A Meditation on Hell
Still reading The Gift of Spiritual Intimacy: Following the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.
When someone first told me about the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, I bought the book. What I didn't realize was that the book isn't really meant to be read in the normal way - it's more a handbook for retreat givers - and I was shocked. The first thing I read was A Meditation on Hell: a meditation on the angels rebelling, on Adam and Eve making a mistake, on my own whole lifetime of sin, and on how really really bad hell was going to be - I almost gave up on the Exercises and God right then and there. I did eventually get a better understanding of what Ignatius might be getting at - that God loves us no matter what, but I still have a lot of problems with the ideas of sin and the existence of hell, and I have questions about God's responsibility vs ours in the whole "evil" thing.
But anyway, here's the bit I've just been reading in the book ...
What usually happens at the beginning of our spiritual journey is denial of the dreadful and profound facts of evil and sin and of the ways each of us is contaminated and implicated. We are not unaware of evil, destruction, or loss. This awareness is, usually, what starts our journey. But we are unaware of just how contaminated we are by what we seek to remove ourselves from. This can be as simple as a refusal to believe what Ignatius proposes we examine prayerfully -- the reality of cosmic disorder -- is true. Or, our awareness can be a little more nuanced and we can consider this reality from a detached point of view. We can say to ourselves, Yes, I suppose it is true -- if you believe in that sort of thing -- but it really has nothing to do with me. We can even go further and think about the mystery of evil as an intellectual problem, considering why the angels did what they did, why God permits evil, and how evil and God can co-exist. Then we substitute theological inquiry for prayer. We may also enter into these meditations emotionally and feel overwhelmed by what is presented ...
The author asks at the end of this part of the book ... What questions about the nature of God as good or compassionate does the reality of evil raise in your life? How do you reconcile a good God with the suffering of the powerless and the innocent?
I'm still working on answers to those questions - probably always will be.