An Intimate Experience of Christ

The means to find an intensely personal relationship with Christ exists within the Catholic Church in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. For a lay person living in the world, I cannot imagine that there exists more than a few experiences anywhere in Christendom that offer a more profound means to meet Christ, and learn to love and follow him in a transformative and intimate way.

St. Ignatius LoyolaThe Spritual Exercises originated with St. Ignatius himself, as he struggled with the meaning of his own life in world of the 16th century, turning away from a future as a functionary in a noble court, and turning himself over to Jesus. “Few souls,’ he said, “understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to Him and if they were to allow His grace to mold them accordingly.”

A common way to undertake these exercises is the Retreat in Daily Life. Fr. J. Tetlow, SJ, describes the retreat this way: “A person [prays] daily for some long weeks and months, following the structure of revealed truths that Master Ignatius outlined for the [original] full thirty-day retreat. The retreatant begins by reflecting on creation in Christ Jesus and moves through human sinfulness and the need for redemption. He or she then contemplates Jesus of Nazareth’s incarnation, public life, passion, and resurrection. These Exercises…help people reach a serious decision or make deep changes in their way of life.”

While St. Ignatius is not a saint of the First Thousand Years and is revered only with the Roman Church at this time, I believe that there is nothing but good within these exercises for any Christian who wants to love at  the deepest level and follow the Lord unreservedly. Indeed, for those raised in the apostolic churches who might feel that our churches do not emphasize a personal, one-on-one experience with Jesus, the Exercises may be able to give you the depth of relationship that you crave and show you the fullness of Christ with the Church.

You can read an introduction to the Exercises by Fr. Tetlow here: http://www.sjweb.info/pray/introspex.cfm

There are many opportunities to undertake the Exercises throughout the world, even online. In California, one can contact: http://www.loyolainstitute.org/cats.php

In Washington, DC, contact http://www.holytrinitydc.org/JesuitCtrSpir.htm

In New York, contact http://www.stignatiusloyola.org/index.php/faith_formation/retreats

A Prayer of St. Ignatius:

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess.You have given all to me. To You, O Lord, I return it all. All is Yours; dispose of it wholly according to Your Will. Give me Your love and Your grace, for this is sufficient for me. For with these I am rich enough and desire nothing more. Amen.

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“The Light that makes man joyful…”

By the Elder Porphyrios, a monk of the Orthodox Church and Mount Athos (1906-1991):

“This is the way we should see Christ. He is our friend, our brother; He is whatever is good and beautiful. He is everything. Yet, He is still a friend and He shouts it out, “You’re my friends, don’t you understand that? We’re brothers. I don’t hold hell in my hands. I am not threatening you. I love you. I want you to enjoy life together with me.”

Christ our JoyChrist is Everything. He is joy, He is life, He is light. He is the true light who makes man joyful, makes him soar with happiness; makes him see everything, everybody; makes him feel for everyone, to want everyone with him, everyone with Christ. Love Christ and put nothing before His Love. Christ is Everything. He is the source of life, the ultimate desire, He is everything. Everything beautiful is in Christ. Somebody who is Christ’s must love Christ, and when he loves Christ he is delivered from the Devil, from hell and from death.”

The prayer of a servant:

O Lord Jesus, today and everyday, help me to understand you more intimately, to see you more clearly, to follow you more faithfully, to love you more completely, and to share in your joy in God the Father. Son of David, have mercy on me, the sinner, and abide with me. Amen.

Elder Porphyrios was loved and revered as a confessor and spiritual father. Gifted through the grace of God, he was able to see deeply into the hearts of those who came to him for counsel. The book, “Wounded by Love – The Life and the Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios”, Denise Harvey (Publisher), 2005 is available at Skete.com and Amazon.com. Read more from the book at http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/elderporphyrios_dispositions.aspx

Reflection on the Good Samaritan, Gospel of Luke, Chapter 10, Verses 30-37

The words of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ, as recorded in the Gospel of Luke:

As a man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, robbers attacked him and grabbed everything he had. They beat him up and ran off, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road. But when he saw the man, he walked by on the other side. Later a temple helper [a Levite] came to the same place. But when he saw the man who had been beaten up, he also went by on the other side.

A man from Samaria then came traveling along that road. When he saw the man, he felt sorry for him and went over to him. He treated his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put him on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next morning he gave the innkeeper two silver coins and said, “Please take care of the man. If you spend more than this on him, I will pay you when I return.”

Then Jesus asked, “Which one of these three people was a real neighbor to the man who was beaten up by robbers?” The teacher answered, “The one who showed pity.” Jesus said, “Go and do the same!” (Luke 10:30-37 CEV)

The prayer of a servant:

My Lord God, I confess that I am the priest and the Levite. Not only did I walk past, I walked away. I was too busy, too frightened, my heart was too cold. In my own abundance, I was too poor in spirit to bear the cost. In my own comfort, I was too complacent to suffer any inconvenience. It was the Samaritan, a man despised and without pride of position or parentage, who was faithful and loving and who gave of himself sacrificially.

The Good SamaritanFather God, in your mercy, say that it is not too late for me. Another may have borne the burden, but I can go to the inn and sit with the traveler while he heals. I can bathe his wounds and feed him and lighten his spirit until the Good One returns.

Grant me the grace to do that little service with a grateful heart; please stand with me so that I will not walk away and shun the greater service the next time.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner. Amen.

Reflection on the Samaritan Woman, Gospel of John, Chapter 4, Verses 1-43

getimageactualLord, grant me the grace with which you greeted the woman at the well. You recognised her heresy and her impurity, yet you revealed yourself to her as you did to few others. You went further still, sowing Your word among her friends, family, and community for two precious days, delaying your arrival among your own kinsmen.

What love is this! Reaching out across boundaries, ignoring proprieties;  in spite of  social and spiritual divisions, offering to save a people.

O Lord, your example shows me my own smallness. Son of David, have mercy on me, the sinner.