230-237. Contemplation to Attain the Love of God


This contemplation follows the Fourth Phase in the book of the Spiritual Exercises and it serves as a magnificent crowning point of the entire retreat and as a transition to the aftermath, which we might call the “Fifth Phase”. Since it presents a powerful and beautiful method of prayer the companions certainly will want to use it also later, outside of the context of the retreat. We proposed to the companions to get familiar with this masterpiece of St. Ignatius already during the Third Phase if the desire arose for it, and recommended to take it time to time woven into the Fourth Phase to support the inner process of confirmation and transformation;  now they take it as the beginning of the rest of their life.

This exercise, often called shortly the “Contemplation” constitutes a frame for the whole retreat together with the “Principle and Foundation” [23] (which precedes the First Phase); although they are outside of the main body of the Four Phases they are present throughout the individual meditations and the “Principle and Foundation” projects in anticipation, while the “Contemplation” summarizes in hindsight the complete program of the Spiritual Exercises. St. Ignatius wrote the “Principle” and the “Contemplation” in dry philosophical and theological rather then biblical terms, and in quite different style from the rest of the Exercises (for example there is no mention of Christ in them), and to illustrate the richness of this exercise our approach to the “Contemplation” will include also some biblical references [1].

As the companions enter the “Contemplation” and learn to discover its hidden beauty, this scholastic theological exposition reveals a powerful vision of what Christian life is about and offers the possibility of a transforming experience that will remain with them for the rest of their life. It seems that when St. Ignatius wrote this short theological exposition, he had in mind first of all his greatest mystical experience at the Cardoner River during his stay in Manresa [2]. He could never appropriately reveal this experience that was more enlightenment than vision, but it seems that he had an encounter with God similar to St. Paul, who “was caught up into Paradise and heard ineffable things that no one may utter” with the difference that Ignatius did not have the gift of powerful expression as the Apostle [3]. It seems that at the banks of the Cardoner he experienced everything descending from the Trinity and then returning to God in orderly relationship to each other. After this experience the flow of tears that he shed until that moment for the sorrow over his sins from then on were transformed into tears of joy when he was just thinking or hearing mention of the Trinity. This mystical gift of tears never left him and was so abundant as to threaten him becoming blind [4]. By his own judgment, he learned more in this experience than in all the studies and other mystical insights in his life together. St. Ignatius saw all creation in a new light in this experience that enabled him to find God in all things which is the heart of the Ignatian spirituality and the goal of the “Contemplation”.

As the title says, this contemplation is all about love and its goal is the same as the goal of the entire retreat, to learn the love of God through an immediate communication with the Creator: “while one is engaged in the Spiritual Exercises, it is more suitable and much better that the Creator and Lord in person communicate Himself to the devout soul in quest of the divine will, that He inflame it with His love and praise, and dispose it for the way in which it could better serve God in the future” [15]. The “Contemplation” is in fact the fruit of the decision achieved during the Exercises and it strives for the same love as the “Kingdom of Christ” [91-99] and the “Three Types of Attitudes” [149-157] meditations. One is able to find God in all things, not only in the beauty of nature and in loving persons but also in a world full of contradictions and injustice, only by the grace of Christ in whom God is present and can be met even in the depths of suffering and death [5]. It becomes clear that the “Contemplation” as with the rest of the Exercises, centers on the person of Jesus Christ, and on the redemption received through him.

The love of God, as love always, is not a result of our efforts, cannot be produced by will; instead we receive the love of God as a grace, a grace that is God himself. St. Ignatius says that it “must descend from above” [184]; this grace is the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts since “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rom 5:5). To attain the love of God means to pray for it insistently, to prepare us for receiving it, and recognize it in the midst of the concrete context of our lives; let it become the central guide for our decisions and actions in the future. The love of God, finding God in all things means a living discernment for the rest of our life. The “Contemplation” teaches a mysticism that we live not only in the immediate communion with God in the Holy Spirit but also by discovering in everything a means to God and by the concrete service for the sake of the love of God. The often-used expression “to be contemplatives in action” means just this, that we are present for God to meet him both in our hearts and in the service of others.

The scriptural contemplations of the Fourth Week end at the Ascension of Jesus and we can see in the “Contemplation” an equivalent of Pentecost. As the companions come out of the retreat experience they are in a similar situation as the disciples whom the risen Jesus consoled and instructed to wait for the promised Spirit in Jerusalem before going on their mission (Acts 1:5-8). We should recall how the encounters with the risen Jesus, including the last one at the Ascension, typically ended before his disappearance with a sending on mission. Instead of direct encounters with the risen Lord from then on they could meet Jesus in their mission in the power of the Holy Spirit received at Pentecost. Similarly, for the companions the meetings of retreat are coming to an end with a new or renewed sense of being sent, and as the disciples also they can meet Jesus in their mission and in those to whom they are sent with the power of the Spirit, that is, they will be able to “find God in all things” [6]. St. Ignatius wants to send out the exercitants from the retreat empowered by a new implosion of the Spirit in a real Pentecost experience by praying with the “Contemplation”.

The most extensive spiritual work of St. Ignatius, the “Constitutions of the Society of Jesus”, shows clearly the centrality of the Holy Spirit for the Ignatian spirituality [7]. In the preamble in a profound act of faith in the Spirit he declares that it is “the interior law of charity and love which the Holy Spirit writes and engraves upon hearts” that creates and guides the Society much more than any exterior constitution [8]. The “Constitutions” are interspersed with references to the Holy Spirit as the real guide of the Society and also in the Exercises the pneumatic character is evident for whoever grasped the “spirit” of it, even if the text does not mention the Holy Spirit explicitly [9]. The primacy of the Spirit is another parallel between St. Ignatius and St. Paul who presents Christian life as life “by the Spirit” producing the “fruits of the Spirit” (Gal 5:16-23), led not by exterior precepts but by the inner dynamism of the “law of the Spirit of life” (Rom 8:2). St. Paul does not hesitate to say, “the letter [of exterior laws] brings death, but the Spirit gives life” (2Cor 3:6)[10] and only by the Spirit can we carry out the single, new commandment of Jesus “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Gal 5:14). The Holy Spirit realizes the ascent of humanity and the creation into the Omega Point of Christogenesis [11] in the powerful vision of Chapter 8 of the letter to the Romans (Rom 8:14-27). We see the primacy of the Spirit evident throughout the four phases of the Exercises; it is particularly clear in the two sets of guidelines for the discernment of the spirits (Appendix C [313-344]), and in the “Contemplation”.

St. John of the Cross writes: “The Holy Spirit illumines the intellect …according to the mode of its recollection” (Ascent Book II, chapter 29, paragraph 6) [12]. What the Mystical Doctor says here is that the Holy Spirit respects one’s psychological and spiritual makeup and experience when guiding him or her. The interior law of the Spirit is highly personalized, as also the discernment process of the Exercises confirms it. There are no universal solutions for concrete questions of life, but it takes a dialogic relationship with the Holy Spirit and an arduous intellectual-emotional quest involving also the pneumatic dimension to find our way. If in this point St. John of the Cross reflects the central idea of the spirituality of St. Ignatius it is not by chance, since before joining the Carmelites he studied from 1559 to 1563 in the Jesuit College of Medina del Campo. Interestingly enough, Viktor Frankl in his study of the relationship between religiosity and psychotherapy [13], points out that for assuring the future of religion it is not sufficient to emphasize adherence to a particular denomination, but everyone needs to find his or her unique way to God: “Certainly, the trend is away from religion conceived in such denominational sense. Yet this is not to imply that, eventually, there will be a universal religion. On the contrary: if religion is to survive, it will have to be profoundly personalized” [14]. The real “spirit” of the Exercises promotes just such profoundly personalized religiosity since it helps the companions to find God in all things with the assistance of the Holy Spirit present in their hearts.

