with an existentially-lethal “No” to his will: mortal sin; the Second Manner (a “more perfect” manner) seems to echo the “indifference” of the Principle and Foundation: “If l find myself at such a stage that I do not want, and feel no inclination to have, riches rather than poverty, to want honor rather than dishonor . . .”, aware that the wrong tilt of an inclination would be “venial sin”, something Ignatius is unwilling to do. The text of the Third Manner reads:
“The third is most perfect humility; namely, when – including the first and second, and the praise and glory of the Divine Majesty being equal – in order to imitate and be more actually like Christ our Lord, I want and choose poverty with Christ poor rather than riches, opprobrium with Christ replete with it rather than honors; and to desire to be rat, ed as worthless and a fool for Christ, with first was held as such, rather than wise or prudent in this world” (SE 167)
First, H. Rahner, Harvey Egan and others have pointed out two key features of this text that place in a symmetric center with the “Principle and Foundation,” on the one end, and the “Suscipe” prayer, on the other. First, the desire “to imitate and be more actually like Christ and Lord” quickly banishes any equivocation about Ignatius’ notion of the “imitatio Christ” – it is not simple external imitation, mimetics, but, by adding the “to be more actually,” Ignatius tells us that imitating Christ involves a communion, a “koinonia” (cf. 1 Corinthians 10: 16-17),an interpenetration with the person and life of Christ of the highest existential order.
Second, the Third Manner, as Karl Rahner points out, goes beyond any mistakenly passive notion of the “indifference” of the Principle and Foundation: here Ignatius says: “I want and choose” (“escojo y elijo”) – It’s the full flowering of human freedom, created not as a neutral capacity, but as a dynamics towards Trinitarian Love. The “Suscipe” prayer reads:
“Take, Lord, and receive, all my liberty, my memory, my intellect and all my will – all that I have or possess. You gave them to me: to you, Lord, I return it. All is yours: dispose of it according to all your will. Give me your love and grace, for this is enough for me.”
When we read the “escojo y elijo” (“I want and choose”) against the horizon of “take my liberty, my memory, my intellect, and all my will” we readily discern how the “kenosis” woven by definition in the Incarnation shines forth in Ignatius’ mystical Christology. Here echo the words of Wolfhart Pannenberg: “Who and what God is can only be found in the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ”; that is, the Incarnation of the Son of God finds its deepest and ONLY meaning in the cross of Christ.
The spirituality of the Sacred Heart of Jesus has been a defining feature of the mission of the Jesuits. It most likely goes back to Peter Canisius, the Jesuit theologian, preacher, catechist, founder and renovator of theological faculties (e.g., Ingolstadt), companion to Diego Laínez and other Conciliar theologians at Trent, and later named Doctor of the Church, who most likely learned it from the Carthusian Johann Justus Lanspergius (1489-1539).
In 1872, the then-General of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Peter Beckx (General from 1853-1884) consecrated the Society of Jesus to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Church of the Gesὺ. On June 9, 1972, 100 years to the date, Fr. Pedro Arrupe (1907-1991, General 1965-1983), renewed the Consecration of the Society to the Sacred Heart.
In his homily at the Mass in the Gesὺ, Arrupe evokes his fellow Jesuit and genial Conciliar theologian, Karl Rahner. Among other names and titles (e.g., “the theologian of Mystery”), Rahner has been called the “theologian of the Sacred Heart”. In his “Schriften zur Theologie” (“Estudios de Teología,” “Theological Investigations“), Rahner gathers and gives us the consensus of biblical scholarship on the word “heart” (the Hebrew term “leb,” or “leb´eb”, used 858 times in the OT, the Greek “kardia”, 157 times in the NT):
“Heart” is a word which in its true biblical sense refers to the whole person, and/or the deepest and most vibrant dimension of the human person: the see of the will and its capacity for making options.” Arrupe points that, in Rahner´s theological anthropology, “heart” is a “primary word.” Simply defined, a “primary word” is a word that does not need other words to define it. It evokes and communicates a whole universe of self-evident meaning – an added example might be the word “mother.” Arrupe called to mind Ignatius´ vision at La Storta. Ignatius tells the story in his Autobiography, in his own austere and sparse language (Ignatius writes in the third person, referring to himself as the “pilgrim”) “(One day), a few miles before reaching Rome, he was at prayer in a church and experienced such a change in his soul and saw so clearly that God the Father placed him with Christ his Son that he would not dare doubt it – that God the Father had placed him with his Son” (“Autobiography,” 96) Ignatius tells us, in his vintage paucity of words, an experience which many Ignatian scholars rank right there with the Great Enlightment (“la Eximia Ilustración”) by the Cardoner river, sometime between August- September 1522. Ignatius does not even mention the name of the village of La Storta (so named because it stood at a twist in the road), about 14 kilometers from the gates of Rome, where he found a chapel to pray.
