Lesson #30 – Contemplation on the Attainment of Divine Love

Mary’s School of Sanctity

Lesson #30 The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius –—FOURTH WEEK –CONTEMPLATION ON THE ATTAINMENT OF DIVINE LOVE

This meditation is the final one that St. Ignatius gives in his Spiritual Exercises.  One could almost see this meditation as the grand finale.  So much could be said about the concepts that he gave us for this meditation.  We will give some considerations after sharing what St. Ignatius set forth.

Initially, St. Ignatius gives two points to be noted.  The first point is that love ought to be manifested in deeds rather than in words.

The second point is that love consists in a mutual interchange by the two parties, that is to say, that the lover give to and share with the beloved all that he has or can attain, and that the beloved act toward the lover in like manner.  Thus, if he has knowledge, he shares it with the one who does not have it.  In like manner they share honors, riches, and all things.

The preparatory prayer is the same as usual, I ask God Our Lord the grace that all my intentions, actions, and works may be directed purely to the service and praise of the Divine Majesty.

The FIRST PRELUDE is the mental representation of the place.  Here it is to see how I stand in the presence of God Our Lord and of the angels and saints, who intercede for me.            

The SECOND PRELUDE is to ask for what I desire.  Here it will be to ask for a deep knowledge of the many blessings I have received, that I may be filled with gratitude for them, and in all things love and serve the Divine Majesty.

The FIRST POINT is to call to mind the benefits that I have received from creation, redemption, and the particular gifts I have received.  I will ponder with great affection how much God Our Lord has done for me, and how many of His graces He has given me.  I will likewise consider how much the same Lord wishes to give Himself to me in so far as He can, according to His divine decrees.  I will then reflect within myself, and consider that I, for my part, with great reason and justice, should offer and give to His Divine Majesty, all that I possess, and myself with it, as one who makes an offering with deep affection, saying:

Take, O Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will.  All that I have and possess Thou hast given me.  To Thee, O Lord, I return it.  All is Thine; dispose of it according to Thy Will.  Give me Thy love and Thy grace, for this is enough for me.

The SECOND POINT is to consider how God dwells in His creatures: in the elements, giving them being; in the plants, giving them life; in the animals, giving them sensation; in men giving them understanding.  So, He dwells in me, giving me being, life, sensation, and intelligence, and making a temple of me, since He created me to the likeness and image of His Divine Majesty.  Then I will reflect upon myself in the manner stated in the first point, or in any other way that may seem more beneficial.

The same procedure should be observed in each of the points that follow.

The THIRD POINT is to consider how God works and labors for me in all created things on the face of the earth, that is, He conducts  Himself as one Who labors; in the heavens, the elements, plants, fruits, flocks, etc.  He gives them being, preserves them, grants them growth, sensation, etc.  Then I will reflect on myself.

The FOURTH POINT is to consider how all blessings and gifts descend from above.  My limited power, for example, comes from the supreme and infinite power from above.  In like manner justice, goodness, pity, mercy, etc. descend from above just as the rays from the sun, the waters from the spring, etc.  Then I will reflect upon myself, as explained above, and conclude with a colloquy and the “Our Father.”  

We now will share what Fr. Hurter gives to us about the above four points in what he calls four motives, or reasons for loving God, and then we’ll add a brief note for each one.

The First Motive for Loving God

God is our greatest benefactor.  Love shows itself by benefactions.  God simply overwhelmed us with benefits.  Think but of the gifts of nature: body and soul, health and the use of the senses, food and clothing, beloved parents and benefactors, general and special benefits.  All this we owe to God, and these benefits He has conferred on us daily and hourly for many years.  We are but a composition of benefits.  “What hast thou that thou hast not received?” (I Corinthians., 4:7)

We come now to the still more precious gifts of the supernatural order, the order of graces: our redemption by the sufferings and death of the Son of God, our creation into this world after the coming of Our Lord.  Recall all the gifts of faith, of the true Church, of the sacraments; that the Lord, by sanctifying grace, has made us His adopted children, that He is so near to us by His Sacred Body in Holy Communion, the repeated remission of our sins, the many means of graces which accompanied us from the day of our birth to this day:[1] so that in gratitude we must acknowledge: “He hath not done in like manner to every nation, and His judgments He hath not made manifest to them.” (Ps. 147:20)  To thousands and thousands he has not been as generous as He has been to us.