We might say that the “Contemplation” is the summary of all the Exercises and also of the Christian life or “perfection” with the classical word for it [15]. As we saw at the presentation of the examination of consciousness, “perfection” for St. Ignatius consists in finding God in all things: “The perfect, due to constant contemplation and the enlightenment of the understanding, consider, meditate, and ponder more that God our Lord is in every creature by His essence, power and presence” [39]. Since God can be found in each and every thing in consequence there is not only one way to him that is a priori better than any others [16]. It becomes still more evident why the daily examination of consciousness introduced at the beginning of the Exercises will remain an excellent means for the companions that they should bring with them in the future in order to live a discerning life and to find God in all things.

Before presenting the “Contemplation”, St. Ignatius makes the exercitants reflect upon the unifying character of love in two aspects:

1.              “The first is that love ought to manifest itself in deeds rather than words” [230]. For St. Ignatius love and actions are in union in the loving person and saying this he does not deny the value of feelings or the expression of love in words, but reminds us that love needs to lead to actions for the beloved. In the meditation on the “Three Degrees of the Love of God” [165-168] the companions already reflected upon love that consists in actions as generous service of God. We can recognize that love is present when it overflows in desire to do something: “What can I do for you? What would you like me to do?” which is followed by actual deeds. It is not different with the love of God as we are constantly reminded in the Exercises, where similar questions repeatedly arise in the meditations and there is a constant effort to find answers in concrete decisions.

Through the spirituality of the Exercises we learn that our work in the world does not separate us from God, but on the contrary, even the most trivial actions can constitute the place to meet him. “Thus action, done with love and out of love for God, far from being an obstacle to union with God, is rather a great help to it. One’s daily work, then, performed in continuous response to God’s continuous love, is the way St. Ignatius directs the current of energy, the spiritual energy that has burst forth through the Exercises of the Retreat” [17]. We learn to see our daily life and love of God in unity, to have an objective experience of God present and loving in us and through us while working, relaxing or projecting our future. “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God,” (1Cor 10:31) admonishes St. Paul and St. Ignatius echoes it by stressing to do everything for the “greater glory of God”. The sometimes stressful other times frustratingly boring tasks at the workplace and at home, the never ending necessity of preparing meals, doing laundry, cleaning, taking care of the finances, of the homework of our children and of the needs of our parents, all what is involved in having a family and a job is our meeting place with God, is real worship and liturgy in the same time. In terms of Logotherapy we might say that the transformation of our daily life and of all its events, joys and sufferings into experience of God contributes to see the concrete challenges of life as a task given to us and so discover the meaning of each situation.

The transformation of all activity in a place to meet God does not exclude, instead presupposes also the need for extended or at least significant time spent in explicit prayer. Through this listening to the Spirit we gain the sensibility to recognize the God in the midst of daily life. Karl Rahner said once to a friend somewhere “I believe because I pray”. The faith that is necessary to meet God in all things needs to be cultivated in personal relationship with him.

From what we said it is clear that the Exercises are a source of an eminently lay spirituality, and are a particularly adequate instrument of formation of Christians in today’s world [18]. Spiritual life will not be any more seen as a series of teaching to be assimilated with some practices of devotion added to life but alien to it, but a living discernment, finding God in all things which is mysticism lived in concreteness.

Karl Rahner tells that “the devout Christian of the future will either be a ‘mystic’ who has ‘experienced’ something, or [s]he will cease to be anything at all”[19], pointing toward a personalized but not individualistic religiosity. The same Spirit who is the source of the individual’s faith also creates communities of believers who share in a particular creed and works through historical forms of revelation adapting to the need of times and places. To have faith one needs to enter in a living and transforming dialog with the indwelling God, while the fruits of this dialog are realized in the concrete deeds of love outward. Mystical life means to love all creatures of God from the source of love in the depths of one’s pneumatic dimension; in the core of the heart in a biblical sense that permeates and animates one’s whole being.

We can go one step further in saying that it is a necessity for all to become mystics in a sense; even non-believers need to be contemplatives in order to be fully human and alive in all the dimensions of their existence. Once we arrived to accept the pneumatic dimension on the basis of our Christian anthropology we retain it as a universally present reality in every single human person. We know of the presence of the Holy Spirit in all human hearts, regardless of the professed faith or non-faith of the individual and so we know that in all authentic human acts also the pneumatic dimension is active and one communicates with the Spirit; we might say that one enters in prayer or contemplation of God, participates in the grace of Christ even without explicit religious faith. In other words, the human dimension is not merely human but more than that, and in fact is permeated or animated by the pneumatic dimension, by the indwelling Holy Spirit who is the guarantee of the continuity of Christ’s mission in the world after his death and resurrection and through whom Jesus Christ is present and operating in all humanity and in all the universe.  I (Kris) can attest from my personal experience that it is possible to pray and to pray very efficaciously for a non-believer, since exactly this happened to me when I was still agnostic. The prolonged time spent in quiet contemplation without faith and conscious intention of prayer but with the experience of great peace led me to meet God in a way that was never repeated later until now; since that powerful encounter I believe and from then on I know that God is and that he is love and is with me.

The recognition of the pneumatic dimension leads to a vision of Christ’s centrality through the Holy Spirit, to a Pneumatological Christocentrism[20], which renders it possible to reach out effectively to people from other faiths with the means of healing and help our faith helped us to discover without the intention of “converting” them in the religious sense. Based on this view of the human person, we think that the Exercises can be open even for a non-believer and the resulting spirituality is expressing an attitude that is a basic need for fully human life. As Alex Lefrank S.J. pointed out: “what seems more important than the expression of belief or unbelief is interior openness, allowing oneself to enter upon the adventure of a personal search, of questioning and being questioned, in such a way that an answer may be received that exceeds my expectations”[21]. Although the Spiritual Exercises are in service of the interior process of spiritual growth their therapeutic and psychohygienic role is undoubtedly significant and in our opinion not only Catholics (or not only Christians) can find enormous benefit of the methods included in this process. All the methods and even the prayer of contemplation can be introduced in feasible way to everyone open enough to engage in the adventure of search.

Let us finish this exploration of love with a prayer of Karl Rahner:

"I must live out the daily drudge and the day that is yours as one reality. As I turn outward to the world, I must turn inward toward you, and possess you, the only One, in everything. But how does my daily drudge become the day that is yours? My God, only through you. Only through you can I be an 'inward' person. Only through you am I with you within myself even as I am turning outward in order to be among things. Neither Angst nor nothingness nor death free me from being lost in the things of the world — to use ideas from modern philosophy — but only your love, love for you, you who are the goal drawing all things, you who satisfy, you who are sufficient to yourself. Your love, my infinite God, the love for you that passes through their heart and extends out beyond them into your infinite expanses, your love that can still take in everything that is lost as the song of praise to your infinity. For you, all multiplicity is one; all that is dispersed is gathered into you; everything outside becomes in your love something still interior. In your love, all turning outward to the daily drudge becomes a retreat into your unity, which is eternal life.

“But this love that lets the daily drudge be the daily drudge and yet transforms it into a day of recollection with you — this love only you can give me. What then am I to say to you now, as I am bringing myself, the bedrudged, into your presence? I can only stammer a request for your most commonplace of gifts, which is also your greatest: the gift of your love. Touch my heart with your grace. Let me, as I grasp after the things of this world in joy or in pain grasp and love you through them, the primordial ground of them all. You who are love, give me love, give me yourself, so that all my days may eventually flow into the one day of your eternal life” [22] .


