The Spiritual Exercises: Week 4


From a theological viewpoint, it seems somewhat artificial to separate the passion and death of Jesus from his resurrection. But for Ignatius, the difference is in the mood of the week and in the graces for which one is to pray. Note the contrast between them in this English translation of his original words.

Grace of the 3rd week (#203):

‘to ask for what I want… grief with Christ in grief, anguish with Christ in anguish, tears and interior pain at such great pain Christ suffered for me.’

Grace of the 4th week (#221):

‘to ask for grace to rejoice and be glad intensely at so great glory and  joy of Christ our Lord.’

Apart from the obvious contrast in the content of the respective Gospel stories, Ignatius points up an explicit theological difference (Ex # 223):

“Consider how the divinity, which seemed to hide itself in the passion, now appears and shows itself so marvellously in the most holy resurrection by its true and most holy effects.”

Pattern of the ‘Fourth Week’

As you can see from the outline below, the ‘Fourth Week’ is comparatively short. Yet, in a sense it is both the goal of all that has preceded and the beginning of the movement back into ‘normal’ life.

SpExx 218-225, 299    First Contemplation: the risen Jesus appears to his Mother
SpExx 226, 300-312   Second and further Contemplations: the various appearances of the risen Jesus up to the Ascension

SpExx 227-229            Further notes for the director regarding the Fourth Week

SpExx 230-237            Contemplation on the Love of God (the Contemplatio)

In SpExx 300-312, Ignatius expands the headings in SpExx 218-226 with brief reflections on the appearances of the risen Jesus.

His main purpose of course is to offer stimulus and focus for the one praying on these scenes. But they also provide a fascinating insight into Ignatian hermeneutics, the way he understands and applies the New Testament message to the spiritual life.

The appearance of the risen Jesus to his Mother (Exx 218-225, 299)

Ignatius begins with his own insight that the risen Jesus appeared first to his Mother. The fact that such an incident is not recorded in the Gospels is acknowledged by Ignatius himself in an interesting line of argument:

“He appeared to the Virgin Mary.

This, although it is not said in Scripture, is   in saying that He appeared to so many others, because Scripture supposes that we have understanding, as it is written ‘Are you also without understanding’?”                                                     (SpEx 299)

Reflection: (Sean M. Powers SJ)

Contemplations on the appearances of the risen Jesus (Exx 226, 300-312)

The content of these contemplations of the ‘fourth week’ consists of the various resurrection appearances as recounted in the Gospels, with related passages from Acts and 1 Corinthians. St Ignatius gives several suggestions.

In each of these contemplations, we are invited to identify with an individual disciple in her / his encounter with the risen Jesus. 

Notice how the additions to the Spiritual Exercises (SpExx 226-229) and the grace for which we pray, are centred on Christ as the one who consoles. It is the risen Jesus rather than the retreatant who is the focus of the whole fourth week.

Grace for all the contemplations of the fourth week:

The grace for which we pray is to share their experience of being ‘surprised by joy’ (a felicitous phrase coined by C.S. Lewis), and to be blessed with a deep sense of peace, a “peace that only (Christ) can give” (John 20:21). Such peace and joy are both the substance and the mood of the Fourth Week.

John 20: 3-10: the disciple who believes without seeing


Read the passage through a couple of times. Imagine you are either Peter or the Beloved Disciple. Then enter into the scene, allowing yourself to see and hear as if it were you there present.

“Then Peter and the other disciple ran to the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.

Then Simon Peter, following him, went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face veil, not lying with the cloths but rolled up in a place by itself.

Peter and the other disciple (G. Bernard, 1898)

Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in; he saw and he believed. As yet they did not understand the scripture that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned home.”


If you identified with the Beloved Disciple, you might ask the risen Jesus for the grace of resurrection faith – he intuited the truth of the Resurrection from reading the signs: what he saw inside the tomb! If, on the other hand, you feel more at home with Peter, sit humbly with the mystery and allow Jesus to console you as you rejoice in his presence now as the risen Lord.

John 20:1-2, 11-18: one who comes to belief by hearing Jesus call her by name


Read the passage through slowly a couple of times. Imagine you are Mary Magdalene. Then enter into the scene, allowing yourself to see, hear and speak as if it were you there present.

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance… (v.1)

Mary stooped into the tomb, and saw two angels…turning around, she saw Jesus but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him and I will take him away.”

Jesus says to her: “Mary”. She says to him in Hebrew, Rabbouni (Teacher). Jesus says to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go and tell my brothers/sisters: “I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord” and told them the things he had said to her.

(vv.11-12, 14-18)


Allow the risen Jesus to call you by name… Respond…


Further appearances

John 20:19-23 Jesus appears to the disciples and confers the Holy Spirit

John 20:24-29 Jesus appears to Thomas whose doubts evaporate when Jesus graciously responds to him

John 21:1-23 Jesus appears to seven disciples by the Sea of Galilee

Matthew 28:1-10 Jesus appears to the women as they return form the tomb

Luke 22: 13-35 Jesus appears to “two of them” on the way to Emmaus

Further readings:

When we have so much to praise the Lord for, we must not complain.
True affection is to rejoice in the happiness of our dear ones. Never allow a sentiment of resentment to enter into our hearts.
Pray, reflect and consult – and may the divine spirit direct all to God’s greater glory.
May our dear Lord Jesus fill your hearts with His own love. Amen!
We must have patience with others as He has patience with us.
Under every difficulty try to pray fervently.
We have much to thank Him for, even for those little drawbacks on our comforts and conveniences.
Do pray that justice may be accomplished in peace and that truth may prevail.
Go on now as steadily as you can, relying on the Divine assistance and fear not.
What we do ought to be done well.

The Sisters of Charity acknowledge the First Peoples and traditional custodians of this land where we live. We respect, value and honour their history, culture and spirituality. We are committed to standing in solidarity and to actively working for justice, peace and harmony in this land.

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