Journeying Through
the Mystery of the
Fourth Week

Chapters 18 through 19
of Orientations Vol 2, Part A

Chapter Eighteen

Transition To The Fourth Week
Grace Of The Fourth Week
Prayer Unit 27
Preparing For The Time After The Exercises Journey

        Sometimes the transition to the Fourth Week is rather difficult, particularly for those who have been experiencing the Third Week in a profound way. It is like the time needed when moving through the stages of the grieving process -- perhaps a few more days, or another week. Don't interpret this desolate experience as Desolation. Consequently encouragement is needed.

Graces Of The Fourth Week

        Early in this phase, find out how your directee understands the Grace being sought. Here, the words used to express the Grace -- "to rejoice and be glad intensely" -- can be misleading [221]. Resurrection joy is still the drop of water falling on a sponge -- sweetly, lightly, and gently [335]. The Grace for which you listen is not the joyful relief that the intense sadness of Third Week is over. Nor is it the excitement of the confused disciples after the news that the tomb was empty. Nor is it the exuberance of Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus." Your directee has been praying with the risen Jesus all through the Exercises. Even during the Third Week, when he focused on how the divinity was hidden, he was praying in the present memories of the risen Lord.(6) The directee has not been asked to pretend that Jesus was not risen until now; so now, he is not asking to be surprised as if he were not risen all along! The Grace that is being sought has that quiet, delicate quality of the picnic scene in John 21. There is a fragile quality to it suggested by the last five texts of the Additional Readings of Prayer Unit 27.

        One of the blocks that people have to this deep experience of quiet union is the false expectation of a "high" emotional peak. I suppose this might very well be hoped for if your directee has only recently received the graces that were intended in the First Week. But such an experience has a materialistic quality to it that is more characteristic of persons in the earlier stages of the spiritual journey. For those who have received most of the graces of the Exercises, the Fourth Week usually has a much more subtle quality to it.

        This quieter quality is more in keeping with the characteristics of a person envisaged by the Second Set of Guidelines. It is the Consolation of the increase of faith, hope and love. This quality has the same characteristics that Paul lists in 1Cor 13. Therefore, the context of Compassion is likely to be experienced much differently than it was in the Third Week. Then the directee was being moved to go out to Jesus, to care for and console him in his suffering and dying. Now the movement is experienced as coming from Jesus, the divine consoler. The Grace of joy represents a deepening of the Spiritual Freedom in a directee's heart. The directee is joyful not because he experiences healing comfort nor because he experiences salvation, nor because he is enlightened concerning some aspect of the following of Christ, but because Jesus is filled with such joy and glory; that is, the directee is happy for Jesus! So the experience of Compassion is received as coming from God and moving out to God.

        During the Fourth Week, the focus is that of the risen Lord Jesus manifesting himself as consoler [218]-[225]. Where during the passion the divinity was hidden, now it is revealed and Jesus reveals it precisely as the "God of all consolation" (2Cor 1:3-7)! In the gospel stories, Jesus comforts each individual according to the uniqueness of each personality.

        In the Fourth Week, the directee continues to ask for Confirmation. Before, the decision-making process passed through the context of the Third Week. Now it passes through the context of the Fourth Week as light passes through a lens and is affected by the coloration of the lens.(7)

        The subtle and quiet peace along with the attribute of realism should also be true now with the grace of Confirmation. This Consolation is also a Consolation for others. Note the phrase "as friends are accustomed to console friends" in notation [224]. Read this in conjunction with the way Paul writes about consolation in 2Cor 1:3-7 and Gal 5:22, along with the way John records the event of Jesus consoling Peter in Jn 21:15-17.

        As pointed out when giving the Third-Week suggestions, pay attention to the quality of faith and inner peace in your directee's attitude towards his own experience. How your directee is relating to the experience that he is receiving through the prayer exercises indicates the authenticity of the Consolation. This is a better indicator than other kinds of enthusiastic rejoicing.

Features Of Prayer Unit 27

Jesus' Appearance to the Women at the Tomb; Jesus' Appearance to Mary Magdalene; Jesus' Appearance to the Two Disciples on the Road to Emmaus.

        At some point soon, instruct your directee to begin reflecting on how he will be using the Exercises experience and spirituality in his daily life after the experience is over. Perhaps he will need to give some thought to establishing or joining a support system to "futurize" the experience of the Spiritual Exercises. This might be one of the issues to explore from here on.

        By now you should be considering aspects for closure with your directee. At some point in the future, you will need to say good-bye after the Exercises journey is completed. Your directee will need to say good-bye to you and it is important to deal with unfinished emotional aspects of your interpersonal relationship, both the positive and the negative.