2.         “The second is that love consists in a mutual sharing of goods” [231]. St. Ignatius says with this that love always unites the persons who love in mutuality and communion, which includes not only the things they have but the lovers themselves; love is sharing of life and mutual self-communication. Although this aspect is inherent in every loving relationship as the one that exists between friends it is eminently expressed in the love of a married couple. We have spoken about the sacramental character of human marriage in the “Final notes” of the meditation on the “Three Degrees of the Love of God” [165-168] where we saw that marriage renders present the love of God in the world in a tangible manner. In the same time this sacramental character reveals for us what human marriage is, that it is a place to encounter and experience God. Moreover, we saw that Christian marriage is an ecclesial vocation that incarnates the total character of God’s love for a human person. Married love in such a way sheds very clear light on the communion and mutuality created by love between the loving persons and in particular how our love for God is called to be. Not by chance it is customary to use as a reading in weddings this passage from the Book of Ruth: “…wherever you go I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Wherever you die I will die, and there be buried” (Ru 1:16-7). This passage (where Ruth in fact speaks to her mother-in-law) reminds us also of the commitment to Christ spoken of in the “Kingdom” [91-95] meditation and expresses beautifully the communion and mutual sharing of everything involved in a love that consists of deeds rather than words.

The mutual sharing of love characterizes the Third and Fourth Phases during which we ask the grace to share in the destiny, in the suffering and in the joy of Christ. The unitive stage of spiritual growth and healing to which these Phases belong consists in the mystical union with Christ, the risen and glorified Lord who also lives in all members of his Body. This mystical love manifests itself in concrete actions and in seeking to share all the joys and sorrows of the Beloved; it means rejoicing or suffering as the contemporary Christ rejoices or suffers in all men and women with whom he identified himself. Praying the “Contemplation” supports the process of mystical union, since it aims at the grace of mutual self-giving with the indwelling Trinity, and brings us to an exchange of love with God in all aspects of our everyday life.

Speaking of mutual sharing of goods with God we can ask, “What can we give to God -to the Absolute- who does not need anything?” God gives everything to us continuously, without him we would not even exist, but do we have something to give in return? St. Ignatius answers positively to this question in the “Contemplation”; we can give all what we are to God, all what we have received from him in gratitude. God who does not lack anything made himself needy of our love and is happy of the sign of our gratitude as a father or mother who keeps that little heart painted on a piece of paper by his or her child as a treasure.

The retreatant can feel behind this remark about the mutuality of love the experience of St. Ignatius at the banks of Cardoner; the vision of everything coming from and returning to the Trinity. During the Exercises we needed to distinguish sharply in order to arrive to a decision, but once this process is completed, the “Contemplation” - without the danger of leveling differences - enables us to discover the unity of all things coming from God and returning to him [23]. We are in this movement and in fact are called to enter the inner life of the Trinity. God not only gives us things but also wants to share with us his life as community of love in the Trinity. He not just gives us all but desires the mutuality of love that we answer with the love received from him. God is love and when he shares himself, he gives us his love with which we are called to give and share with others what we have. Our mutual love with the Trinity includes all the others who are called to enter that community. “Hence, if one has knowledge, he shares it with the one who does not possess it; and so also if one has honors, or riches. Thus, one always gives to the other” [231]. St. Ignatius’ point, which is based on his own mystical experiences and philosophical-theological studies, moves toward the notion of a universal community in love [24]. The notion of the community of mutual love is at the heart of the New Testament: “I give you a new commandment: love one another” (Jn 14:34), “This I command you: love one another” (Jn 15:17), and the call for a universal love is there in the Sermon on the Mount as Jesus extends the commandment of love to include even one’s enemies: “I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust… So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:44-48). Sharing in God’s life means to love as he and we directly experience God, who is love in the act of loving. The way to love God is obey the commandment  “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.” (Jn 14:21) and the only commandment of the New Testament is to love.

God is love and when we love, sharing in who he is, we are united with him in what St. John of the Cross calls “union of likeness”. This union produced by love with God makes the human person and God “seem to be one”; it is the summit of Mount Carmel and the goal of the spiritual life. If we recall that the human person is created in “the image and likeness of God himself” (Cf. Gen 1:26-27) we can understand why the “union of likeness” is indeed fulfillment of human existence. Later in the “Contemplation” we will see other aspects of the fact that the human person is created in the “image of God”.

In Chapter 5 of Book Two of The Ascent of Mount Carmel St. John of the Cross uses the image of a window bathed in light to illustrate this “union of likeness”; if the window is clear the sunlight comes through it so that the glass seems like to have the nature of the light itself although it remains distinct from it. Similarly, one “makes room for God” and works to “deprive oneself for God of all that is not God” and will be transformed into God “…and God will communicate His supernatural being to it that it will appear to be God and will possess all that God Himself has.” [25].

The negative factor of detachment involved here is complemented by the positive side of the dynamism, since this “purification” is achieved through the force of love that conforms and directs one’s actions toward God. In order to be transformed by love in union with God one must, “…employ all the faculties, appetites, operations and emotions of his soul in God…”[26]. We see the similarity of this vision of union with God with the goal of human existence presented in the Principle and Foundation [23] as “to love and praise God” and “serve him with reverence” and the freedom searched in the Exercises process is for the “more” of the love of God. St. Ignatius places more stress on the passionate and generous service of God as a way of mystical union with God while St. John of the Cross writes more of the mysticism of love through prayer, but evidently to live as “contemplatives in action” one needs extended periods of explicit prayer to acquire the sensibility for “finding God in all things”. We can add here that also the earlier mentioned notion of the ascending spiral of spiritual growth and healing (an image evoking the ascent to Mount Carmel) with the involved movements of “turning from” and “turning-toward” and with the corresponding techniques of mind-fasting and spirit-feasting [27] presents an application of this great vision of the Exercises of the dynamism of union with God through detachment and active love.

After these preliminary reflections we enter in the “Contemplation” itself. Ignatian contemplation means that we enter in the reality contemplated in order to experience it directly, as in the contemplations on the life of Jesus we prayed for receiving a personal revelation of the mystery involved in the Gospel passage. Here we pray for an experience of Pentecost, a new effusion of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and a through the Spirit a personal experience of God. It is generally accepted that the mystical experiences of St. Ignatius at Manresa are at the source of the points of the “Contemplation”, and he wants the exercitant to gain a similar experience through this prayer. Such experience is not reserved for exceptional individuals but is something that is more often found among “ordinary” people than we would think of at first. In the light of Karl Rahner’s above quoted insight of the necessity to become ‘mystics’ for the future of Christianity it is important that the companions pray for such experience with hope and insistency.

The structure of the exercise will be slightly different from the other contemplations. After the opening prayer we have only the visualization of the place, then we ask for the grace we seek and follow with the four points of the contemplation which ends with a prayerful conversation of the companion’s liking. It is for the companions to decide if they want to pray through all the four points in one session or to dedicate four or even more prayer sessions for the “Contemplation”. If they divide it in more sessions, for example by having  woven these in the course of the Fourth or even the Third Phase, each of these sessions will begin with the same opening prayer and preparatory steps and end with a prayerful conversation. We encourage the companions to stay with this contemplation for an extended time, use the material with freedom and flexibility and return to it time to time. At the end of the retreat it is advisable to go through the entire “Contemplation” as a magnificent closure and transition for the aftermath.

Opening prayer

We use the same opening prayer as usual.

Visualization of the place

The scene that we enter now is similar to what we presented in the “Three Types of Attitudes” at [152]. The companions imagine themselves standing together in front of God among all the saints and angels, each of whom is praying for them.

Asking what we want

We pray in this contemplations for an “intimate knowledge of the many blessings received” [233] so that filled with gratitude we might love and serve God in all things. Bernard Tyrrell sees a parallelism between the stages of the spirit-feasting process of Christotherapy and the grace of the “Contemplation” as the prayer for it moves from the understanding of the blessings received through the experience of gratitude to an overflowing of this gratitude in the desire to love and serve [28]. The contemplative, intimate knowledge we seek here refers to an experiential “knowing” in biblical sense [29] involving personal encounter and lived relationship. Like the “intimate knowledge of our Lord” [104] we asked in the contemplations of the life of Jesus, it is a personal revelation, a mystical experience of God. St. Ignatius has in mind his own mystical experience and is convinced that anyone can ask for such grace in the hope that God will grant it [30].

