The Spiritual Exercises: Week 3

Spoilers in this paragraph. The meditations of the third week (intimate union with God through Christ with meditations on the passion of Christ) continued with contemplation on the passion of Jesus, from the preparation of the Last Supper through his burial, focusing on his suffering.

Week 3 continues the journey of the imagination in a similar way as we might do on Ash Wednesday or Good Friday. We do not simply contemplate our sins, as in week 1, but also the result of those sins being the suffering of Jesus. We allow ourselves to experience grief and sorrow, not jumping ahead to the resurrection. Like mourning the death of a loved one, we must go through the grief, not skip or ignore it. When we have done wrong, we should feel guilty. Jesus would not had to die if not for our evil deeds.

In this time we also ask, “What ought I to do and suffer for him?” (Ignatius in Ganss, 1992). For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him (Philippians 1:29). Suffering is a negative motivator. We usually are motivated to action in order to avoid suffering. I have had a sore back for several weeks. Upon visiting a chiropractor for the first time in my life, I discovered that the bottom line is that my back will stop hurting if I lose some weight. My doctor has wanted me to lose some weight for several years, and I have wanted to look better for my wife and be more fit for some time. However, now that I am in pain it is much easier to eat smaller portions, get some exercise, and not eat dessert for breakfast. If I am so tuned this way, how can I be motivated to praise God when I suffer as a Christian (1 Peter 4:16) and encourage others to do the same?

In recounting his life, Paul the Apostle said, I have been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). Yet later in life he passes along this trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. (2 Timothy 2:11)

I have broken the rule by jumping ahead to the hope, but that is the answer to my question. Jesus suffered for us because he had faith in the eternal love and plan of God (Luke 22:42, John 17:1). His suffering offers us hope. We can suffer with and for Christ, and in life in generally, because we have hope. Along the Via Dolorosa is the station where Jesus fell under the cross, and was assisted by Simon of Cyrene. The art here on one wall shows the angels weeping as Jesus bares and falls under the cross, but as one exits there is another painting  on the opposite wall showing all the saints in heaven also baring their crosses in joy as they follow Christ. (see my Israel Log 12 March 2011)
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
During this week, Ignatius also addresses food and drink (both generally and adult beverages are implied). His  position is that moderation is the best practice, even above abstinence. He considers taking too little to be a temptation, just as is taking too much.
“Ridiculously Photogenic Guy” by Will King

The instructions of week 3 demonstrate another aspect of the flexibility of the Exercises. An exercitant may choose to to spend extended time contemplating a particular aspect of the passion, but must still cover all the cover all the major events of the narrative. For example, if I were to spend a day contemplating Jesus washing the disciple’s feet, I could not skip Jesus before Pilot in order to still finish in seven days, instead the third week would simply be extended. However, the number of exercises completed each day is “according to what is most helpful in view of the exercitant’s age, condition, and temperament” (Ignatius in Ganss, 1992). Spiritual formation in churches can do something that schools and universities cannot, allow a person to progress at their own pace.


Ganss, George E., S.J. (1992). The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius: a Translation and Commentary. Chicago: Loyola University Press.


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

©2012 Paul Tillman

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