        Discuss with your directee ways to appropriate his experience of the Exercises journey. The need for appropriation, as well as the choice of method in facilitating its accomplishment, will depend upon your formation paradigm, the leadership needs of your directee, the original covenant you had with each other before this journey began, the decisions reached in the course of the Exercises, and the time at your disposal.


Chapter Nineteen

Prayer Units 28 Through 30
Further Reflections On The Fourth Week
Contemplation To Gain Love

Features Of Prayer Unit 28

Jesus' Appearance to the Apostles; Jesus' Appearance to Thomas; Contemplation to Gain Love. 

Features Of Prayer Unit 29

Contemplation to Gain Love; Jesus' Appearance at the Sea of Tiberias. 

Features Of Prayer Unit 30

Ascension; Pentecost; First Attempts in Formation of Christian Community.

        If you propose Prayer Unit 28 as suggested, you will also be giving the material Ignatius outlined in the Contemplation to Gain Love [230]-[237] from the Exercises text. Give the Contemplation to Gain Love with little or no explanation. Suggest that your directee pray on this in the e) and f) periods and that in the next session you will be discussing this more fully.

        If you are shortening the Fourth Week, you could omit some of the prayer material from Prayer Unit 28 and propose the Contemplation to Gain Love in place of the Repetitions of Prayer Unit 27. If you are planning to do this, some of the elements addressed in the rest of this chapter could be attended to in earlier interviews.

        The variety of ways directees experience the graces of the Fourth Week and of the Contemplation to Gain Love reflects their different needs at the time:

Some Observations On The Contemplation To Gain Love

        It is important that you be free from your own expectations concerning the Contemplation to Gain Love. You may be following the theory of some commentators; namely, this prayer exercise represents the crown of the Exercises experience. Crown can be taken to mean a "grand finale." In the preached retreat tradition, this was the way this text was interpreted and presented. This is not in keeping with the delicate quality of the Fourth-Week Grace discussed above. If such an expectation is in your own heart, you will not be able to affirm the very real gifts that God might be giving to your directee at this time.

        Some Directors of the Exercises understand the Contemplation to Gain Love as an exercise to be given by itself in separation from the Fourth Week or as an exercise to be given to the directee for the time after the Exercise journey is over. Historically, according to some commentators, this exercise was probably created by Ignatius for the directee of the notation-20 Exercises who had a long journey to his home destination after the month-long experience was over. He needed something to keep the Exercises experience alive while he trudged homeward over a period of days and weeks. He probably would have no personal books that would help his recollection or his ongoing day-to-day encounter with God. But he did have nature and all the varieties of nature that he encountered on his homeward journey.

        As he passed forests, fields of grain, oxen being driven by farmers, etc., he could reflect upon how God created all this [234]. As he noted how hard the farmer was working, he could easily reflect on how God was working in God's very creation. When he encountered wild flowers with bees searching for honey, he could reflect upon how God was not only present in creation but was continually labouring in all this to make this happen -- in the flower to produce the honey, in the bees to store it, in the sun to grow the flower, and in the rain to nourish it [236]. Then, when after a rainstorm, he would notice how the river swelled as it was being fed by several small tributaries or how the beautiful rainbow, in a wondrous unity, emerged from the misty sky and ended somewhere on the horizon, he might be reminded of how all things come from above [237], [184]. And so his heart would be filled with gratitude and praise as he re-discovered God continually at work through all these things.

        Beginning with Prayer Unit 28, I propose the Contemplation to Gain Love in addition to other Fourth-Week prayer exercises. By doing this, I am suggesting that this exercise can be considered as part of the Fourth-Week experience. I understand this as appropriate because the mystery of Jesus the Risen Lord embraces in a profound unity all the aspects of creation. The Word that became flesh is the Word in whom all things came into being and, apart from this Word, nothing came to be (Jn 1:3). This same Word, in Jesus the Risen Lord, the image of the invisible God is the first-born of all creatures in whom everything was created (Col 1:15,16). It Is the same Risen Lord that has been with your directee from the beginning of the Exercises journey.

Preparing For The Time After The Exercises Journey

        Continue to prepare your directee to use the Exercises spirituality in daily life after the Exercises journey is finished. Since it is unlikely that your directee will be spending a full hour in prayer each day after the Exercises are over, begin to suggest that he reduce his prayer time to one-half of what the daily commitment was during the past months. Suggest also that he do the Awareness Examen each day. Begin to experiment with shortened time structures that might be more realistic for your directee once the Exercises journey is over. Thus, if he ascertains that, at most, he would only have a short time each day to make a prayer exercise, then that is what you suggest for now. Let him practice with the shorter time for a prayer exercise during these last weeks of the Exercises journey. Not to prepare your directee in this way is to run the risk that he will let all the structures go when the support of the Exercises journey is not there. Being faithful to some ongoing daily structure, however small, helps to preserve the life of the Spirit.