The grace of the “Contemplation” includes the mutuality of love mentioned in the introduction before. The intimate knowledge of God’s blessings and works for us results in a deep gratitude [31], which turns life into constant Eucharist (meaning “thanksgiving”) into a desire of thankful self-giving through service as answer for God’s love; with John Futrell’s fortunate expression life becomes “thanks-living”[32]. Every gift of God is always also a self-communication in a form or other, he gives himself first to us, and we respond with our love and service. So the grace we seek here is “…an exchange of love, realized in mutual self-giving, in which an habitual and formal friendship with the Indwelling Trinity is established and lived by in and through our most ordinary, everyday activity and passivity in and for the world”[33]

We cannot seize this love, it is a grace which we receive as the Spirit transforms our hearts and brings us into friendship with the Trinity. The Trinity dwells in us and it is our pneumatic dimension where the exchange of love first of all takes place and from there the Spirit animates all other spheres of our existence. For the most part our exchange with God reaches the depths, which we can call “pneumatic unconscious”. Since existence itself is unconscious, as it cannot be made totally conscious and reflected upon, all dimensions including the pneumatic sphere of the human being extend on the unconscious, preconscious as well as on the conscious levels. “Pneumatic unconscious” is that part of the pneumatic dimension where experiences, like religious conversion, religious intuition or inspiration by the Holy Spirit, mystical encounters with God and charismatic phenomena, like prophetic insights and healings as gifts of the Holy Spirit occur. Our inner dialog with God is often unconscious even if it might have begun with a conscious desire to pray. All prayer can reach the depths of the pneumatic unconscious but this is more manifest and directly intended in non-conceptual contemplative forms of prayer, like the prayer of the “heart” [34], the centering prayer or the Jesus prayer and in a certain sense even the rosary. The Christian mystical life is the living and transforming dialog with the indwelling God, and the fruits of this dialog are realized in the concreteness of love outward. From this we can understand that the grace of the “Contemplation”, which is no less than becoming mystics, means to love all creatures of God from the source of love in the depths of one’s pneumatic dimension.

As we get more and more near to God we discover also more clearly and even painfully his distance and otherness. The works of St. John of the Cross show most vividly this paradoxical nature of the love of God. The first stanza of The Spiritual Canticle expresses in a form of lyrical love poem the tension of this experience as the lover complaints of the painful absence of the Beloved:


¿Adonde te escondiste,

Amado, y me dejaste con gemido?

Como il cervo huiste Habiendome herido;

Salí tras ti clamando, y eras ido


Where have You hidden,

Beloved, and left me moaning?

You fled like the stag

After wounding me;

I went out calling You and You were gone. [35]


In the commentary to the Canticle St. John of the Cross speaks of the “hidden” (unconscious) presence of the indwelling Trinity in the innermost being of soul (pneumatic dimension) and so he adds to the ontological reference of the presence of God in the pneumatic dimension an experiential characterization, pointing out that it is unconscious: “It should be known that the Word, the Son of God, together with the Father and the Holy Ghost, is hidden by His essence and His presence in the innermost being of the soul.  A person who wants to find Him should leave all things through affection and will, enter within himself in deepest recollection, and regard things as though they were nonexistent.  St. Augustine, addressing God in the Soliloquies, said: I did not find You without, Lord, because I wrongly sought You without, Who were within. God, then, is hidden in the soul and there the good contemplative must seek Him with love, exclaiming:  "Where have you hidden?"[36]

We cannot grasp God, as he remains hidden and mysterious as we get near to him. Also St. Ignatius knew this paradoxical nature of our love with the Trinity when he makes us pray for the “intimate knowledge” of God. Our love, as Karl Rahner says, does not “brashly intrude into God’s privacy” but becomes faithful service, praise and adoration, able to come closer to God while the distance from him increases [37].

The grace of “finding God in all things” means that while we contemplate the face of God, we discover him more intimately in loving and serving others. Karl Rahner refers here to the ability of St. Ignatius to suppress the mystical experiences that brought him so strongly the gift of tears in order not to loose his sight necessary for serving others [38]. God himself loves and serves all and through all creatures; in consequence the deepest experience and communion with him is in the act of loving and serving others. On the other side, we are also called to love and serve without stopping by anything but returning to God from all creatures, seeking constantly the presence and the company of him. The following four points help the companions to be open for this grace and present four interconnected aspects of God’s love and invite us to answer to each of these aspects “effectively and affectively”[39].

First point: God, the source of all gifts

St. Ignatius invites us in this point first “to recall to mind the blessings of creation and redemption, and the special favors I have received” [234] and with this in a way that reconnects to the theme of the “Principle and Foundation” [23] and to the First Phase now enriched with all the experience of the Exercises.

This point begins with the remembrance of God’s gifts which is similar to the “anamnesis” [40] part of the Eucharistic prayer of the Mass, when the celebrant recalls the passion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. In seeing liturgy as an efficacious remembrance of the great events of redemption the Catholic theology follows the Jewish tradition of the Passover Seder, in which through the account of the liberation from Egypt (Haggadah Shel Pesach) each participant should consider himself or herself as personally passed through the Red Sea. In the liturgical remembrance we become part of and receive the fruits of the redemption. Although here in the exercises it is not a liturgical anamnesis, something similar happens as the recollection of the gifts of God opens our hearts for gratitude and for further graces.

The remembrance of the great deeds of God in the creation and redemption flows into recollecting the personal gifts he has bestowed upon us. Moreover, not only that God gave us existence and continuously gives us so much, but also he desires to give himself to us. God not only is communicating with us through his grace but he is always a self-communicating God. “…God himself as the abiding and holy mystery, as the incomprehensible ground of man’s transcendent existence is not only the God of infinite distance, but also wants to be the God of absolute closeness in a true self-communication, and he is present in the spiritual depths of our existence as well as in the concreteness of our corporeal history” [41]

St. Ignatius says that we should “ponder with great affection” [234] the gifts of God; letting also our feelings of gratitude participate in this exercise. Through gratitude the recollection becomes a personal “Magnificat” (Lk 1:46-55) in which like the pregnant Mary at the visit to Elizabeth we praise God for the great things he has done for us.

Another prayer that expresses beautifully the gratitude evoked by God’s gifts is the Hebrew “Dayenu” that is sung during the Passover celebration. The word means, “it would have been enough” and as this prayer goes through the deeds of Yahweh for his people, it emphasizes with gratitude that each of these would be sufficient for the children of Israel. Here we list some of these verses, each ending with “it would have been enough”:

“God brought us out of Egypt, dayenu/ God cast down their idols, dayenu/ God parted the Red Sea, dayenu/ God brought us to dry land, dayenu/ God fed us with manna, dayenu/ God gave us the Sabbath, dayenu/ God led us to Mount Sinai, dayenu/ God gave us the Torah, dayenu/ God led us into Israel, dayenu…”

We can compose our own “Magnificat” or “Dayenu” prayer, beginning with the gifts of creation and redemption to mankind and then going through the history of our lives, how God loved us into existence and recalling the events when God intervened, saved, healed or gifted us in some other way. If the companions would like to try it, this could be a way to give expression to their gratefulness in this point of the “Contemplation”.

The companions by recalling the great gifts of God are in a moment similar to Pentecost when the Holy Spirit enabled the disciples to remember all what Jesus taught them in a new and full understanding, an experience of which they came out as courageous and efficient apostles of the nascent Church. The “Contemplation” presents the possibility of a new effusion of the Spirit and the companions might experience the renewal of all the graces received during the Exercises and at this first point particularly the graces experienced in the First Phase of this retreat. It is not necessarily an overwhelmingly felt moment, even if great emotions are not excluded. This new Pentecost is an implosion of the Spirit in the pneumatic dimension which reaches even the unconscious depths, and how much of it is felt depends on the point of this moment in the life of the companions, on their personal sensibility and spiritual history.

