The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius
Development of the Principle of the Exercises
The End of Man
Text of St. Ignatius: Man was created for this end: to praise, reverence, and
serve the Lord his God, and by this means to arrive at eternal salvation.
This meditation comprises three great truths which are the foundation of all
the Exercises: I come from God; I belong to God; I am destined for God.
That is to say, God is my first principle, my sovereign Master, my last end.
First Truth: I come from God.
1. Where was I a hundred years ago? I was nothing. If I look back a hundred
years, I see the world with its empires, its cities, its inhabitants; I see
the sun which shines today, the earth on which I dwell, the land which gave
me birth, the family from which I sprung, , the name by which I am known: but
I, - what was I, and where was I? I was nothing, and it is amidst nothingness
I must be sought. Oh, how many ages passed during which no one thought of
me! For how can nothing be the subject of thought? How many ages when even
an insect or an atom was greater than I! for they possessed at least an existence.
2. But now I exist. I possess an intellect capable of knowing, a heart formed
for loving, a body endowed with wonderful senses. And this existence, who gave
it me? Chance? - Senseless word! - My parents? They answer in the words of the
mother of the Machabees: "No, it was not I who gave you mind and soul;
it was the Creator of the world" (2 Mach. 7:22). Lastly, was I the
author of my own existence? But nothingness cannot be the cause of existence.
It is to God, then, that I must turn as my first beginning. "Thy
hands, O Lord, have made me and formed me" (Ps. 118:73). "Thou
hast laid Thy hand upon me" (Ps. 138:5). Thou hast taken me from
the abyss of nothing.
3. Consider, O my soul, the circumstances of thy creation. 1) God created me
out of His pure love. Had He any need of my existence, or could I be necessary
to His happiness? "I have loved thee with an everlasting love" (Jer.
31:3). 2) God created me, and the decree of my creation is eternal like
Himself. From eternity, then, God thought of me. I was yet in the abyss
of nothingness, and God gave me a place in His thoughts! I was in His mind,
and in His heart. "I have loved thee with an everlasting love." 3)
God created me, and in creating me preferred me to an infinite number of creatures
who were equally possible to Him, and who will forever remain in nothingness.
O God, how have I deserved this preference! "I have loved thee with an
everlasting love." 4) God created me, and by creation made me the most
noble of the creatures of the visible world. My soul is in His image, and
all my being bears the stamp, the living stamp of His attributes. 5) Lastly,
God created me, and He has continued His creation during every moment of my
existence. As many as are the hours and moments of my life, so often does He
make me a fresh present of life.
Sentiments of humility at the sight of our nothingness. "My substance
is as nothing before Thee" (Ps. 38:6).
Sentiments of admiration. "What is man, that Thou shouldst magnify
him? or why dost Thou set Thy heart upon him?" (Job 7:17)
Sentiments of gratitude. "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and let all
that is within me bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget
not all He hath done for thee" (Ps. 102:1,2).
Second Truth: I belong to God.
1. I come from God; hence, I belong to God. God is my creator; hence, He is
my Lord and my Master. To deny this consequence would be to deny my reason.
2. The Lord enters into judgment with me, and deigns to argue His rights at
the bar of His creature. Is it not true that the master has a right to the services
of his servants or of his slaves? Is it not true that the king has a right to
the obedience of his subjects? the father, to the submission as well as the
respect of his children? Is it not true that the workman has a right to dispose
of his work as he chooses? And I, the creature of God, do I not belong more
to God than the slave to his master, than the subject to his soverign, the child
to his father, the picture to him who painted it, or the tree to him who planted
it? Does not God possess over me all the rights of men over the creatures, and
in a higher degree and by more sacred titles? What is there in me that does
not belong to Him, and is not the fruit, so to say, of His own capital, and
therefore His property? "What have you that you have not received?"
(1 Cor. 4:7). What would remain to me if God took back all that He has
given me? If God took back my mind, waht should I be? - On a level with the
brute animals. If He deprived me of life and motion, what should I be? -
A little dust and ashes. If He took away my substance and my whole being,
what should I be? - A simple nothing. O my God! all I have comes from Thee;
it is just that all in me should belong to Thee. "O Lord, just art Thou,
and glorious in Thy power, and no one can overcome Thee. Let all creatures serve
Thee: for Thou hast spoken, and they were made; Thou didst send forth Thy Spirit,
and they were created" (Jud. 16:16,17).
