Commentary arranged according to the structure of the Exercises
In the Fourth Week we ask to share in the joy and peace of the risen Christ. This joy, like any grace we pray for, is a gift from God; we cannot earn or force it. We simply try to be open to receiving Easter joy by contemplating Christ as he shares the joy of the Resurrection with others.
. . . We are not contemplating the actual resurrection event, which is a mystery, beyond time and space. Resurrection refers to the event of God’s transformation of life, making all things new, as in a new creation. Resurrection is a conquering of sin and death, once and for all. Instead of being distracted by the mechanics of the Resurrection or what a resurrected body looks like, we simply contemplate the risen Christ consoling others. We notice how his friends both recognize and fail to recognize the One they have followed and loved. We marvel at how Jesus in the resurrected life—where his divinity is no longer hidden—does very human things: eating, talking, consoling, teaching, and enjoying the company of others. As with the mystery of the Incarnation, we see in the Resurrection how our divinity and humanity are not opposed but are an integral part of each other.The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in Daily Life by Kevin O’Brien, SJ
In its fullness, Fourth Week joy engages the whole person, penetrates everyday experience, enhances and is supported by the ordinary joys of life, but its authenticity must always be measured in terms of depth and strength rather than emotional exhilaration. Even in the Exercises themselves it may function as it frequently does in daily life, as a leaven-like experience, subtly permeating a sorrow or heaviness which for the moment has to be borne. Yet if even in the Exercises, the uncomplicated plenitude of paschal joy may be slow to come, one prays for it with confidence, and does everything on one’s own side to dispose oneself to receive it.Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ
Certain dispositions of contemporary women can raise obstacles to the liberating effect of the Fourth Week. Fear can paralyze women today, just as it did the women in Mark’s Gospel (16:8) who fled from the resurrection. Change in their relational world challenges women’s self-identity. Commitment can generate fear, for success and joy in one’s accomplishments demands a response. Becoming an active player in the resurrection drama of daily life promises further engagement with the unknown. Often women desire to cling to the familiar, but the grace of the Fourth Week asks women to move out into the unfamiliar role of witness and public mission. In discovering God at work in the world, women must embrace all aspects of it.The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating Possibilities for Women by Katherine Dyckman, Mary Garvin, and Elizabeth Liebert
“To be glad and to rejoice intensely” is the keynote of Ignatian grace. Gladness and joy seem easy graces because our hearts yearn so much for them. But the grace here is not easy because it involves a persistent emptying of self. The motive for joy here springs from a desire to be identified with the Beloved. Your gladness and joy are “because of the great glory and joy of Christ our Lord.” The spotlight is not on your joy and gladness but on his.
. . . Contemplative faith, here in the Fourth Week and in daily life after retreat, helps you to find the extraordinary divinity of Jesus in very ordinary human interactions. Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary is part of the Fourth Week grace, initiated by your searching for and finding the hidden divinity of Jesus in his suffering.Stretched for Greater Glory: What to Expect from the Spiritual Exercises by George A. Aschenbrenner, SJ
The Fifth Point highlights the heart of the ministry of the risen Jesus. The risen Jesus comes to console. Most of the Resurrection appearances have a pattern of movement from sadness and fear to joy and peace. From Mary Magdalene being present at the tomb of Jesus, to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, and the disciples huddled in the upper room—in each case people have lost heart and are unsure of their future. They are afraid and deeply saddened by what has happened and are unclear where to turn. Yet in each case, Jesus appears and dispels the sadness, filling them with hope and giving comfort. Jesus gives them the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. The gift of the Holy Spirit lifts their hearts and assures them of God’s fidelity to God’s promises. Ignatius invites us to notice Jesus doing this in all the Resurrection appearances that we will consider during the Fourth Week. This is how the risen Jesus relates to us as well. It opens our hearts to Jesus’ consoling ministry toward us.Putting on the Heart of Christ: How the Spiritual Exercises Invite Us to the Virtuous Life by Gerald M. Fagin, SJ,
There’s a touch of hyperbole there; words have a place in every loving relationship. But deeds have primacy of place. When we’re talking about love, we’re talking primarily about deeds of love.God Finds Us: An Experience of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola by Jim Manney
In contemplating the love of God, we ask for the grace to love as God loves. To this end, Ignatius offers two critical insights:
1. “Love ought to manifest itself more by deeds than by words” . Love must be put into action; words are not enough. Having been schooled as disciples these many weeks, we must now do something. Ignatian spirituality is one of mission.
2. “Love consists in a mutual communication between the two persons” . Just as the love between two persons is marked by giving and receiving, the love we share with God enjoys a certain mutuality. God wants our friendship. God wants to be known by us. These divine desires are the source of our desire to know, love, and serve God.The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in Daily Life by Kevin O’Brien, SJ
The purpose of the Contemplation for attaining Love is developmental. It immediately aims at an elevation of consciousness, a growth in awareness, that kind of total human perception and experience which Ignatius called “interior knowledge,” which caught up understanding, sensibility and feeling. One is called to a meaning that is radically dynamic and invitational. A man grasps this meaning only when he himself is grasped by what he knows, when he possesses a knowledge from within.
Unlike erudition, learning, or science, this knowledge was profoundly personal in its subjective participation and comprehensive in its penetration of human sensibility. It was knowledge, but felt knowledge, one that identified with life itself and whose experience could only be compared with taste and sensation. The Contemplation aims at this kind of sensitive, unifying consciousness in which a man deeply becomes what he knows.“The Contemplation to Attain Love” by Michael Buckley, SJ.