After reflecting on all these things St. Ignatius says that “according to all reason and justice” we ought to offer ourselves completely to God “as one would do who is moved by great feeling”, and proposes the beautiful prayer that became the great hymn of the Society of Jesus, called “Suscipe” after the first word of it in Latin:

“Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will – all that I have and call my own. You have given it all to me. To you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace. That is enough for me” [234] [42].

This prayer is one of the climaxes of the Exercises and the companions might use this or compose one to express their offering with their own words. We can notice that St. Ignatius does not even mention in it our love toward God; instead, he gives expression to the essence of love which is the self-giving reciprocity. The great generosity of God’s love that called us in existence from nothing, that restored and healed us so many times, evokes in us gratitude and desire to love. Since love manifest itself in mutual sharing we want to give in return everything to God.

All we have is gift from God that we can return with gratitude but of these our liberty and freedom is given as most exclusively ours. That the omnipotent God created us with freedom, that he respects our free will, is the greatest gift and one of the profoundest mysteries. The source of our liberty is in the image of God in us, in the indwelling Trinity in our hearts and it is assured by the love of God that in a mysterious way lets us free notwithstanding his omnipotence. The absolute God is not a puppeteer, watchmaker or tyrant but a Father who desires his children to grow in freedom, albeit not autonomously or separately from him but in loving communion. We might say that God retreats in order to let us exercise our freedom; and so it happens also that as one grows in intimacy with him God becomes experienced more and more as inaccessible and transcendent, “hidden God”.

St Ignatius begins precisely with freedom the prayer of offering and continues with the classical three faculties, memory, intellect and will. As Karl Rahner points out, it is “oddly magnificent” that in the “Suscipe” the first thing offered to God is freedom, which modern existential theology accounts the most basic human characteristic [43].

Bernard Tyrrell stresses the importance of the offering of one’s memory in connection with the Suscipe prayer when he speaks of the beneficial effects of filling the memory with authentic and good material, psalms, prayers or poems [44]. He identifies the realization of this offering in daily life with the practice of spirit-feasting. In fact, memorized prayers or poems might be helpful to cope with certain situations. Sometimes one short significant phrase can give us vision and strength for a tract of the road of our life and it does not need necessarily be from a canonized book; a psalm or a prayer, all good literature and all forms of authentic art have the potential of healing and growth. Let us recall the important role art (architecture, icons, paintings, murals, even holy cards or decorative art) and music always played alongside with the vast literature in Christian spiritual life. As for the therapeutic effect of literature let us refer to Viktor Frankl who spoke often of bibliotherapy or healing through reading, quoting cases when books changed or even saved the life of the reader, or helped one cope with situation of dying or imprisonment [45]. He even sustained that lay people can benefit from books on Logotherapy, that such reading can amount as a form of self-administered therapy[46]. We might add here that we hope that our present work on the Exercises will be verified as a source of healing and comfort to the readers. Of course, the spirit-feasting of the memory is not complete actualization in our life of the Suscipe prayer without the involvement of the other faculties and the actual love and service it should generate in one or other form.

The three faculties offered with our liberty are alluding to the image of the Trinitarian God in us and express the totality of our being including our entire psychophysical reality. We surrender to God our bodies with its defects and merits, all our desires, impulses, reactions, feelings, memories - even what we think of as the negative or dark side of our personality. When through the grace of the indwelling Holy Spirit we surrender ourselves with love completely to God we enter the inner life of the Trinity. Then we not only enjoy the communion with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit but the love that is poured out in our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5) will be overflowing in deeds, in generous service of God and his creation.


Second Point: God dwells in us and in all creatures

“This is to reflect how God dwells in creatures: in the elements giving them existence, in the plants giving them life, in the animals conferring upon them sensation, in man bestowing understanding. So He dwells in me and gives me being, life, sensation, intelligence; and makes a temple of me, since I am created in the likeness and image of the Divine Majesty” [235].

God not only is the source of all of his gifts but desires to give himself to us in each of these, in all of his creatures. Since God is present in all we can meet him in everybody we encounter, in everything we see, possess or use. Already in the meditation on the “Three Types of Attitudes” [149-157] we saw that “…the things of this world are so transparent toward God that they really only attain their true worth and purpose by revealing Him”[47]. Thus all creation instead of being an obstacle to find the divine, on the contrary, is a vehicle of self-communication of God as not only a sign of his presence but also an efficacious means of communion with the Trinity; in one word, everything is in fact a sacrament.

The transcendent and absolute God is infinitely other then everything but also immanent and intimately present in all the creation. He is not outside of the world but lives in all creatures and in a special way in every human person who being true image of the Trinity is also a temple of God’s presence. The companions might note that in this point St. Ignatius describes precisely to what is called “dimensional ontology”, the hierarchical structure of somatic, psychological, noetic and pneumatic dimensions of the human person [48] when he says: “So He dwells in me and gives me being, life, sensation, intelligence; and makes a temple of me, since I am created in the likeness and image of the Divine Majesty”. He points out that the source of all existence is God and that in the human being created in the likeness and image of the Trinity, the pneumatic dimension, the special indwelling of God animates the other dimensions.

In this point of the “Contemplation” we want not only to accept this truth intellectually but also experience it and “feel” the sacramental character of everything, the holiness of all things and all persons. One important aspect of this contemplation is a deeper respect toward all creation, nature and life in all forms and toward all our fellow humans; we become fully aware of the dignity of all human beings including ourselves as living temples of God. This point helps us to realize also that the special presence of Trinity, the pneumatic dimension, is not simply one further level but the core of the human existence and animates the other dimensions. As we said earlier, when a change occurs on the pneumatic level, it will influence the somatic, psychic and noetic dimensions as well. Of course the somatic, psychic and noetic dimensions in their being well or not influence the pneumatic dimension as well; it might even happen that healing on these levels result in a new openness toward the grace of God, even in religious conversion. The various dimensions are not compartments of which some are less important but different points of view of the total human person that is one holistic reality, one harmonious temple of the indwelling Trinity.

With the realization that God is present in all human hearts we can speak also of a pneumatoshpere on the analogy of the noosphere [49] and biosphere. The pneumatosphere is not equivalent with Christianity since the Holy Spirit dwells in all humanity, but the Church receives a special guidance to its mission for the salvation of all [50]. Together and in close relationship with the other “spheres”, pneumatosphere constitutes our environment and is exposed to pollution. In Christotherapy Bernard Tyrrell poignantly describes this pollution: “Today men exist in a “noosphere”, a climate of thought that encompasses the whole world. Through the different media, we are constantly bombarded with “messages” about how to think and desire and feel. Many of these messages are basically inauthentic, and yet often enough they are received and accepted without conscious advertence. The mental atmosphere becomes increasingly polluted and harmful, and can be the source of “diseases” of every kind. Injustice itself is a disease in all of its oppressive forms, racism, domination of the poor by the rich”[51]. Because of the intimate connection between the noetic and pneumatic dimension in the spiritual reality of the human person, the diseases of the mental atmosphere reverberate also in the reality of faith and religiosity in the world.

Besides this influence coming from the negative climate of thought there are also distortions in religiosity that derive from purely pneumatic sources, which might or might not be of preternatural character. Similarly to the collective noogenic neurosis described by Viktor Frankl [52], we witness in our world also the influence of collective neurosis of pneumatic origin. Although God’s presence cannot be destroyed in the human being and the spiritual (noetic and pneumatic) core of the human person cannot become ill, the thirst of the human heart for God sometimes can get frustrated – often because of the lack of authentic and living faith on the part of the members of the Church. The frustrated search for the Ultimate Meaning in God tends to manifest itself in symptoms of pseudo-religiosity and collective pneumatic neurosis appears not only in the cults, New Age and countless esoteric practices, and healing gurus but also in some distorted forms of Christian religiosity as well. Since the pneumatic and noetic dimensions are closely related, also the collective neurosis in these two spheres intertwined, for example, the mental epidemic of distorted ideas can turn into disaster on pneumatic level. The healing of this type of neurosis requires therapies that reach to the pneumatic sphere utilizing spiritual, pneumatic means alongside of classical Logotherapy and psychotherapy, and more importantly it needs the witnesses of authentic faith on a societal level, living communities to which the individual can relate and turn for help.

