First Principle And Foundation

(a paraphrase and adaptation of the
First Principle And Foundation
of The Spiritual Exercises #'s[23])

We are created to share in God's love and life for eternity. The experience of this love is manifested in our response of praise, reverence and service, that is, loving God with all our heart, all our mind and all our will.

All of God's created order is intended to reveal this sharing of God's life and love. Therefore with all of humanity we are called to be one with the rest of creation; and with it, we are invited to move together into a deeper relationship with the loving Creator.
 Whenever we are hindered, by another part of creation, from deepening this relationship, it becomes necessary to examine our connection with that part to ensure that we are not hindered in pursuing our call. Often we may need to choose to separate ourselves from such barriers.
It is true that we can only grow in our relationship with God by cooperating with other members of the human family in caring for each other and for creation itself. Nevertheless it is also true that we are not to become so dependent on any part of creation that we would be distracted or separated from our fundamental relationship with our God.
This means that whenever we make choices concerning any aspect of work and life, we are to be interiorly free with respect to those concerns that make obstacles of creation - long life or short life; health or sickness; riches or poverty; comfort or discomfort; being accepted or rejected; status or non-status.
Therefore, our highest priority is to be this relationship with God shining through all our choices and everything that flows from these choices.

First Exercise

 Involving my images and their consequent thoughts, attitudes
and responses towards the mystery of evil in creation.

(a paraphrase and adaptation
of the First Exercise of the FIRST WEEK
of The Spiritual Exercises #'s [45] through [54])

 Settling Into Prayer - Place - Posture - Presence of God

        Here I am a creature of God, and part of the universe, living on planet earth, a member of the human family. I recall some facts of my present existence; at times I experience myself tied up, held back, incapable of achieving the very hopes I yearn for: "I cannot understand my own behavior. I fail to carry out the things I want to do, and I find myself doing the very things I hate. " (Rom 7:15)...I belong to the human family in which something has gone wrong; I often experience something has gone wrong in me. I often feel estranged and alienated. There are times when I experience myself like the prodigal, away from where I desire to be, as if I have squandered some of the inheritance (Lk 15:16). Sometimes, I have consciously said "yes" to some aspect of this evil environment. Often, almost inattentively, I made matters worse by my reactions to being sinned against or hurt. Wounded though I may have been, I too, in my own way have contributed to this mystery of evil. I experience myself in bondage in a variety of ways and I am never far from the tendency to express one or other of the dysfunctions and capital sins within me....

        I know the terrible ripple effect of these capital sins and disordered decisions, and dysfunctional behaviors unleashed in our world  - how even a single capital disorder such as greed can destroy the humanity of one person and have continuous damaging and destructive effects on many others. ...  My faith tells me that one such disorder without the protection of God's grace can lead me away from God forever. Yet by being alive, I am being protected from being ruined or lost in spite of the many disorders that I experience influencing my life. I am being protected even till now.

        So I ask God, the Holy One and my loving Creator, for what I want and desire. Here it will be to ask for a deep sense of embarrassment and amazement before God's goodness. I am being protected even till now ... So here I am before my Caring God who at this moment beholds me.

 Several Ways of Disposing Myself
for the Grace I am Seeking

1]        First, one  can make use of one of the powerful images from scripture dealing with the one sin of the fallen angels. These images convey an important sacred story of these beautiful beings. Created in the state of grace with profound freedom to know and to judge, they refused to make use of their gift of freedom to serve their Creator. Having been offered a share in divine life they saw themselves as possessing such beauty that they refused to accept themselves as limited by virtue of being created. Falling into pride, they changed from beings of grace to beings of hatred. I will reflect about this, turn it over in my mind, compare their one destructive attitude to the many destructive attitudes and reactions that I find in myself. Why me? Why am I being protected and saved even till now? (Jn 8:44; 2P 2:4; 1Jn 3:8; Mt 25:41)

2]         Again one can turn to scripture and make use of another powerful image -  the story of the Garden of Eden (Gen 1:26-27; Gen 3:1-13).  Compare the disordered attitude and decision manifested in that sacred story with one's own variety of destructive attitudes and decisions ...

        I reflect on how this sacred story of God's word communicates a mystery of the long-ago past reaching to this very moment - how in spite of our best intentions we are affected and limited by our own and by other peoples' mistakes, evils, and misguided decisions in life. This story also gives us a mirror image of ourselves - how, even now, we eat of the tree of knowledge as we continue to experience evil and illusion. As members of one large dysfunctional human family we also, even unwittingly, play our part in its dysfunctions and sinful history (Rom 5:12-21.) How otherwise do such tragic results carry on from generation to generation?  Why are we not yet totally destroyed by this iniquity at work?  No, we, and I personally,  are being saved even at this very moment!