Arrupe ponders: “Someone might think: what has La Storta to do with the devotion to the Sacred Heart?·” His answer convulses the very heart of Ignatian Christology: “At La Storta, a little chapel, solitary and abandoned, on the outskirts of Rome, a poor pilgrim stops to pray with two other companions (Diego Laínez and Pierre Favre - Pedro Fabro). There the Most Holy Trinity communicates to Ignatius, in the inmost depths of his soul, a grace of the highest magnitude which will be like a synthesis of all his past mystic life and will become one of the most decisive graces in the foundation of the Society of Jesus:”
Ignatius had, for many years, begged Mary to “put him with her Son” (cf. Autobiography”, 96). At La Storta, it is the Father who seals in the depths of Ignatius´ heart the answer to his plea. The Father then turns to Jesus, carrying the cross, and says to him: “I desire you to take this man for servant”; Jesus, gazing at Ignatius, replies: “It is my wish that you should serve me Us:”
This is an unmistakable Trinitarian scene, defining, as it is so evident all over the texts of the Exercises and the Spiritual Diary, that Ignatius´ Christology has a most definite Trinitarian grounding and source. The story of Ignatius´vision at La Storta, according to Arrupe, reveals “the granting of a mystical grace of the highest order, which therefore cannot be adequately expressed in human language. Ignatius is the first to acknowledge this . . . ”
Arrupe alludes to the two somewhat dissimilar accounts transmitted by Diego Laínez, on the one hand, and Jerónimo Nadal and Peter Canisius, on the other: Laínez tells that Jesus communicated to Ignatius (in the Latin version of his story): “Ego vobis Romae propitious ero¨” (“I will be propitious to you in Rome.” Nadal and Canisius report it in the (in Arrupe´s view) “still stronger and more significant” words: “Ego vobiscum ero”: “I will be with you.” The latter connote an intimacy that seems to agree more with the acceptance of Ignatius´ oft-repeated plea: “pone me iuxta te” (“place me with you”).
This is a crucial issue: the supplication “to be placed with your Son” was most likely borrowed by Ignatius from an ancient version of the Anima Christ, the (most likely) 14-century prayer he places at the beginning of the Exercises): “pone me iuxta te.” Here we arrive at a crucial moment in the unfolding of our reflections: Arrupe says: “The “pilgrim” (Ignatius) feels in the depths of his soul that his vocation is that of being a companion” of Jesus and that the Blessed Trinity accepts him to be a servant of Jesus.”
A ”companion of Jesus”! Two things follow from this: First; the biblical Greek notion of “koinonia” (1 Corinthians 10: 16-17; 2 Corinthians 13: 13): this word was used already in pre-Christian Greek to connote an intimacy, an inter-penetration of the highest degree – it was even used to signify the sexual embrace of two spouses. Although Ignatius does not appeal to “koinonia” directly, its meaning flows quite obviously from Ignatius´ sense of intimacy with Jesus Christ.
Second, at a lesser level, it simply confirms that “Compañía de Jesús” is not a military title, somewhat baptized with holy water, for the band of Gospel-driven companions that Ignatius gathers around him. Though Ignatius may resort to military or pseudo-military metaphors (“The Call of the Temporal King,” SE 91-97; “The Two Standards,” SE 137-148), they are more reflective, muses Karl Rahner, of popular metaphorical language of the day than of Ignatius´ own military past.
Ignatius’ petition has, as Arrupe points out, deep biblical foundations: ‘Be not afraid, for I am with you” (Isaiah 41: 10); I am with you to deliver you” (Jeremiah 1: 8, 19); “Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you” (Lucas 1: 28): “I will be with you until the end of the age” (Mateo 28: 20) – The richness of Ignatius´ Trinitarian and Christological dialogues are awesomely given to us in his “Spiritual Diary·”, the surviving fragment, February 2, 1544 – February 27, 1545 – The Diary also gives us the core and substance of Ignatius´ Mariology).