St. Ignatius respects the personal sensibility of the exercitants when he says to do this contemplation “…in the manner stated in the first point, or in some other way that may seem better” [235]. The companions are free to follow their mode of thinking and feeling to receive to inspirations of the Holy Spirit who according to the earlier quoted remark of St. John of the Cross “…illumines the intellect …according to the mode of its recollection” (Ascent Book II, chapter 29, paragraph 6) [53].

Contemplating in this point how God dwells in creatures we are reminded to the mystery of his incarnation and his living among us in Jesus Christ, which was the main topic of the Second Phase and it will in a way recall for us the graces received during that Phase. The mutuality of love and the contemplation of God giving himself to us unreservedly will inspire us to desire to do similarly. We then say again the Suscipe prayer with deeper commitment and with this, so to say, we ratify repeatedly the decision made in the Second Phase: “Take, Lord, and receive…”


Third Point: God works in all creation

“This is to consider how God works and labors for me in all creatures upon the face of the earth, that is, He conducts Himself as one who labors. Thus, in the heavens, the elements, the plants, the fruits, the cattle, etc., He gives being, conserves them, confers life and sensation, etc.” [236]. The “Contemplation” grows in intensity as we proceed from point to point; here we encounter God who not only bestows upon us his gifts, not only gives his presence to us in everything but who also continuously labors for us in all things. God the worker is one of the favorite images of St. Ignatius and this point is rich in resonance with various phases of the entire Exercises process and evokes many graces received earlier. This point first of all recalls the vision of the “Principle and Foundation” [23], which stated that all things are created by God in order to help us to realize our human vocation, to attain the goal of our existence in the union with God. The awe expressed in this point in front of God’s great works in the creation resonates with the “cry of wonder” [60] of St. Ignatius in the First Phase seeing the goodness of all the creatures that continue to sustain and help us even if we are sinners. The whole universe is “groaning in labor pains” (Rom 8:22) with us and is bound in solidarity with mankind and until redemption will be completed with our bodily resurrection and God will be all in all.

We are created in the “image and likeness” (cf. Gen 1:26-28) of God the worker; in consequence work is part of our being image of God as much as our spiritual faculties of will and intelligence [54]. God gave humanity the vocation to share with him the exercise of “dominion” over the material creation. Human work in itself is not just a consequence of sin where its toilsome quality amounts for reparation (Gen 3:17-19); work is part of the original design of God who placed Adam in Eden to take care of it (Gen 2:15). Still today we are able to experience the joyfulness of creative work and enjoy its recreational value. This theology of work renders us conscious of our responsibility for the material creation and of our duty to conserve and to work for its redemption. It should influence our view of human activity, civilization, culture and technology, so to see their importance as the means and way to God. Spiritual life and work are not opposed and conflicting tasks, but aspects of our vocation to be collaborators in the realization of the Kingdom of God.

In the third point of the “Contemplation” we ask for an experience God himself who is working for us constantly as a laborer and as a servant to provide us with everything and to help us reach him. From this perspective of God as the servant is understandable the ethic Jesus taught, that the greatest is the one who serves and that service gives the greatest honor and dignity; at the Last Supper he adds “I am among you as the one who serves” (cf. Lk 22:24-27) and dramatizes it in the prophetic act of the washing of feet (Jn 13:1-20). It is God himself who serves us in Jesus in all his life in teaching, healing and comforting. We are to remember here the work of the redemption we contemplated in the Second Phase beginning from the mystery of the incarnation when he descended into the matter in order to reach us.

Of all the labors of the creation and redemption the culminating point is the passion of Jesus, and this contemplation renews for us in particular manner the graces received through the Third Phase. The companions might have begun to pray the “Contemplation” already during the passion phase if their desire to love God became so strong as to inspire to do so. Our growing love for God needs to be expressed in deeds. The contemplation of the passion has important lessons for our desire to do something for God in return for all his labors. The spirituality of St. Ignatius calls us to find God in all things, not only through prayer but also in our work; it calls us to be contemplatives in action. Although the word ‘labor’ expresses hardships and even pain, it does not mean simply “hard work” in the sense that more work is better. As we contemplate Jesus’ passion and death we understand deeper that not only activity is fruitful but also there is great redemptive value in suffering, which might seem mere passive enduring. The third point of the “Contemplation” recalls what we said in the Third Phase about attitudinal values and its importance for personal growth, healing and about its fruitfulness. Contemplating God as the worker teaches us to become contemplatives in action, which means first of all discernment and good decisions about how much and what to do. The Exercises give us the means to learn to work, to pray, to love and to suffer with discretion based on conscious choices inspired by the indwelling Holy Spirit and to be present in all with our entire being in order to be always with God, to find him in all things.

In the Kingdom meditation [91-98] the companions were called to labor with the contemporary Christ for the realization of his Kingdom; the offering to share in his mission and work became concrete in the decision of the Second Phase and now they can deepen and express their desire to be co-workers of God [55] with the Suscipe prayer: “Take, Lord, and receive…”.


Fourth point: God descends in us

“This is to consider all blessings and gifts as descending from above. Thus, my limited power comes from the supreme and infinite power above, and so, too, justice, goodness, mercy, etc. descend from above as the rays of light descend from the sun, and as the waters flow from their fountains” [237].

The four points of the “Contemplation” form a crescendo of intensity: first we saw all the gifts of God, then his immanent presence in all, after it his continuous work in all for us and now we experience his own love and life communicated to us constantly. This fourth, most intense point is an all-embracing crowning point of the “Contemplation” and of the entire Exercises. It summarizes and completes all graces received during the retreat and ushers the companions to the aftermath or “Fifth Phase”. If the companions begin to take the “Contemplation” already in the Third Phase they should wait with this last point until they enter the Fourth Phase since this last point is connected with the theme of the resurrection and St. Ignatius warned not to meditate on it during the passion phase [56].

This point is the sweeping vision of our life as participation in the inner life of the Trinity. We see ourselves immersed in God the Father, source of all life through the person of Christ the Son and through the Holy Spirit of the Father and the Son [57]. This vision recalls the graces of the Forth Phase when we contemplated the risen Christ who through the apparitions consoled and taught the disciples to recognize his new presence, promising that he will be always with us (cf. Mt 28:20) through the power of his Spirit that descends upon us from above (Acts 1:8).

Now we remember also how St. Ignatius said that the love of God “must descend from above” [184], that it is the Holy Spirit himself in our hearts. With this contemplation we ask to experience the love of God descending in our hearts in a new effusion of the Spirit; we ask for the grace of a new Pentecost.

In the words of St. Ignatius “to consider all blessings and gifts as descending from above” we feel the echo of his experience at the Cardoner River seeing everything descending from the Trinity, a vision which accompanied him for all the rest of his life. In this point we are contemplating now everything and ourselves filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit and ask the grace that from this Pentecost experience we could bring with them a constant awareness of the Spirit present in us and in all creation. With other words we are seeking for the rest of our life to grow daily in the transforming union with the indwelling Trinity.

The contemplation of “all blessings and gifts as descending from above” brings back to us also the grace of the Principle and Foundation [23] as it renews us in the freedom toward all created things. With other words such experience will mean for us to be able to live in spiritual poverty [58]. By this we mean that we will respect all things and everybody since they “descend from above as the rays of light descend from the sun” and at the same time we will raise our focus from the rays of light to the sun itself. We learn to appreciate in them the reflection of God but will not stop at anyone instead will be able to follow our deepest yearning for the source of all, for God himself.