Let us cast a glance into the hereafter, on the blessings of heaven.  What is the Lord in His goodness not willing to give?  Himself in all His glory. “I am thy reward exceeding great.” (Gen. 15:5)

If giving presents is a proof of love, and the Lord has showered benefits down upon us poor human beings, how He must love us!  “What shall I render to the Lord, for all the things that He hath rendered to me?” (Ps. 115: 12) If beggars for a few cents love their benefactors, how shall we requite God’s love for us?  What love then do we owe to God?  But love must show itself in deeds.  What can we give to the Lord?  All that we have belongs to Him.  But the Lord is so good that He takes His own benefits as presents if we but offer them as a sacrifice.  Therefore, we shall confirm our love for the Lord by an act of consecration.  We must say with a grateful, willing and cheerful heart: “Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my whole will. All that I am and have Thou hast given me, and I give it back again to Thee, to be disposed of according to Thy good pleasure.  Give me only Thy love and Thy grace; with these I am rich enough and ask no more.”[2]

 

 

Additional note about the First Motive

Yes, indeed, we need nothing more than God.  He must be for us our all and everything.  From the very first meditation in the Spiritual Exercises, we have been taught by St. Ignatius that God must be our number one priority and our highest love.  In this first motive for loving God, we are really addressing the most important reasons that we owe God gratitude and love.  What could be more important than the gift of the Catholic Faith and all that comes with the Faith?  We cannot thank God enough for it.  Seeing how precious the gift of Faith is, and how vulnerable we are in that we are incapable of keeping the Faith without God’s help, helps us to be more grateful to God.  With gratitude comes humility and love.

Fr. Hurter continues:


The Second Motive for Loving God

God in His love for us wants to be near us always.  Love shows itself in this: that it is fond of being with the person it loves.  Lovers like to see each other.  How does God answer this demand?   He is everywhere near us, distributing favors in the whole of nature.  In this eagerness to be still nearer to us, the son of God came down from heaven to visit us in our homes: “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14)  To perpetuate this visit, He instituted the most holy Sacrament of the Altar, to be wherever even a few Christians assemble.  There He is day and night in the midst of them; and He rather waits for us there, that we should have to wait for His coming and visit.  If we cannot come to Him, He has Himself brought to us, even if our dwelling be ever so poor, a mere hut, a stable, a prison.  The Holy Ghost makes us His temple, in which He desires to dwell.  “Know you not,” writes St. Paul, “that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (I Cor. 3:16)  Furthermore, Our Divine Savior in His love for us wants us to be with Him forever. “Father, I will that where I am, they also whom Thou hast given Me may be with Me.” (John 17:14)  To Him, therefore, the words apply: “My delights were to be with the children of men.” (Prov. 8:31)

Such love, such condescension, calls for a return, and since a lover is fond of being near the person he loves, we will show our love of God by being with Him in thought, as a child away from home often thinks of its dear parents, and by visits which we can easily make to the Blessed Sacrament.[3]  We should be glad to converse with Him all the more because it is an honor that God deigns to associate with us poor creatures, and because these visits are always so rich in graces.[4]

Additional note about the Second Motive

Our Lord referred to Himself as the heavenly Bridegroom.  This is the most intimate friendship He could give to humans.  How loving of Him to want to be so close to us!  St. Thomas Aquinas explains to us that Goodness is self-diffusive.  We see this is so true especially when we consider the plan of God to dwell physically among us.  He gives Himself to us in a beautiful divine friendship.  Even when the Mystical Body has suffered persecutions in history, Our Lord always sustained His Flock.  For He said, “I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you…In that day you shall know, that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” (John 14:18 & 20) What a wonderful truth to know that the Trinity wills to dwell in us!

Fr. Hurter continues:

The Third Motive for Loving God

Love is strengthened not only by presents and visits but especially by deeds when it is active and generous in favor of the one beloved.  Thus, a mother’s love for her child shows itself not so much when she gives it fine clothes as when she works and stints herself for it, spends many a sleepless night at its bedside to nurse it in its sickness, and denies herself in many ways that she may take care of her child; when from early morning to late at night she suffers and makes sacrifices for its welfare.  So, too, does God show His love for us by being active for, in and about us.  He is everywhere active in nature for our benefit.  He gives growth and ripening to plants for our sustenance.  He lights the sun to give us light and heat.  He preserves, governs, and directs the universe, that it may be at our service.  Yes, the Son of God went still further for our sake.  He worked for us, bore painful sacrifices for us, even suffered to save us.

St. Bernard writes:

My reparation after the fall was not as my creation.  He spoke and the universe was created. (Ps. 148:5)  But He Who by a single word created me, has said much, done wonderful things, suffered severely, not only severely, but even what humiliated Him, to bring about my reparation.  ‘What shall I render to the Lord for all the things that He hath rendered to me?’ (Ps. 115:12)   In creation He made a present of me to myself, in redemption He gave Himself up for me, and thereby gave me back to myself.  Hence by creation and redemption I owe myself for myself.  What then shall I give to God for Himself?  Were I to make a sacrifice of myself a thousand times, what am I compared with God?

I must therefore show and confirm my love by working, making sacrifices, and suffering for God.  “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (I Cor. 10:31)[5]

Additional note about the Third Motive

What more could Our Lord have done for us than He did?  He suffered and died for us.  Even more importantly, He showed us by the cruel suffering and insults He endured how much He loved His heavenly Father.  At the same time, He showed how malicious sin is and how we should rather die than to offend God.  In very fact, He showed us how to love the Father.  We ought to imitate Him for He is always Our Model of perfect love.

