Commentary arranged according to the structure of the Exercises
The formula from/to employed throughout the Third Week in the titles of the contemplations, accentuates the concept of the Passion as a journey, an extended way of the Cross which the exercitant is to walk step by step with Christ.Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ
Contemplation on the passion of Jesus challenges us to insert ourselves into the salvific plan of Jesus. We are called to be personally integrated into the Paschal Mystery and to accept a more conscious participation in the building up of God’s Kingdom. To enter into the dying of Jesus, we must give up attachments that divide our hearts. We must let go of egoism and individualism, of prejudices and biases, and of insensitivity to the suffering of the world around us. We begin to understand the cross of Christ only when we participate in it in our everyday lives.Putting on the Heart of Christ: How the Spiritual Exercises Invite Us to a Virtuous Life by Gerald M. Fagin, SJ
When making the Exercises of the third week, I often had to pray for the grace even to want to experience them. Although on a conscious level I felt committed to this process and did in fact desire a closer union with Christ, what went on at other levels amounted at time to mutiny. My body would either refuse to sit still or else it would fall soundly asleep. My mind wandered freely. At times my brain felt like a badly tuned radio which was receiving at least three channels at once.A Generous Openness: Praying the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius by Charlotte C. Prather
Our third week meditations also teach us how difficult acceptance is. When we cannot change a situation, we are tempted to walk away from it. We might literally walk away; we are too busy to sit with a suffering friend. Or we walk away emotionally; we harden ourselves and maintain an emotional distance. We might react to the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ passion and death this way. They describe something terrible and horribly painful, yet we might shield ourselves from the pain. We know the story of the Passion. Ignatius wants us to experience it as something fresh and immediate. We learn to suffer with Jesus, and thus learn to suffer with the people in our lives.
In the end, we learn that Ignatian compassion is essentially our loving presence. There is nothing we can do. There is little we can say. But we can be there.What Is Ignatian Spirituality? by David L. Fleming, SJ
In the Third Week, Christ is seen most clearly as a human being. He shares all our limitations, all our imperfections, “like his brothers and sisters in every respect” (Heb. 2:17), “tested as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). Jesus knows fear, perhaps deeper fear than we do, because he has actually protected us from the object of that fear. Moreover, strange as it may seem, we have experienced the Resurrection and Jesus had not. Jesus had not yet passed through death, but in baptism we have passed through it already.Spiritual Freedom by John J. English, SJ
The Third Week is also what Ignatius calls a time of confirmation. You made a decision in the Second Week about how you are going to follow Jesus. Now Ignatius invites you to take that decision before Christ on the cross, to stand before the crucified Christ and say, “This is my decision.” You stand at the foot of the cross and ask, “Can I be, am I going to be, a suffering servant the way Jesus is a suffering servant?”Discovering Your Dream: How Ignatian Spirituality Can Guide Your Life by Gerald M. Fagin, SJ
Women’s voices also emerge in the passion story. The maid of the high priest serves as a foil to Peter. Her probing questions demand a truthful answer and stand in sharp contrast to Peter’s denial. Pilate’s wife, a woman of power because of her husband, pays attention to the warning in her dream. Yet her warning, spoken on behalf of Jesus, was ignored. The daughters of Jerusalem, weeping and crying out, elicit attention for suffering women and children. The “voiceless” women in the passion narrative communicate eloquently by their faithful presence at the death and burial of Jesus. They remain nameless except for three: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and Salome. Luke also adds Joanna to the list of women present at the cross. The Fourth Gospel vividly portrays Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the beloved disciple standing beneath the cross, exemplifying discipleship as a relationship transcending bloodlines. Jesus’ words in death give life to a new community of mutuality and care, which finds its fulfillment in Pentecost.The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating Possibilities for Women by Katherine Dyckman, Mary Garvin, and Elizabeth Liebert
In the case of the Third Week, this more intimate and participatory grace is commonly designated by the word compassion (literally, “suffering with”). . . . Compassion consists in a certain spiritual empathy, such that the contemplation of the Passion is itself a passion for the one contemplating, a suffering which is ours but in and through which Christ makes us sharers in his own. It can exist only as a mode of intense love. It transforms one’s perception of every meaning of the Passion and the quality of every response to it, and it is the key to the contemplative union-in-action by which through his apostles Christ continues to labor and suffer in the mission of the Church in the world.Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ
In the Third Week, the persons can profit the exercitant in two ways: they embody in various forms the response of compassion, or they reflect the potential in every human being to evade Jesus or to betray him. Thus consideration of the persons sharpens the sense of crisis engendered by contemplation of the Passion.Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ
To the “do for Christ” of the First Week is now added “suffer”; to act and suffer for Christ: both must be the disciple’s lifelong response to the Cross. By the Third Week, this response has acquired a certain specific content. “Doing and suffering” recall now Christ’s summons to his followers to labor with him and to share in the sufferings inseparable from his own conflict with the world’s opposition to the reign of God.Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ
Jesus does not suffer or willingly undergo suffering merely for the sake of suffering. We have no example of Jesus during his life consciously and freely inflicting pain or suffering on himself as a form of prayer or devotion to God. Jesus did not approve of suffering for the sake of suffering.
