The Spiritual Exercises: Week 1

Spoilers in this paragraph. The meditations of the first week consisted of meditations on: the sin of angels, the sin of Adam and Eve, my own sin, Christ our Lord suspended on the cross, and hell.

As I approached the first week, I understood conceptually the need to begin with confession and repentance, but I did not initially see the need to spend a whole week meditating on sin. After all, we are supposed to set our “minds on things above,” (Col. 3:2), “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy” (Philip. 4:8).

What I found is that there is a substantive difference between meditating on sin versus meditating on sinningA person not walking in the Spirit can choose to meditate on sinning (Prov. 6:16; Rom. 1:30), while a person clothed with Jesus Christ can meditate about sin, while not thinking “about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Rom. 13:14). I think I better understand James 1:14-15 after this meditation. Too often we give in to temptation because we are not thinking of sin as sin. We wrongly think of sin as: a pleasure, a release, a sensation, a habit, something “I’m working on,” something that effects only me.When I meditated on sin as sin, planning to sin became repulsive. This feeling may be similar to when a person becomes a vegetarian after they learn where their meat comes from.

We should see our own sin as we see other’s sin, hurtful and destructive. We should see all sin as God sees sin, something in which he can take no pleasure (Ps. 5:4-5) and something that leaves us ruined before him (Isa. 6:5). However, the end of this week’s meditation is the mercy of God.

Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:6-8

As to how I am progressing through the Exercises, I am unsure. It is sometimes really difficult to set aside the time to really meditate, so I am seeing the benefit of Ignatius’ instruction that this is best done in a retreat. Also, I do not have a trained S.J. director taking me through the material, so in many ways I am winging it. I search the Scriptures on my own, sometimes do not know the specific prayers being referenced (I had to look up the Anima Christi (Soul of Christ)), and choose not to say the Hail Mary. But regardless of the mistakes I may be making in the formal process, I do believe I am seeing a spiritual benefit.


This is a continuing series as I go through The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius.

©2012 Paul Tillman

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