3]        Or one can create an imaginary scenario of one person with only one basic fault or tragic flaw * and because of this has acted against her/his Maker and Loving God. For example, the tendency of greed ...  or perfectionism ... or fear of taking risks ... or any one of those dysfunctions that influence one's behavior. In this scenario, imagine how one of these tendencies has affected the dispositions of the person's heart so much ** that s/he has closed oneself forever from God's love. So I compare this hypothetical person to myself who experience so many disorders that influence my affections and thoughts leading to many disordered decisions. I ask: Why me? Why am I being protected and saved even till now?

In Dialogue

        Imagine Jesus, the Lord, present before you upon the cross, and begin to speak with him, asking ... "How is it that you, my Creator, have stooped to become human, and to pass from eternal life to death here in time .... so that you could die for my sins". Carry on a dialogue with Jesus. Imagine Jesus speaking with you. At some point ask: "What have I done for you?  What am I doing for you?  What ought I to do for you?" ...  as you behold Jesus in this plight, nailed to the cross, pondering upon what presents itself to your heart. Close with the prayer Jesus gave us.

* Note a frequent scenario: about a mother whose friends speak of her in this manner, "It's really too bad that she doesn't express her real feelings on that matter, her spirit is being crushed and she is looking for comfort from her child!" -  one disorder, perhaps more "psychological"  than irresponsible or moral at this stage but, unattended and without grace, leads to self destruction and harm to many others.

** Someone's reflection on World War II "35  million people dead; 1700 towns destroyed; an entire people almost annihilated - war, a symbol of destruction orchestrated by a few and paid for by many!"

Second Exercise

 In the sin situation of creation, I am a sinner.

(a paraphrase and adaptation
of the Second Exercise of the FIRST WEEK
of The Spiritual Exercises #'s [55] through [61])

 Settling Into Prayer - Place - Posture - Presence of God

        I compose myself similarly as I did in the First Exercise. I owe my continued existence to my Creator on the cross. I am a broken and sinful person tied down and in bondage in so many different ways!  Not only am I an active participant in the sin situation of creation at this moment but even now I am my past. I carry my past with me. I have had a shadow history which is my own. ... and so here I am with my present and my past before my God who at this moment beholds and cares for me.

        So I ask my loving God for what I want and desire. Here it will be to ask for a growing and intense sorrow and tears for my sins.

 Several Ways of Disposing Myself
for the Grace I Am Seeking

1]     This is a record of my brokenness and sinful state, a record of my dark or disordered history. I will bring to the surface of my consciousness and recall all the disordered events of my life, reviewing year by year, and period by period, the places where I have lived; my dealings with others; the offices I have held. As I recall such disordered events of my past I shall remember imaginatively the more significant ones: seeing the event in detail, hearing the words spoken, watching the persons involved etc. Recalling all this my past becomes part of my present as I am here protected by the continued goodness of God.

2]     Next I shall attempt to understand more deeply my disordered affections and tendencies which are manifested in these memories by:

A)       trying to appreciate the underlying evil and malice even if there were no law which forbade them. I ask for the kind of understanding that Jesus had when he taught that the evil contained in calling one's brother or sister "Raka" merits hell fire (Mt 5:22).

B)        trying to understand how some of these disordered affections still affect the ways in which I try to control events in my relationships and in my day by day conscious and non-conscious choices.

3]      Imagine one's position in the universe by using questions similar to the following:
What am I compared to all persons on this planet? ....  What are all these persons compared to all the created world of matter and of spirit? ... What is all creation in comparison with God? ...  Then I alone, what can I be?
Then from this perspective imagine oneself passing on to others the effects of one's sinfulness or disordered choices: like a small polluted stream flowing into a larger river of pollution .... or like a small smoke stack helping to pollute the air and cause acid rain ... like a cancer cell invading a healthy body .... like a rumor being passed across the country.

4]     I will consider who God is against whom I have sinned, going through God's attributes and comparing them with their contraries in me: God's wisdom with my limited understanding, God's vastness with my smallness, God's integrity with my self deception, God's inclusive love with my narrow loving, God's delight in variety and differences within creation with my need to control.

5]     Notwithstanding our own sinfulness we have always been faithfully helped and served by all of creation, the material universe, and so many other persons. We are still alive and have always been  recipients of so many gifts and favors, God is still nurturing us. Hence we pass in review all creatures; how is it that they have permitted us to live, and have sustained us in life?  Why have the angels and saints prayed for us; and why have heavens, sun, moon, stars and the elements continued to be available for us at our constant service !  Why are we even alive!

