Monday, May 17, 2010

Ignatian Mysticism -- Harry Martis

Ignatian Mysticism
I acknowledge whatever is in this piece of writing is not something of my own. I have culled out, adopted and intergrated in order to revitalize myself a little more in Ignatian Spirituality. During the last academic year of theology, there was no space and scope for Ignatian spirituality, either in the form of recollection or in the form of discourse, now I take this assignment as an opportunity to come in touch with Ignatian spirituality which is the foundation of every Jesuit.
The autobiography of Ignatius is a personal account of his life. It covers only one period of his life, that is, the pilgrim years, as they have been called from the time of his conversation.
It is said that the autobiography is an untidy narrative, and seems to be just a patchwork of random memories ranging from the trivial to the profoundly significant incidents. In the autobiography, Ignatius speaks throughout in the third person about the pilgrim. That was his self-image- a man on a ceaseless quest, always forging ahead, and not at all inclined to look back, even as he neared journey’s end.
Jerome Nadal, his trusted companion was determined to obtain a testament- a piece of fatherly advice. There were other founders of the congregations or orders, for the sake of their followers, have left some message. Nadal too expected a message from Ignatius, which would be available to the Society of Jesus in all ages, an authentic statement of the intimate relationship between God and Ignatius. In other words, the text would be an authoritative exposition of Ignatian Charism as it must be realized in the Society of Jesus.
Ignatius did not write the autobiography. Due to his companion, Jerrome Nadal’s persistence, Ignatius finally yielded to tell about his story in bits and pieces to Luis Gonscalves da Camara, another loyal companion and a man blessed with a very retentive memory. He first listened to Fr. Ignatius with great attention and then ran off to his room to make brief notes.
It is said that the narrative style of autobiography is most unsatisfactory as a piece of literature. It was never published till recently in the present century. A free Latin version was produced very early and subsequently printed but never was really circulated.
These are a few facts about the autobiography of St. Ignatius.
The term "mysticism" comes from the classical Greco-Roman mystery cults. Perhaps it came from myein meaning "to close the lips and eyes, and refers to the sacred oath of the initiates, the mystes, to keep secret about the inner workings of the religion." In Neo-platonism "mysticism" came to be associated with secrecy of any kind. The term mystica appeared in the Christian treatise, Mystica Theologia, of an anonymous Syrian Neoplatonist monk of the late fifth or early sixth century, who was known pseudonymously as Dionysius the Areopagite. In this work mysticism was described as the secrecy of the mind. Despite the various approaches to mysticism it seems to possess some common characteristics. Such were the findings of the philosopher W. T. Stace, who discovered seven common themes of mysticism when studying Roman Catholic, Protestant, ancient classical, Hindu, and American agnostic mystical experiences. They were:
1. A unifying vision and perception of the One by the senses and through many objects.
2. The apprehension of the One as an inner life.
3. Objective and true sense of reality.
4. Feelings of satisfaction, joy, and bliss.
5. A religious element that is a feeling of the holy and sacred.
6. A paradoxical feeling.
7. Inexpressible feelings.
From the above elements one can easily pinpoint that mysticism is not the same to every person experiencing it. Therefore, there are various kinds or types. Various mystics subscribe to one of two theories of Divine Reality: emanation or immanence. In the emanation view, all things in the universe are overflowing from God. In the immanence view, the universe is not projected from God, but is immersed in God.
Coming to the autobiography of St. Ignatius, we see several aspects of mysticism throughout his interior journey. Here an attempt is made to highlight overall view of the autobiography which may fall into the category of mysticism.
When we talk of St. Ignatius as a pilgrim, what stands out in the whole story is his authentic loyalty. He felt a need to be loyal, to find a person or a cause that could claim his total devotion. As a young man, he was always caught up with unrealistic ambitions. During his convalescence he really comes in touch with his feelings and movement within. It is during this time Ignatius comes in touch with the object of his inner desire. It is Christ alone worthy of absolute loyalty and can satisfy the loftiest aspirations. In his encounter with Christ, Ignatius experiences loyalty as liberation. This paradox is the closest possible approach to the formulation of the Ignatian Charism.
In the sequence of eleven chapters of the autobiography, we see the conversion of Ignatius as a discovery of a deeper and hitherto unsuspected level of being, where his real self l meets the real God in the person of Christ. It is tremendously liberating experience for Ignatius. Ignatius feels an overwhelming desire to serve the Lord. But he is now firmly rooted in reality and cannot indulge in dreams. He must come to some concrete plan to serve his master.
In Quest of Christ
From chapters two to four we see several situations that brings to Ignatius clearer realization that commitment to Christ means loyalty to the church, loyalty to Pope. We find three different narratives gearing up to something new. From the castle of Loyola, Ignatius sets out on a spiritual adventure under the patronage of Virgin Mary. He becomes a true pilgrim. During his stay in Manresa the spirit leads him through many trials and lessons to a further profound experience of God, as the one reality embracing all realities. His journey to Jerusalem and the homeland of Christ is a practical application of his new insight through a complete abandonment to divine providence.
Chapters five to eight Ignatius’ realization reaches to a greater height. He is not allowed to stay back in Holy Land to serve the pilgrims. He makes a fresh start. He pursues study in order to equip himself for a more universal apostolate in the church. He moves through several great universities and at the same time helping many people to live a better committed life. In pursuing in goal he obeys all authorities.
In chapters nine and ten we see Ignatius walking towards a new beginning. At the University of Paris Ignatius had gathered a group of friends, who zealous and ardent in serving Christ. This is a new beginning for Ignatius. He is no more an individual pilgrim but a group of men who are destined to Rome to be at the disposal of Pope for any task he might entrust them. In this journey Ignatius had a deep experience of God in Christ. This is a special grace that Ignatius receives from God.
We could count all these aspects in Ignatius’s life as mysticism. Among them two events are core to Ignatian Mysticism.
1. The sublime enlightenment on the banks of Cardonare.
2. The experience of being placed with Christ at La Storta near Rome.
The experience of being placed with Christ was his earnest desire that fulfilled on his last journey. Gonsalves Da Camara accounts it from Diego Lainez, who was the companion and confidant of Ignatius on the journey to Rome. Diego Lainez later succeeded as the Superior General to Ignatius.
The experience of being placed with Christ had a deep impression in the mind and heart of Ignatius as it can be seen from the spiritual diary. Growing realization of it can be seen in Ignatius's total loyalty to Christ and later loyalty to the church and to its head, the Pope. This is a confirmation to Ignatius that is God is with him. This realization must become a confirmation to all the faithful people that God is with His people. In the Gospels we read, “God is Immanuel (with us), where two or three are gathered in my name there I am amidst them or I will be with you till the end of time.”

Harry Martis SJ
Sneh jyoti
Ø Making Ignatian Spirituality a Way of Life during the Years of Formation. Compiled by

Pierre Jacob S.J.
Ø Testament and Testimony, the Memories of Ignatius of Loyola.
Ø Ablaze with God. Parmananda Divarkar.
Ø Internet sources

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