The dynamic of the exercise turns on the two meanings of the love of God—God’s love for us and ours for God; and on the integration of these loves into the exercitant’s uses and experience of immediate reality. God’s love for us is the subject of the four points. Our love for God is the love we seek to attain , and which we request as grace in the petition  and in the prayer of radical self-offering, Take and receive . Though of course always imperfect, this love resembles God’s own love. The grace of the exercise is to grow in loving in the way God himself loves.Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ
Ignatius’s method for loving God is really very simple. Of course, it is dependent on grace: “Here it will be to ask for an intimate knowledge of all the many blessings received, that filled with gratitude for all, I may in all things love and serve the Divine Majesty” (SE 233). The method itself involves simply deepening our appreciation of the gifts God has given to us. If we have a deeply felt appreciation for God’s goodness to us, this gratitude is already an expression of love. As we ponder the events of our lives, we become conscious, like Paul, that all of life is a gift (cf. 1 Cor. 4:7; Eph. 2:4–6). But the petition moves beyond thanksgiving to thankfully giving ourselves in return—to serve, to love. We should move from an attitude of thanks to one of welcome, saying. “For all that has been, thank you, God. For all that will be, yes!”Spiritual Freedom: From an Experience of the Ignatian Exercises to the Art of Spiritual Guidance by John J. English, SJ,
Our response to God’s generosity is to give him the only things he doesn’t already have: our freedom, our will, our memories, our entire selves. God has given us these things, and he has told us we’re free to do whatever we want with them, no strings attached. Now, because we love God and he loves us, we freely give our entire selves back to him. This is a prayer of total self-offering.God Finds Us: An Experience of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola by Jim Manney
The Take, Lord, Receive prayer is an offering made in freedom. We have been praying for indifference throughout the retreat: to become free of disordered loves. Now we focus on why this freedom is necessary: we become free from excessive attachments so that we can love and serve God and others more. Basking in the love of God, we are empowered to love as God loves.The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in Daily Life by Kevin O’Brien, SJ
On the face of it, expressing requests like these in prayer is either a sign of exaggerated asceticism, that negates much of what it means to be human, and devalues our autonomy, or it is the kind of “I wish” prayer of surrender that we might speak with our lips but refuse to engage with in our hearts. I suggest Inigo’s prayer (called the Suscipe prayer, from its first word in Latin) is neither of these things. Rather, it is an invitation to peel the onion, or unwrap the parcel, recognizing that this is the only way to discover the hidden treasure at the heart of things. In other words, we cannot discover the “more” until, and unless, we are prepared to let go of the “less.” It is a profound and extremely challenging prayer. If we enter into it sincerely, it draws us into an examination of what exactly the “less” is, that is wrapped around the “more.”Companions of Christ: Ignatian Spirituality for Everyday Living by Margaret Silf
God is not static. God—revealed to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is dynamic, alive, always stirring, and always laboring to bring life to God’s beloved creation. God is love overflowing. In your prayer, consider the activity of God in your life and your world. Marvel at how God creates in, through, and with us. Can you see and hear God laboring in the world around you? Can you appreciate how God has “labored” specifically in and through you? Can you recognize how the labor of others supports you in your living?The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in Daily Life by Kevin O’Brien, SJ
[T]he word here translated as “work” carries an overtone of “toil,” even suffering. Thus, the God who works and labors in nature is also the God who carries out the work of the Kingdom in the face of all that opposes it, in a toil and labor in which in a sense Christ suffers throughout history.Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ
The fourth point, in which attention concentrates on God as Source, raises the exercise to a further contemplative level of awareness, and expands the vision of God in relation to all reality to a universal scale. Whereas in points two and three, God is “in” his gifts, here the gifts point to God in himself, the “above” from which their goodness descends.
. . . rays . . . from the sun, . . . waters from a fountain. The language has strong Trinitarian associations. sun recalls the Father of Light from whom all good things descend. rays from the sun will remind those familiar with Ignatius’ Autobiography of the second of the Manresa illuminations—the vision of the creation of the world under the particular form of the creation of light, and also of Ignatius’ claim frequently to have seen Christ “as the sun.” In Scripture and in much spiritual tradition, and at least implicitly in Ignatius’ own writings, water is a symbol of the SpiritUnderstanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ
Everything should be attributed to God in a song of praise. Whoever can do that, whoever can say the “Suscipe” with his whole heart and soul and mean every word of it, whoever is capable of that because he is free from sin and has broken away from himself in the following of Christ, he has arrived at that point where St. Ignatius wants him to be at the end of the spiritual Exercises. He is the kind of person St. Ignatius can send back into the world of daily life so that he can find the living God of love there in his work, in his destiny, in his gifts and sufferings, in life and death, in using and leaving the things of this earth. If he truly attains such love, he will possess God, not in opposition to the world, but as the only One who gives value and dignity to the world.Spiritual Exercises by Karl Rahner, SJ
At the end of his book, Ignatius writes that “we should value above everything else the great service which is given to God because of pure love.” For him, love was the proper response of the human being in gratefulness to God for creation itself. This love, he held, was manifested not only in emotion or pious language but in the kinds of choices people make by their living. A lover gives to the beloved what he or she has; and in return, the beloved does the same. The contemplation on love is about envisioning how we choose to love the God who loves us. If God is the divine lover, we as the beloved must look at what God has given us in order that we may freely offer it back to God. Recall the parable of the talents: the good servant is the one who takes what the master has given, cultivates it, and gives it back to the master.The Ignatian Workout: Daily Spiritual Exercises for a Healthy Faith by Tim Muldoon