In Dialogue

        From time to time I will pour out my thoughts to the Rock of Salvation giving God thanks that up to this very moment our Caring God has granted me life and has continued to show mercy. I will allow this great mystery to touch my heart. I will resolve with God's grace to make decisions that will help me live more grace-fully in the future.

 Close with the prayer Jesus gave us.

Third Exercise

This is a repetition of the First and Second Exercise
with three colloquies.

(a paraphrase and adaptation
of the Third Exercise of the FIRST WEEK
of The Spiritual Exercises #'s [62] and [63])

        After I enter into this exercise by composing myself and by praying for the same graces as I did in the last two exercises, I will pay attention to and dwell upon those points in which I have experienced:

 a) greater consolation                    b) desolation

  c) greater spiritual appreciation

During this repetition or toward the end of it, use the three dialogues.

1. The first dialogue will be with Mary, that she may obtain these favors for me from her son and Lord:

~ A deep knowledge and understanding:

  1. of the influence of the "world" in my life;
  2. of the hidden disordered affections and tendencies underlying my choices and the actions that flow from these;
  3. of my sins and faults.
~ Such a detestation of these disorders, that I may make correct choices  about my future life and my activities. .....  Then I will say the Hail Mary

2. The second dialogue will be with the Son, to obtain these graces from the one he called "Abba" ... Then I will say Soul of Christ.

3. The third dialogue will be with God, the Eternal One - as Mother or Father or Creator or Eternal Lord, to give me these same graces. ... Then I will say the prayer Jesus taught us.

Fourth Exercise

 This is another kind of repetition.
It is a summary in which I think over very carefully
and recall the material contemplated
in the previous exercises.

(a paraphrase and adaptation
of the Fourth Exercise of the FIRST WEEK
of The Spiritual Exercises # [64])

This exercise can be done in a variety of ways:

1] Careful Reflection....
If your experiences have been very affective or emotional you may want to use this exercise as a time to reflect and note down what these experiences may mean for you:

 what is essential from what is not essential ...  where you need to go back and go deeper or what seems to be taking you away from the graces you are seeking ...  where you are being too introspective or not introspective enough ... where you are caught in self improvement or fixing yourself up rather than in stressing what is interfering with your mature service in God's Household.
2] Background Themes....
If you have been keeping a written record of your prayer reviews you may want to use this exercise to read through and ponder the themes that have been more or less in the background.

3] Peripheral Imagery
When a person listens to one specific source of sound often there are other sounds that are being heard but not noticed because of one's focus. These sounds are on the periphery. So also when one focuses one's vision one also sees other things on the periphery. By peripheral imagery here we mean all those fleeting thoughts, inner pictures, insights, memories, feelings that occur during our prayer or in between the times of prayer. These often carry with them friendly inspirations which can open one for the graces being sought. During this exercise therefore one goes back and dwells upon such peripheral images.

 At the close, use the same three dialogues.

Fifth Exercise

I am a person even now being saved from hell.

(a paraphrase and adaptation
of the Fifth Exercise of the FIRST WEEK
of The Spiritual Exercises #'s [65] through [71])

 Settling into Prayer - Place - Posture - Presence of God

        Throughout my life both sin and grace have been at work affecting me from the outside and within me.  In many ways my past is now part of me; I still possess within myself the seeds of hell. Were not the grace of Jesus at work within me, the disordered affections and tendencies I experience would have their logical consequences in decisions that would lead me to hell. So here I am before my God who at this moment beholds me....

So I beg for the following graces:

Ways Of Disposing Myself
For The Graces I Am Seeking

1.        Mull over and dwell upon the various ways in which God has revealed this reality to me:

 Is 5:1-7;   Lk 16:19-31;   Mt 25:14-46

 2.        By dwelling with my senses - of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching - on the images used in God's word concerning this reality:

Mt 25:30  "dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth"
Lk 16:24  "for I am in agony in these flames"
Lk 16:26   "between you and us a great gulf has been fixed..."
Rev 13:6  "and it mouthed its blasphemies against God. "
Mk 9:43  "into the fire that cannot be put out. "
Mt 25:41 "Go away from me, with your curse upon you to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and the evil angels."

 3.         By imaginatively experiencing the logical consequences of my own disorders if I were left without the redemption.

In Dialogue

         From time to time throughout this contemplation I carry on a conversation with Jesus, bearing in mind the reality of the awful consequences associated with our experience of evil.

           To be lost means to be entirely closed in on oneself, without contact with others or with God. The state of cold obstinacy has been brought to its fullest expression, sin brought to its fullest self-expression.

         Therefore I give thanks that I am still alive and that God has not permitted either the ever-present mystery of iniquity or eternal death to overpower me. Until this very moment God has shown me so much love and mercy.

Close with the prayer Jesus gave us.


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