We see that God is the source of all that is within us, that our “limited power comes from the supreme and infinite power above”, our justice, mercy, goodness, truth, beauty and love is but a ray of the infinite sun of God’s justice, mercy, goodness, truth, beauty and love. We are drawn into God, we want to live in him immersed like a drop of water in the limitless ocean and so we say: “Take, Lord, and receive…”.


The end of the Exercises

“Thus everything should be attributed to God in a song of praise. Whoever can do that, whoever can say the ‘Suscipe’ with his whole heart and soul and mean every word of it,…he has arrived at that point where St. Ignatius wants him to be at the end of the Spiritual Exercises. He is the kind of person St. Ignatius can send back into the world of daily life so that he can find the living God of love there in his work, in his destiny, in his gifts and sufferings, in life and death, in using and leaving things of this earth. If he attains such love, he will possess God, not in opposition to the world, but as the only One who gives value and dignity to the world”[59]

With the “Contemplation” we completed the program laid out for the Exercises process in the Principle and Foundation. As we end the retreat the companions might wonder what will remain of all the graces received how they can continue to live in discernment for the rest of their life? We told several times that the Spiritual Exercises are sort of a school to learn about important means to help on our way later in new situations. We hope that such learning happened during this retreat.

What can be continued of this strong experience and what will be dropped? This concern is probably stronger in the case of a secluded retreat as the impact with the aftermath is sharper. We might advise to take on a rhythm of prayer and reflection similar to a retreat in everyday life. As far as the everyday form of the retreat, once the companions arrive to the end, the daily or weekly prayer sessions probably became already part of their “normal” routine and they will desire to continue them in some form. We would like to say not to worry too much but keep what is manageable with peace and invoke the Holy Spirit for guidance on the way that lies ahead.

It is good to end the Exercises with a review session and summarize the decisions taken that require fidelity in their realization, and these choices need to be turned into practice without delay and decisively even if they mean only a relatively small thing. In the review session the companions need to look at which questions remained yet to be answered and to search for the means that will be available to continue the spiritual journey undertaken. For example, we strongly recommend keeping the practice of the “Daily Examination of Consciousness” learnt in the First Phase because of its importance for the spiritual growth and think it will be helpful to revisit the two sets of “Guidelines for Discernment” and the different other guidelines given in the Appendices. The four points of the just finished “Contemplation” surely will emerge for us often in various situations with relevance [60] and it provides us also a magnificent form of prayer to use once in awhile for a mini-retreat.


[1] As an example for a presentation of the “Contemplation” that completely replaces the scholastic terminology with an approach based on modern biblical scholarship we refer the reader to Stanley, “A Modern Scriptural Approach to the Spiritual Exercises,” Chapter 32., pp.316-324. The approach of this well-known biblical scholar and retreat master offers a biblical approach that first presents the historical process of God’s revelation and then turns to consider the role of man as mediator in collaboration with the divine plan of redemption with the grace of Christ.

[2] See the episode in “St. Ignatius’ Own Story As told to Luis Gonzales de Camara With a sampling of his letters”, pp. 23-24. A few other mystical experiences that St. Ignatius mentions in this autobiography as well are generally considered as the background of the “Contemplation”. Cf. Barry, “Finding God in All Things,” pp. 133-136.

[3] See the parallel between the experience St. Ignatius and St. Paul in Broderick, “Saint Ignatius Loyola, The Pilgrim Years 1491-1538,” p. 182.

[4] Cf. op. cit., p 317.

[5] Cf. Rahner, “Spiritual Exercises,” pp. 271-272.

[6] Cf. Cf. Lefrank – Giuliani, “Freedom for Service”, p. 135 where Alex Lefrank points out that “…meeting the Lord and his mission are no longer different things that follow one another” [italics from Lefrank].

[7] Moreover, St. Ignatius was a member of the Confraternity of the Holy Spirit, a fact mentioned by Peter-Hans Kolvenbach SJ in his talk To the General Assembly of the Christian Life Community, Nairobi, August 4, 2003. Confraternities were the organizations of the laity in the Church of that time. The talk is published in the magazine of CLC, Harvest Vol. 36, No. 2, Summer 2003, pp. 10-13, and can be find also online at the following address: http://users.online.be/~sj.eur.news/doc/clc/wa2003phke.htm

[8] Quoted in Stanley, “A Modern Scriptural Approach to the Spiritual Exercises,” p. 226. n. 2.; cf. also “The Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus,” p.308-314.

[9] Cf. Ibid., p.312.

[10] St. Thomas Aquinas commenting on this statement says “By the term ‘letter’ must be understood any line in the Scripture which remains exterior to men, even the moral precepts of the Gospel” (Summa Theologica 1a-2ae, q. 106, a2). Cf. Ibid., p.308.

[11]. See our note 3 in the “Preparatory Phase to the Exercises” describing Teilhard de Chardin’s concept of Christogenesis. As David M. Stanley notes, Chardin undoubtedly drew the inspiration for his optimistic, incarnational theology from the “Contemplation”. (Stanley, “A Modern Scriptural Approach to the Spiritual Exercises,” pp.331.)

[12] From The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD and Otilio Rodriguez, OCD., (Washington DC: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1973) p. 205. St. John of the Cross here refers to St. Thomas Aquinas, De Veritate Q, 12, a, 6: “quidquid recipitur, per modem recipientis recipitur” that is “whatever is received, is received after the mode of the receiver”.

[13] Although Viktor Frankl identified himself exclusively with the medical profession as psychiatrist, and in order to remain open to non believers sharply drew the line between psychiatry and religion, he himself was a religious man and his logotherapy influenced the work of several theologians like Hans Urs von Balthsar, Bernard Haering and others with whom he enjoyed friendship, too. Most importantly Frankl had a personal connection with Karl Rahner and seemingly influenced his theological works. This little known and surprising connection and the influence of existential analysis on Rahner’s transcendental anthropology, on his concept of anonymous Christians and on his supernatural existential are explored in detail in a study of Dr. Reinhard Zaiser, “Viktor E. Frankl as a Theologian: The Meaning of Logotherapy for Modern Western Theology,” in The International Forum of Logotherapy, Vol. 28, No. 1, Spring 2005, pp. 4-9.

[14] Frankl, “The Unconscious God,” p. 15.

[15] Cf. Nigro, S.J., “The Grace of Discernment of Spirits. Part V. The Practice of Discernment. Ignatian Rules for the Discernment of Spirits, In the Light of the Spiritual Exercises,” p. 46.

[16] Rahner, “Spiritual Exercises,” p. 273.

[17] Nigro, S.J., “The Grace of Discernment of Spirits. Part V. The Practice of Discernment. Ignatian Rules for the Discernment of Spirits, In the Light of the Spiritual Exercises,” p. 46.

[18] Cf. Lefrank – Giuliani, “Freedom for Service”, p. 232.

[19] Karl Rahner, Theological Investigations, [Schriften zur Theologie, 1954-1984], 23 volumes (New York: Crossroads, 1960-1992), 7:15 in “Christian Living Formerly and Today,” 7:3-24 [article originally published in 1966].

[20] See more about the concept of Pneumatological Christocentrism in Joseph H. Wong, “Anonymous Christians: Karl Rahner's Pneuma-Christocentrism and an East-West Dialogue” Theological Studies, Vol. 55, 1994.

[21] Lefrank – Giuliani, “Freedom for Service,” p. 18.

[22] Karl Rahner, Spiritual Writings, edited by Philip Endean, Modern Spiritual Masters Series, Orbis Books 10/04. Excerpt from “God of My Daily Routine” in Encounters with Silence.

[23] Cf. Lefrank – Giuliani, “Freedom for Service,” p. 135.

[24] Cf. Barry, “Finding God in All Things,” p. 132.

[25] “The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross,” The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book II, Chapter 5., op. cit., p. 117.