The reason for all this is Ignatius´ fundamental passion: to develop a more intimate proximity to Jesus Christ than he had before, to a more personal mutual interiority with Him.”
Arrupe´s homily introduces us into the palpitating Heart of hearts, into the deep meaning of the Exercises. The Jesuit General, a true passionate lover of the Heart of Jesus, gives us a radically prophetic and, in a sense, subversive perspective. He reflects on how “Ignatius´ offering is accepted by the Word Incarnate. A most profound transformation is effected in the soul of Ignatius” – what follows is truly a radical revision of the common (mis)understandings of Ignatian spirituality (thus, Hugo Rahner) – “more intimate than the one he experienced on the bank of the Cardoner. There (at the Cardoner) he felt as though a new understanding had been given him; here he feels accepted and introduced, as it were, into the trinitarian life, in that intimate “circle” of the Trinity.”
Arrupe pursues the main theme: The word “service,” he avers develops its own significance. “It is this service that expresses the very goal of the Exercises and sums up the oblation of the Kingdom, the Two Standards, and the Three Degrees of Humility (cf. above) . . . as a companion of Jesus in poverty and total denial of self, on the cross.”
Indeed, Jesus appeared to Ignatius carrying the cross on his shoulders; Christian imagination today sees Jesus as nailed to the cross, with his side pierced, and his heart open – a key point! The heart, with all its wide and inexhaustible biblical range of meaning, is the “heart of love” (Karl Rahner), the wellspring whence blood and water flow, a type of the Church (cf. John 19: 34; thus Francis Moloney).
Ignatius knew the cross. Benajamín González Buelta, S.J., in his book “El Discernimiento” (“Discernment”) quotes I. Cacho´s “Ignacio de Loyola el heterodoxo” (“Ignatius of Loyola, the Heterodox”) – he tells how Ignatius was subjected to eight Inquisitorial processes: 1526 (twice), 1527, 1529 1535, 1537, 1538 and 1546). Ignatius´ Christology of the Incarnation, his total mysticism, and the very nature and purpose of his foundation, the Society of Jesus, did not fit comfortably with the spirit of the Church of his times - he suffered persecution, and so did, and have, countless of his followers, from the proto-martyr of the Socie ty, Antonio Criminali, to Rutilio Grande, martyrs of the faith, voices of the poor and the oppressed.
Arrupe shares that here the standard of the cross acquires a new meaning; it reveals a more personal aspect . . . It preserves for us the abiding memory that, at the root of the whole mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption there lies the infinite and human love of Christ”
And, as Harvey Egan has so rigorously and so poetically argued, that this, and nothing else, the Incarnate Word given to us as Principle and Foundation, as the subject and object of the self-emptying Third Degree of Humility, as He to whom we empty ourselves (“Take, Lord and receive”), whose “love and grace are sufficient”, is the palpitating heart of Ignatius of Loyola´s Spiritual Exercises!
Ignatius beckons the exercitant to stand before the crucified Christ:
“Likewise, looking at myself, what I have done for Christ, what I am doing for Christ, what I ought to do for Christ” – it is before the mystery of the co-eternally becoming-human of the consubstantial Word, that mystery of God’s self-emptying communication to us, as the ultimate word of love, that Ignatius demands that the exercitant makes the fundamental option of his(her) life: the communion, not with an idea or a hypothesis, but with the living, bleeding, rising incarnate Son.
Ignatius, it is fair to say, stood in awe and wonder at the luminous splendor of the God-become-human, who had resolved, from all eternity, to define and disclose Himself as radically vulnerable, with the vulnerability of love that only the co-eternal and consubstantial Son of God can assume – and become definable as just that: the Son of God that, as the Greek Fathers argued, in his self-emptying into what He-is-not, fully realized, from a beginning without a beginning, what He truly is: the Incarnate Son. Ultimately, Ignatius’ Christology is the most accomplished exegesis of the John 1: 14: “Kai ho logos sarx egeneto kai eskenosen en hemin” – “And the Word became mortal humanity and dwelt amongst us.”
*Sixto J. García, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology (Christology and Scriptures) of St Vincent de Paul Theological Seminary. He is a resident columnist for El Ignaciano.