Across the board, Jesus is not in favor of suffering, whether physical, mental, or emotional. Whenever he saw pain or suffering in those who came to him, he tried to heal it or relieve it, not prolong it or tell someone suffering was good for them. His healing miracles tell us that he relieved pain and suffering whenever possible. He relieved even the pangs of normal hunger in the feeding of the five thousand.The New Spiritual Exercises: In the Spirit of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin by Louis M. Savary
The focus is not on your suffering but on that of your beloved. A great emptiness of self and ego is required if this grace is to be effective. Such a grace is never easy, especially in our twenty-first-century American culture of self-absorption. As you prepare to ask for the grace suggested, you should appreciate, as much as you can, what it is you are asking of God. The consolation you seek comes from entering the suffering of Jesus. This ability to get out of your own suffering and to enter his teaches a very important lesson: to enter the suffering of other people you must get free of the all-absorbing clutches of your own.Stretched for Greater Glory: What to Expect from the Spiritual Exercises by George Aschenbrenner, SJ
The contemplations of the Third Week are quite different from the colloquy of the First Exercise of the First Week, where we are with Jesus on the cross. In that colloquy, those making the Exercises were sinners seeking sorrow and forgiveness for their sins. In the Third Week they seek to be sorrowful with Christ in sorrow. They hope to join Christ in saying yes to God and to complete “what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col. 1:24).Spiritual Freedom by John J. English, SJ
The knowledge of the Resurrection, without which the Passion could not be contemplated in its Christian meaning, should not issue in thoughts or feelings that at this moment could soften the stark reality of the Cross. The exercitant will pray, certainly, to share in some way in Jesus’ own reaching out to the Father in hope and trust within his suffering. But he or she must not step out of the process of journeying towards Easter with the suffering Christ in order to contemplate the Passion in a mood of Easter joy.Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ
To [meditate on our Lord’s death on the cross], all we really have to do is to repeat what the entire Exercises say about Christ crucified. The whole meditation can be summed up in the already-quoted words of St. Paul: “. . . the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). We can take this thought or the one that closely follows it in the same letter: “. . . but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:23–24), as the leitmotiv of our meditation. According to St. Paul, the true philosophy is the love of God’s wisdom which is offered to the world in Christ crucified. The cross of the Lord is and remains the fork in the road of world history.Spiritual Exercises by Karl Rahner, SJ
Finally, you must let him breathe his last and be gone. You must walk around in the hollowness of this loss. The Resurrection is no miraculous afterthought. It grows from a tree planted on Calvary. To see the light dawning on the horizon of a sky marked by three crosses gives intimations of victory, glory, peace. The Pietà’s image of a faithful mother treasuring in her grief the broken body of her son provides transition and gives birth to a hope, fragile and yet sturdy enough for victory.Stretched for Greater Glory: What to Expect from the Spiritual Exercises by George Aschenbrenner, SJ
To be present and attentive before the cross of Jesus is an experience of prayer which may yield its graces over some length of time. The truth which becomes visible in that place, about who the Lord is and about who I am, is water from a very deep well. One may return to drink from it again and again.A Generous Openness: Praying the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius by Charlotte C. Prather
The approaches to contemplating the Passion indicated in this Note differ in two ways in particular from the method and structure of the Second Week. First, repetitions are no longer an integral part of the contemplative day; one may wish now to follow the earlier pattern or one may not. Second, considerable value is set upon the contemplation of the Passion as a whole, an exercise to which there is no equivalent in the Second Week. Both features can be explained by the importance attached to the unity of the Passion, which makes the various episodes so many points of entry into the single mystery of the suffering and death of God in the humanity of Christ.
The note respects the variety of ways people may be led to pray the Passion in the Third Week, and for this reason the alternatives proposed here should not be thought of as closing off other possibilities.Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ
[The] curious inclusion of these Rules in the Third Week is explained by the opening contemplation of Jesus at Supper . In practice, whether and at what point they are to be given is left to the judgment of the director, who might also modify them in form. Their general purpose is clear: to set the uses of food and drink in relation to the overall objective of the Exercises (cf.  and ), and more specifically to the norms of the Foundation; and to promote a contemplative attitude towards the satisfaction of a readily abused appetite. Hence the Rules can and do speak to exercitants today not only about the uses of food, but about other appetites, too, and other socially accepted forms of body abuse.Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