We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
T.S. Eliot — “Little Gidding” (the last of his Four Quartets)
The Contemplation to Attain Love is the final Exercise of the Spiritual Exercises. In the Third Week of the Exercises, we focus on the passion and death of Christ. In the Fourth Week we focus on living in the Risen Christ. It is important to remember that St. Ignatius is referring to our love for God. He is also referring to something which is not sentimental or poetic but something lived in everyday life.
We began our exploration and pilgrimage with St. Ignatius with “Take Lord Receive” as an impulse of grace that moves into the life of the Holy Trinity. We now complete the cycle and move into the next. Yet we know the place for the first time.
This is to recall to mind the blessings of creation and redemption, and the special favours I have received.
I will ponder with great affection how much God our Lord has done for me, and how much He has given me of what He possesses, and finally, how much, as far as He can, the same Lord desires to give Himself to me according to his divine decrees.
Then I will reflect upon myself, and consider, according to all reason and justice, what I ought to offer the Divine Majesty, that is, all I possess and myself with it. Thus as one would do who is moved by great feeling, I will make this offering of myself: Take, Lord, and Receive…
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 human beings, giving 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.
Then I will reflect upon myself again…
This is to consider how God works and labours for me in all creatures upon the face of the earth, that is, He conducts Himself as one who labours. Thus in the heavens, the elements, the plants, the fruits, the cattle, etc., He gives being, conserves them, confers life and sensation, etc.
Then I will reflect on myself…
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, etc.
Then I will reflect on myself…
Conclude with a colloquy (The colloquy is made by speaking exactly as one friend speaks to another, or as a servant speaks to a master…) and an Our Father.
St. Ignatius, you signed your letters “pobre de bondad,” poor in goodness, and called yourself a pilgrim. Please pray for me to be open to what God is calling me to do to announce and build up the kingdom. Transform my petitions into questions of discernment and pray for us to remember that all of our true needs and desires are already known to God. Pray that I be taken beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life.
In your writings and by your example we are reminded to pray for the Church and the Holy Father, for all who dwell in darkness, and for the millions lacking food, water, and other necessities. We join our prayer with yours for true openness so that we can contemplate the Divine presence in all things and praise, reverence, and serve God Our Lord in action. Pray for us to have the courage to meet and to serve the Lord Jesus in the poor and the suffering.
Praise be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
Now and Forever. Amen.