Fr. Hurter continues:

The Fourth Motive for Loving God

The amiability of God.  That this glorious and exalted motive may enkindle in us a fervent love, let us consider how often a mere shadow of beauty, a drop of perfection found in creatures, draws our heart, charms and enraptures us.  What love, then, will the infinite beauty of God, the fountain of all perfection, enkindle in us?  If, therefore, creatures approach you with their beauty and loveableness to draw you to themselves, to fetter and imprison you, cry out to them: “I would be a fool were I to run after a drop and give myself to a shadow, when I can have the sum-total of all beauty and glory.  No, I will give my heart to the Infinite Being, Who alone can make me perfectly happy.”

Creatures with their beauty shall be to me as a guide directing me and telling me to “Love God!”  To Him my whole heart shall belong.  And therefore, creatures are so beautiful that they may remind me “how much the Lord to them is more beautiful than they, for the first author of beauty made all those things.” (Wis. 13:3)

Rightly does St. Augustine say: “Heaven and earth and all that is in the universe cry out to me from all directions that I, O God, must love Thee.  And they do not cease to cry out to all, so that they have no excuse.”

And if I furthermore consider that this infinitely beautiful, exalted, and perfect Being is mindful of me, and watches over me, and loves me, although He has no need of me whatever;  that He wants my love and longs for it, and rejoices when I love Him—how we must consider ourselves pressed to comply with His wish, and dazzled with His beauty and loveableness, be entirely consumed in His love, love Him with our whole heart, and with our whole soul, and with our whole mind, and with our whole strength, as He commanded us to do.  (Mark 12:30)                                     

Let us ask Our Lord by His precious Blood for such a love; and let it be the most beautiful fruit of these spiritual exercises.  Let us willingly repeat the beautiful petition of St. Augustine: “That I may know myself and know Thee, that I may love Thee and despise myself.”[6]

Additional note about the Fourth Motive

There is nothing higher than God.  We learn in our Catechism that He is the Supreme Being.  He has all perfections.  If we ponder His attributes, which we humans can only do one at a time, we soon grow in admiration of Him.  We are overawed by His immense qualities.  We were naturally made to love God.  If we follow our nature as we ought, our hearts desire God and are attracted to Him.  As St. Augustine said, “Our hearts were made for Thee O Lord and are restless until they rest in Thee.”  Since He is our final end, we can never be truly satisfied until we possess God completely.  Our natural inclination is to soar up to God.  These thoughts lead us to our colloquy.

Colloquy:  O Infinite and Divine Majesty, how can I, a poor creature, ever thank Thee enough for all the many blessings Thou hast showered upon me?  Thou hast created me rational and with an immortal soul.  Would that I could even appreciate these two aspects alone!  But in addition to these priceless gifts, Thou hast given me Thy Divine Son to be my soul’s Spouse and intimate Friend.  This is the utmost treasure that any human could want!  But alas, I am such a poor wretch who has not been grateful as I ought.  I beg Thee, Dear Trinity, to help me study Thee and all Thy truths so I can learn to appreciate Thee and grow in an ever-deeper love of Thee.  Help me to remain ever faithful to Thee so my soul can be Thy bride in time and in eternity. (I will end my colloquy with an Our Father.)

 

In our next lesson we will address St. Ignatius’s method for making a choice and his recommendations on penance.

 



[1]           In this time of the great apostasy when the majority of uncompromising Catholics have no priests and sacraments, we must not think that God is not still taking care of our spiritual needs.  He has made our prayers more efficacious including our spiritual communions and rosaries, precisely because we are refraining from participating in compromise Masses and Sacraments. 

 

We should also keep in mind that even if we do not have the sacramental confession available without compromise that we must practice perfect acts of contrition.  Furthermore, by using indulgenced prayers and sacramentals such as our rosary beads, and Signs of the Cross, we can remit our venial sins.  Our Lord indeed does not leave us orphans, especially when we are sacrificing and avoiding compromise out of love for Him!

 

[2]              Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat, by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 269-271.

[3]               Again, because the majority of uncompromising Catholics living in these times of the great apostasy do not have access to the Tridentine Mass and sacraments and the Blessed Sacrament, we should endeavor to make many spiritual communions and meditate on the Trinity dwelling in our souls, especially through His Divine grace.  We should speak to God in our souls and pour out our hearts to Him with love and gratitude.

[4]              Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat, by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 269-271.

[5]              Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat, by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 272-273.

[6]              Considerations from Sketches for the Exercises of An Eight Days’ Retreat, by Hugo Hurter, S.J., Ph.D., D.D., Professor Emeritus of Theology in the Catholic University of Innsbruck, copyright 1918; third edition, 1926, St. Louis, MO and London, Page 274-275.