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Saturday, July 25, 2009

First Principle and Foundation

- Angels of Creation by Edward Burne-Jones

Here's another post about Ignatius of Loyola's spirituality as we approach his memorial day .......

Near the start of Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises is the First Principle and Foundation, Ignatius' view of the purpose of life in relationship .... Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul. And the other things on the face of the earth are created for man and that they may help him in prosecuting the end for which he is created ...

I like the way William Barry SJ describes Ignatius' Principle and Foundation in his book, Letting God Come Close: An Approach to the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, because it reflects the experiences I've had myself when I've looked at the stars or the clouds and been filled with a longing to merge with the universe ....

"[...] As it stands in the Spiritual Exercises, the Principle and Foundation is a rather dry theological statement of the reality of the human situation. People often fail to recognize that this set of truths is based not so much on deductions from theological premises as on reflection on lived experience ....

When I have the experience of desiring "I know not what," I am experiencing God as creating me now in all the particulars of my present existence. I do not worry about my past failures and sins or about what the future might hold. I feel at one with the universe and as whole as I could possibly be. Moreover, the desire I experience is the deepest desire within me. That desire is in tune with God's one intention in creating the universe, and this desire can become the ruling passion of my life if I let it .... Ignatius spells out the implications of the foundational experience of God's creative touch in the Principle and Foundation."

What brought this up was a short past Compass article by John English SJ. In it he is responding to an earlier article opining that Ignatius, in his First Principle and Foundation had shown a utilitarian approach to nature, seeing it as having no intrinsic worth but as valuable only in how it can be useful to us. Fr. English disagreed. Here's part of the article .....


St. Ignatius's Approach to Nature Was Not Utilitarian

- by John English SJ

In her article in the May/June issue of Compass, Anne Lonergan .... traces the origins of the instrumental view of nature and suggests that "the famous `Principle and Foundation' of St. Ignatius's Spiritual Exercises exhibits the same instrumentality: `Everything else on earth has been created for man's sake.'" As a practitioner of the Spiritual Exercises in the late twentieth century I would like to comment on these words.

While I can understand Lonergan's concern, the actual words suggest relationship rather than dominance, as "for man's sake" implies. The text itself goes beyond the strictly utilitarian: "The other things on the face of the earth are created for man to help him in attaining the end for which he is created" (Sp. Exx. [23]). Today we might wish to say, "The other things on the face of the earth are created as companions to assist us and all of the earth to attain the fullness of relationship with God." My experience in listening to people's prayer over the First Principle and Foundation is that they are captivated with the need for freedom with regard to all that is not God--a freedom that involves a correct relationship with all creatures and is negated by the abuse of our companions on the way to union with God ....

Ignatius relates to creatures in a personal way. In the exercises on sin he calls us to "a cry of wonder accompanied by surging emotion as I pass in review all creatures. How is it that they have permitted me to live, and have sustained me in life!...And the heaven, sun, moon, stars, and the elements; the fruits, birds, fishes, and other animals--why have they been at my service!" (Sp. Exx. [60]). Similarly, in the "Contemplation to Obtain the Love of God," Ignatius has us "reflect on how God dwells in creatures...elements...plants...animals....So God dwells in me" (Sp. Exx. [235]).

Besides the misunderstanding of the Spiritual Exercises as a book of doctrines, we also need to be wary of the post-Enlightenment approach to spirituality as a vertical and individualistic relationship with God. This was totally out of Ignatius's ken. His whole life was communal. He realized that salvation and spirituality were communal affairs. So he could see the Spirit of God in all creatures. Today we need to question our post-Enlightenment assumptions and approach the First Principle and Foundation in a more nuanced way ....


You can read more about the First Principle and Foundation at Ignatian Wiki


Blogger victor said...

What can I say Crystal other than God Our Heavenly Father loves everyone of our cells.

I know that there's no way that any "Man" and his mate "Woman" could understand any of this and neither do i understand any of "IT" for more than a split second on occasions with God's Help.

In prayer God and/or His Angels have summed "IT" UP by saying in "Thought" to me that He so loved HIS WORLD which He created for US that He sent His Only Begotten Son as a fruit of knowledge of good and Eve which He had already created in the beginning so that which ever cells of Our Heavenly Father's First creation believed in Him could live forever and live "IT" more abundantly.

Between you and me Crystal, there's no danger in ever questioning Our Heavenly Father, the only danger is ever losing faith in HIM.

The way I, me and myself see "IT" now, there's nothing sanctioned and nothing again will ever be sanctioned by God and I honestly believe that no one needs to be a rocket scientist to understand that statement. They simply need to put themselves in God shoes and ask themselves what they would do if someone dared to crucify their Queen and/or their King.

God Bless you Crystal and please keep praying for me.


2:42 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Victor :)

2:48 PM  
Blogger victor said...

I'm not really that hi Crystal, I just sometimes make believe that "I am" :)

God Bless

2:59 PM  
Anonymous Paul Maurice Martin said...

"I like the way... because it reflects the experiences I've had myself when I've looked at the stars or the clouds and been filled with a longing to merge with the universe ..."

I feel that it's our experiences and actions that carry real meaning, and that religious debate is often misguided - often more about people's different ways of using language than anything else.

You've probably read The Cloud of Unknowing? It would fit in well with the content of this post.

5:36 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Paul,

I haven't read it but have read of it - I think it can even be found online :) Yes, Ignatius was a mystic. I really like that about him.

5:50 PM  
Blogger victor said...

>>You've probably read The Cloud of Unknowing? It would fit in well with the content of this post.<<

Hey Crystal, I hope you won't mind if I comment here, a little, about Paul Maurice Martin above comment.

I hear ya! Have I ever stopped you before Victor? :)

I just wanted to thank Paul for his suggestion and to tell him that I read some of "IT" and I was even invited by Wikipedia to write a page at the address below:
but my spiritual cell of this day is not interested enough although "IT" did try to encourage me with Thoughts that when some of my other cells of Aries team UP in the future that anything could be possible during Eternity.

Anyway I just thought that some of Paul's cells might be interested in knowing this and who knows, they, with his body's help, might enjoy writing about "IT" in Wikipedia someday. :)

Thanks Again Crystal!

God Bless


7:41 AM  

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