My Photo
Location: United States

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Redux: Sexuality and Ignatian Spirituality

Yesterday I had posted this, then deleted it, but now it's back :)

The latest issue of the Jesuit spirituality journal The Way is out and as usual one of their articles is free for download - you can find it by visiting their site and going to the "current issue" page. Here is just the introduction to the article, which deals with the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola ........

Ordered Affection: Sexuality and Ignatian Spirituality
by Timothy P. Muldoon

CHRISTIAN SACRAMENTAL THEOLOGY develops out of a recognition that all physical matter can be a window, as it were, into the mystery of God. Philip Endean, paraphrasing Karl Rahner’s theology of symbol, expresses this notion well:

All reality—even God’s own being—is symbolic. This outer material is not an extrinsic sign (Vertretungssymbol) of God’s creative power, but an intrinsic symbol (Realsymbol) of God’s self-gift. (1)

The body is a real symbol of the human being, inasmuch as the body manifests and makes present the reality of the person, created in the image and likeness of God. What, then, of the body’s desires? If the body is the Realsymbol of the human being, and the human being is created in the image and likeness of God—though affected by sin— what theological sense ought we to make of hunger, thirst and, especially, sexual desire? This essay will argue that Ignatian spirituality, rooted in the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, offers a way forward in considering a response to these questions. It will focus on sexual desire and develop the thesis that Ignatian spirituality invites reflection on the harmonizing of all affections, including such desire, towards the end of union with God.

To be clear, it is important to begin with the observation that Ignatius himself had little to say directly about sex, and his view of marriage as subordinate to celibate religious life mirrored that of his contemporaries. Yet what he produced in the Spiritual Exercises is an invitation to an experience of God—or, more precisely, an invitation to reflection upon one’s experiences of God—which involves understanding all the ways that one’s life bears the divine imprint, despite being tarnished by sinful choices. It is therefore possible to examine the dynamics of Ignatian spirituality with particular focus on the question of how it might invite a person to reflect upon his or her sexuality in the context of the desire for union with God. To put the issue more colloquially, the person undertaking the Exercises—and, further, the person trying to live according to what he or she discovers in the context of the Exercises—is asking the question, ‘how might I use my sexuality for the greater glory of God?’

I would like to look first at the roots of Christian reflection on sexuality, in order to understand the historical and theological context of Ignatius’ writings. Next, I shall examine the Spiritual Exercises, paying particular attention to Ignatius’ emphasis on the ordering of affection. Finally, I shall extrapolate from the text of the Exercises to explore some implications for what the ordering of affection might mean for sexuality .....

(1) Philip Endean, Karl Rahner and Ignatian Spirituality (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2001), 132, citing Rahner’s seminal essay ‘The Theology of the Symbol’, in Theological Investigations, volume 4 (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1966), 221–252.



Post a Comment

<< Home