        In addition to discussing the importance of some minimum structure for daily spiritual exercises, begin to reflect with him on some of the following issues of practical asceticism:

1. How does one go about choosing appropriate scripture texts for one's prayer exercises during daily life after the Exercises are over? Is scripture always important for this? It may also be helpful to discuss ongoing methods of prayer, particularly Lectio Divina as an important method for daily prayer.

2. The is the daily and ongoing instrument of discernment and of finding God in all things. There are different ways of making it.

3.Discuss and name important insights and understandings he received during the past months that will be helpful in the future. How will he keep these alive? How can he relate them to the Awareness Examen?

4. Discuss the value of having a support system and/or a spiritual director on an ongoing basis? Do not place an expectation on your directee that a personal spiritual director is always necessary! However, in our present culture, some support structure is usually important to deepen one's understanding of the spiritual life, to sustain one in the ongoing struggles of daily living. Raise the question and discuss with your directee the characteristics of the kind of support system that will be needed and available such as the support of a community? a small group? a network? a spiritual director? a periodic retreat? a soul friend?

5. Discuss the future use of the decision-making process in one's daily life: use of the Four-Column Method for oneself and with a group or family; use of Guidelines for Discerning Spirits and the concepts of Consolation and Desolation in one's private and public worlds, etc.

Focused Reflection On The Experience Of The Exercises

        Some form of ongoing reflection on the experience of the Exercises is always necessary to help directees appropriate their experience and to integrate it with the flow of daily life. The group setting, with time for the sharing of experiences and then some instruction on the theology and spirituality of the Exercises, can be a more effective way to foster this appropriation. The group setting gives directees different metaphors and frames of reference to understand their own experiences. If you try to help your directee appropriate his experience without reference to a group, his understanding is limited by the metaphors and frames of understanding you have both been using over the past months. Perspectives from others are helpful in gaining greater critical awareness. Consult Chapter 22, "At The Journey's End," (p.283ff) for questions and short comments that may help you to design a process for this appropriation.

        In the group setting, be aware that when directees share their personal experiences with one another, some disappointment may occur. Some directees may be "hooked" and move into Desolation. If this should happen, don't be surprised. Help your directee by applying the principles of the Exercises. This could be very important for him since it may be connected to one of his ongoing problematic issues of living.

        At the end of the Exercises journey or at the end of the time of appropriation, it always suitable to ritualize closure and to celebrate. Hopefully, through this journey, both you and your directee have experienced the truth of the following:

We are being led by the Spirit
in many hidden ways to enter
into the life of the Trinity.

When we disclose something
of ourselves to another in
trust and love,
we share in God's revelation
to the beloved Son.

When we listen
with loving attention to another
who speaks from the heart
of what is deepest,
we understand a little more
the Son's listening attention to his "Abba."

-- author unknown
On The Awareness Examen
After The Exercises Journey ...

        Actually being intentional about looking for God in all things and discerning the love that God has for me has been amazing! It is as if I have reclaimed the control or authority for what I take in. Before I took in only what came at me most powerfully, giving that authority away, and of course, it was mostly the crap which I noticed.

-- David Howells

Endnotes For The Fourth Week

1. William A. Barry, S.J., Finding God In All Things: A Companion to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius (Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 1991), Chapter 10, "Sharing the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus," pp.121-125. This is a very good explanation of the Third-Week graces.

2. This picks up the question ("What will I do for Christ?") of the Colloquy [53] of the First Exercise of the First Week and the note in the Contemplation to Gain Love, with the mutual exchange of goods between lover and the beloved (between the directee and God) [230], [231].

3. On the other hand, during the Third Week, directees often do, in their Gospel Contemplation, what they would normally do by the bedside of a dying loved one -- be present in silence. Silence and presence are important in the experience of Compassion.

4. This comes from a comment of John Haley at a team meeting of spiritual directors.

5. Originally, Prayer Unit 25 was designed on the hypothesis that a prayer guide would be giving her directee this material for the week preceding Holy Week.

6. In this manual, consult Chapter 23, "Concerning Gospel Contemplation," p.308f.

7. For diagrams illustrating this see Figure 4 in Chapter Eleven, p.136f; and Figure 12 in Part B, Chapter 27, p. 380.

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