Surrendering our faculties
Hedwig Lewis SJ
The word “contemplation” as derived from the Latin root contemplari, which means “to look at”. St Ignatius uses it on the sense. He distinguishes three levels: looking in terms of focusing – shutting out distractions – sights, sounds, that come through our outer senses (SE 75, 131, 239): looking through application of the inner senses and faculties (SE 121-126, 253-254), and looking with pure consciousness, pure attention, by surrendering the three classical faculties: memory, intellect and will (SE 234). Only our attention, our awareness, remains, since it cannot be given away. This we now direct to God.
The third level is the purest form of ‘acquired contemplation’. It is called ‘acquired’ because it pure grace. It cannot be achieved through any effort on our part. The prayer “Take and receive” disposes us for this grace. We let go of inward mental activity, till nothing is left but pure consciousness making space for God’s intervention.
Such surrender is realized in formal prayer when our attention is focused on the relationship between ourselves and God. Otherwise, as contemplatives in action, our attention is directed to God’s presence, so as to love and serve him in everything.