[26] Ibid., Book III, Chapter 16. p. 237. Cf. Deut 6:5.

[27] See the mind-fasting and spirit-feasting in Tyrrell, “Christotherapy I,” p. 73-106 and in “Christotherapy II,” pp.126-128. The image of spiral is introduced in Ibid., p. 6 and in “Christotherapy I,” p.137.

[28] Cf. Tyrrell, “Christotherapy II,” p. 225.

[29] In the Scriptures “knowledge” means nothing less than experience, and the same word used for man “knowing” God as “knowing” his wife through the sexual relationship Cf. Stanley, “A Modern Scriptural Approach to the Spiritual Exercises,” p. 64.

[30] Cf. Barry, “Finding God in All Things,” p. 133.

[31] Gratitude in the very sense is “recognition”, “re-knowing”; this is indicated by the Italian “riconoscenza” and the French “reconnaissance” words for gratitude that have the same root as recognition.

[32] Cowan-Futrell, “The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola,” p. 130.

[33] Cf. Nigro, S.J., “The Grace of Discernment of Spirits. Part V. The Practice of Discernment. Ignatian Rules for the Discernment of Spirits, In the Light of the Spiritual Exercises,” p. 46.

[34] The “heart” as Hebrew biblical concept sometimes means the whole person, more often the center of the human being, the source of all faculties not associated only with the emotions as in Western culture and it seems to refer also to the pneumatic dimension.

[35] “The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross,” (transl. Kavanaugh and Rodriguez), p.712.

[36] Ibid., commentary to the first stanza, sixth point, p. 418. The quote of St. Augustine is in Pseudo-Augustine, Soliliquiorum animae ad Deum liber unus, c.30:PL 40, 888.

[37] Cf. Rahner, “Spiritual Exercises,” p. 273.

[38] Ibid., p. 274.

[39] Cf. Nigro, S.J., “The Grace of Discernment of Spirits. Part V. The Practice of Discernment. Ignatian Rules for the Discernment of Spirits, In the Light of the Spiritual Exercises,” p. 46 where the author refers to the summary of Father Iparraguirre, S.J. of the four points.

[40] “Anamnesis” is Greek word for “recollection” or “reminiscence” term used for that part of the Eucharistic celebration. In broader sense the entire Eucharist and liturgy in general is “anamnesis”. Plato used the term in his philosophy in epistemological sense to describe the process of learning described in his dialogue Meno that for him was an anamnesis of the ideas contemplated in eternity and forgotten at birth. We recognize truth because of the reminiscence of the ideas. In consequence Socrates (and Plato) sees himself, not as a teacher, but as a midwife, aiding with the birth of knowledge that was already there in the student.

[41] Karl Rahner, Foundations of the Christian Faith, (New York: The Seabury Press, 1978). P.137.

[42] We use here the translation from David L. Fleming, S.J., The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: A Literal Translation and a Contemporary Reading, (St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1978), p. 141. The companions might use this prayer or compose one with their own words.

[43] Rahner, “Spiritual Exercises,” p. 272.

[44] Tyrrell, “Christotherapy II,” pp.227-233.

[45] Cf. Frankl, “The Unheard Cry for Meaning,” pp. 90-92. Frankl tells the case of a person who waiting for his execution found help in Leo Tolstoy’s novel The Death of Ivan Ilyich a story about a man who shortly before dying is confronted with the fact that he wasted his life, but just through this insight he becomes able retroactively fill his life with meaning. Frankl reminds literature of its responsibility of not to remain merely a symptom of the mass neurosis of our time but to being able to help at least through evoking a sense of solidarity with those who go through some form of the hell of suffering.

[46] Ibid., pp. 144-146.

[47] Rahner, “Spiritual Exercises,” p. 273.

[48] We already mentioned the extended “dimensional ontology” of Viktor Frankl in the introduction to the Fourth Phase, see there the definition of the four dimensions or levels of human existence.

[49] ‘Noosphere’ is a word first coined by Vladimir Verdansky on the analogy of ‘geosphere’, the layer of dead matter, and the ‘biosphere’, the layer of living matter. Beyond these spheres lies a further layer, the ‘noosphere’ (from the Greek ‘noos’, ‘nous’ for ‘mind’, and ‘sphaira for ‘globe’), a figurative envelope of human thought or layer of thinking matter, composed of all the interacting minds on Earth. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin S.J. elaborated the concept further which he mentions first in an essay entitled Hominization (1925): “And this amounts to imagining, in one way or another, above the animal biosphere a human sphere, a sphere of reflection, of conscious invention, of conscious souls (the noosphere, if you will)” (The Vision of the Past, (New York: Harper & Row, 1966) p. 63). Teilhard defined also the term noogenesis, the evolution of the noosphere toward an ever-greater integration, culminating in the Omega Point, the ultimate goal of history. Cf. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin S.J., The Phenomenon of Man, New York: Harper & Row, 1975) pp. 164-166. In our writing noosphere means the human dimension, the figurative layer formed by the noetic dimensions or the realm of meaning in the sense Viktor Frankl gave to it in Logotherapy.

[50] For example Olivier Clement in “Jesus, the Consecrated by the Holy Spirit,” (Tertium Millenium, No. 2, April 1998; it can be found also online at the following address: www.vatican.va/jubilee_2000/magazine/documents/ju_mag_01041998_p-17_en.html) restricts the term pneumatosphere for the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church. In our work the word pneumatosphere refers to the figurative layer of the indwelling Holy Spirit in all human hearts, formed by the interacting pneumatic dimensions of all human beings. The Teilhardian noosphere evolving toward the Omega Point (Christ) includes also our pneumatosphere without distinguishing it from the strictly human noetic system. The term ‘pneumatosphere’ was used first by Pavel Alexandrovich Florensky (1882 - 1937) a Russian Orthodox theologian, philosopher, mathematician and electrical engineer, sometimes compared by his followers to Leonardo da Vinci. He was sentenced for imprisonment in Soviet gulags where he was killed and later canonized by the Orthodox Church as saint and martyr.

[51] Tyrrell, “Christotherapy I,” p. 95.

[52] Cf. Frankl, “The Doctor and the Soul,” p. xiv-xvi. Frankl identifies the four symptoms of collective neurosis as the plan-less, day-to-day living, the fatalist attitude, the collective thinking and finally the fanaticism. He later refers to tests that were conducted with “normal”, non-neurotic patients, of whom fifty percent displayed at least three of the four symptoms and only one was completely free of all the four symptoms. Frankl adds: “We may thus speak of the pathological spirit of our time as a mental epidemic. And we might add that somatic epidemics are typical consequences of war, while mental epidemics are potential originators of war”.

[53] The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD and Otilio Rodriguez, OCD., (Washington DC: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1973) p. 205. See footnote 12 of this chapter.

[54] Cf. Stanley, “A Modern Scriptural Approach to the Spiritual Exercises,” pp. 322-324. We rely here mainly on the insights of Fr. Stanley on the theology of work, on the redemption of the material universe and of our role of mediation in it.

[55] Interestingly, being “co-worker” of Christ is the central spiritual theme of Pope Benedict XVI who still as Archbishop Joseph Raztinger chose the words from to 3 John 8 “co-worker in the truth” as the motto of his episcopate and one of his books was published with the title “Co-Workers of the Truth” (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992).

[56] Cf. Third Phase, [204-207] “Notes on how to proceed” 2. and 3.

[57] Cf. Cf. Nigro, S.J., “The Grace of Discernment of Spirits. Part V. The Practice of Discernment. Ignatian Rules for the Discernment of Spirits, In the Light of the Spiritual Exercises,” p. 48.

[58] Cf. Barry, “Finding God in All Things,” pp. 133-136.

[59] Rahner, “Spiritual Exercises,” pp. 276-277.


[60] Prather, “A Generous Openness. Praying the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius,” pp. 99-100.