The Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola: The Third WeekPrint
The second week of the Exercises concludes with the meditation on the ‘three kinds of humility’ (SpExx 165). As it provides a lead-in to the third week, here it is again.
This meditation immediately precedes the last section of the second week because, at this point, a person is invited to discern his or her vocation in life or some other major decision. For those who are already committed to a state of life, it is the opportunity to renew such a commitment. We are now ready to move into the deeper contemplation of the Passion and Death of Jesus.
The Third Week
‘Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus’ (Phil 2:5)
The contemplations of the ‘third week’ focus on the Passion and Death of Jesus.
There is little here of discursive prayer or meditation; the whole emphasis is on ‘being with’ Jesus, empathizing with him in his experience of suffering and death as described by one or more of the Gospel accounts.
Grace: “Notice that the prayer now focuses on the humanity of Jesus by pointing out how his divinity hides itself. Greater love has no one than to lay down our life for our friends.”
Outline of the Third Week
SpExx 190-204 First Day
SpExx 190-199 First Contemplation: The Last Supper
The Setting (or in Saint Ignatius’ words, “preludes/points”)
To enter as fully as I can into … the whole event we call the Last Supper.
It goes beyond picturing the scene or reading the account in words. I try to hear the way words are spoken; I attempt to see the expression on the face; I am present with as heightened an awareness as I can muster so that I enter as fully as possible into the mystery I am contemplating.
(David L. Fleming SJ, Draw me into your friendship, 149)
The Last Supper (Ignatius’ text: Matt 26:20-30; alternative: Luke 22:7-34)
Now, as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and broke it, and shared it among the disciples, saying: “Take and eat, this is my body.”
And he took the cup, and giving thanks, he gave it to them for this is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
Jesus washes the feet of his disciples (John 13:1-38)
Jesus, knowing that his hour had come, having loved his own who were in the world, loved them unto the end…
And rising from supper, he put a towel about his waist, poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet… When he came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterwards you will understand.” Peter said to him, “Lord, you will never wash my feet.” Jesus replied: “Unless I wash your feet, you can have no part with me.” Then Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not only my feet, but my head and my hands as well”.
SpExx 200-203 Second Contemplation: The Agony in the Garden
(Ignatius’ suggested texts: Matt 26; Mark 14)
And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives… to a place that was called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And he took with him Peter and James and John and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; stay here and watch with me.” And going a little further, he fell on the ground and prayed, “Abba Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass me by; yet, not as I will but as thou wilt.” And he came and found them asleep, and he said to Peter, “Could you not watch one hour with me?”
SpExx 208-209 Second – Seventh Day: Contemplations: Passion and Death of Jesus
Ignatius divides the five hours of prayer for each of the remaining ‘days’: Two contemplations, two repetitions, and an application of the senses.
Second Day (1) From the garden to the house of Annas, inclusive
(2) From the house of Annas to the house of Caiphas
Third Day (1) From the house of Caiphas to Pilate, inclusive
(2) From Pilate to Herod, inclusive
Fourth Day In the house of Pilate (in two parts)
Fifth Day (1) From the house of Pilate up to the crucifixion
(2) From Jesus’ being raised upon the Cross until his death
Sixth Day (1) From the descent from the Cross to the tomb
(2) From the tomb to the house where Our Lady was
Seventh Day A contemplation of the whole Passion, the mystery of Jesus’ lying in the tomb, and the loneliness of Our Lady and of the disciples.
As you can see, the structure of the “third week” is appropriately simple. Each of the days from the second to seventh, has a key focus with repetitions and application of the senses. As with the weeks, the notion of a ‘day’ is flexible, depending on the individual who is making the Exercises.
As with all other cases, the directions are at the service of bringing a person into deep union with the person of Jesus in order to become more and more conformed to his values and way of life.
Ignatius suggests passages from the Passion narratives of the Gospels. It is interesting that he mostly draws upon the Synoptics (Matthew, Mark and Luke) for the second, third and fourth days, then exclusively on the Gospel according to John for the remaining days.
We are encouraged to use whatever helps us to enter into these contemplations. Our time-honoured way is silent contemplation. But sometimes we may find it helpful to turn to other means such as music, poetry, art, icons, film.
Here is a film clip of one version of the Gospel of John, 18:38-19:35.
Images: St Ignatius (© The Trustees of the British Museum)
The last Supper by Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret (1852-1929) (Wiki Commons}
Jesus washing Peter’s feet.jpg (Wiki Commons)
Map of Bethany in Jesus’ time
Ecce homo by Antonio Ciseri (Wiki Commons)
Crucifixion by Giotto (Wiki Commons)