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Monday, October 18, 2010

That 'the Creator and Lord Himself should communicate Himself to His devout soul'

I've been doing two things .... reading Radical Orthodoxy: A Critical Introduction by Steven Shakespeare, and taking part in the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises online retreat offered by Creighton University (I'm on week 3). I see such a difference between what the Radical Orthodoxy guys seem to be saying, that God can only be found in the community and practices of the church and nowhere else (do they address personal religious experience? I'm only halfway through the book, so I'll post more on this later), and the idea that Ignatius seems to express - that God will reveal himself to and work directly with individuals.

Here's something by Philip Endean SJ that kind of touches on this subject, The Spiritual Exercises, in The Cambridge Companion to the Jesuits, edited by Thomas Worcester (Cambridge: Cambridge UP 2008), 52-67 (you can get the pdf at his website).


[...] Ignatius’ purpose is to provide support in order that ‘‘the Creator and Lord Himself should communicate Himself to His devout soul’’ (Exx. 15). A modern Jesuit theologian, Karl Rahner (1904–84), wrote a piece in which he imagined Ignatius speaking to a contemporary Jesuit, and justly commented on this claim: ‘‘Such a conviction perhaps sounds innocuous in your pious trade, working as it does with the most elevated words available. But fundamentally it is outrageous . . .’’ (8) The pattern of the Incarnation, of God united substantially with the creature, persists in human experience at large; hence the creature’s task is to discover and cooperate with this divine initiative. But it remains a mystery, a matter of wonder and improvised discovery. How can it be that the infinite unites itself to the finite? Still more, how can the divine goodness be united with the creation’s manifest imperfection? Christianity, properly understood, does not answer these questions. Its proper mode of expression is question and exclamation rather than statement; it bespeaks a mystery beckoning our committed participation, rather than a state of affairs that we can neutrally describe ......

The Exercises were written at the time of a Reformation schism, generated by an experienced conviction of justification by faith, independent of church practice. In Spain particularly, many who claimed insight into divine matters on the basis of experience were regarded as suspect, and indeed condemned as alumbrados. Ignatius himself in Spain, and subsequently the first Jesuits as a group, came frequently under suspicion. (13)

The underlying issue here is that the conviction of God’s working directly with the creature (Exx. 15) raises at least the logical possibility that what the individual discovers in this way may go beyond what is ecclesiastically sanctioned. It is clear that the early Jesuits, through the Exercises, sought to promote life within the Church, but they had no solution to this theological problem, and addressed the issues diplomatically rather than theoretically. Ignatius merely made the fundamental intention explicit by developing a set of rules ‘‘in the interests of the true sense that we should have in the Church militant’’ (Exx. 352–70). The Jesuit tradition lives with the tension between a missionary commitment to life at the Church’s boundaries and an allegiance to the visible, hierarchical institution .......

(8) Karl Rahner: Spiritual Writings, ed. and trans. P. Endean (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2005), 37.
(13) See Ignatius to John III of Portugal, 15 March 1545 (Letters of St Ignatius of Loyola, selected and translated by W. Young [Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1959], 79–91), in which, as a means of preventing rumor, Ignatius catalogues the various processes in which he had been involved.



Blogger Deacon Denny said...

I hope that further reading the Radical Orthodoxy guys improves on what you've found so far. I'm pretty Ignatian, myself. Why would God have decided to remain confined to such narrow boundaries?

Of course...for me, I've chosen to focus within those boundaries a lot of the time; it's both a choice and a calling. But one needs to have a little humility at the same time!

5:24 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


I've just posted a little more from the book, also not good. But I may later post some of what Milbank wrote about the church that sounded kind of good. Maybe :)

11:04 PM  

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