3. Consider, O my soul, the characteristics of the dominion of God. 1) Essential
dominion. It was not necesary that God should draw me from nothing. But
since God has created me, it is necessary that I should be His. He would cease
to be God if, being my creator, He ceased to be my sovereign and my master.
2) Supreme dominion. I belong to God before everything, and above everything.
Properly speaking, I belong to God alone, and men have no other rights over
me except such as God has given them. Their rights, then, are subordinate to
the rights of God; and their authority must be always subjected to the authority
of God. 3) Absolute dominion. God can dispose of me according to His
pleasure; He can give or take from me fortune, health, honour, life; my duty
is to receive everything from His hand with submission and without complaint.
4) Universal dominion. Everything in me is from God; therefore all in
me belongs to God. The dominion of the Lord extends to all the stages of my
life, to all the situations in which I may be placed, to all the faculties of
my soul, all the senses of my body, to every hour and moment of my existence.
5) Eternal dominion. The dominion of God is immortal, like myself; it
begins with time, and continues through eternity; death, which deprives men
of all their rights, is unable to do anything against the rights of God. 6.
Irresistible dominion. We may escape the dominion of men; but how escape the
dominion of God? Willing or unwilling, we must submit to it; we must either
live under the empire of His love, or under that of His justice; either glorify
His power by free obedience, or glorify it by inevitable punishment. "O
man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him
who formed it, why hast thou made me thus?" (Rom. 9:20).
1. Adoration. "Thou art worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory
and honour and power; for Thou hast created all things" (Apoc. 4:11). "Come,
let us adore and fall down before the Lord that made us; for He is the Lord
our God" (Ps. 94:6,7).
2. Regret. "Is this the return thou makest to the Lord, O
foolish and senseless people? Is not He thy father, that hath possessed thee,
and made thee, and created thee? Thou hast forsaken the God that made thee,
and hast forgotten the Lord that created thee" (Deut. 32:6, 18).
3. Submission. "O Lord, for I am Thy servant; I am Thy servant,
and the son of Thy handmaid" (Ps. 115:16).
Third Truth: I am destined for God.
1. God is not only my creator and my master, He is also my last end. A God infinitely
wise must have proposed to Himself an end in creating me; a God infinitely perfect
could only have created me for His glory; that is to say, to know Him, to
love Him, and to serve Him.
2. O my soul! dost thou wish for a proof of this great truth? 1) Ask thy
faith; it will tell thee that God made all for Himself: "The Lord hath
made all things for Himself" (Prov 16:4). That He is the beginning
and the end of all things: "I am the beginnning and the end" (Apoc.
1:8). That the greatest of the commandments is to adore, to love, and to
serve God. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God;" "Thou shalt adore
the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve" (Matt. 22:37, 4:10).
2) Ask thy reason; it will tell thee that there must be some proportion
between the faculties of man and their object. Hence there is nothing but the
infinite perfections of God which can be the objects of a mind and heart craving
with an intense desire to know and to love. 3) Ask the creatures; they
will tell thee, by their imperfection, their inconstancy, their weakness, in
a word, by their nothingness, that they are far too insignificant to be the
end of thy being. "Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity, except to love
God and to serve Him alone" (Imit. of Christ, 1:1). 4) Ask thy
heart; it will tell thee that thou art formed for happiness, and that thou
requirest happiness without alloy, happiness without limits, an eternal happiness;
that is, that thou requirest nothing less than God Himself. 5) Ask thy own
experience; it will tell thee why it is that, when thou hast been faithful
in serving God, peace hast dwelt within thy breast; why it is that, when thou
hast separated thyself from Him, thou hast felt nothing but disgust, emptiness,
and remorse. Peace of heart is the fruit of order faithfully kept, faithfully
observed. "We were made, O Lord, for Thee, and our heart is restless until
it finds peace in Thee" (St. Augustine).
3. Thus my end is to know God, to love God, to serve God; this, therefore,
is all my duty, all my greatness, all my happiness. 1) All my duty. Yes,
I must know, love, and serve God. I must understand well this word, O my soul.
I must be convinced that it is a real necessity. It is not necessary that
I should possess talents, fortune, pleasures, an honourable position in
society; it is not necessary that I should have a long life; it is not necessary
that I should exist; but, supposing that I do exist, it is necessary that I
should serve God. An intelligent creature that does not serve God is, in the
world, what the sun would be if it ceased to shine, what our body would be if
it ceased to move. It would be in the order of intelligence what a monster would
be in the order of the bodily frame. 2) All my greatness. I am not made
for a mortal man; I am not made for myself; I am not made for an angel. An intelligent
and immortal being, I am too great for a creature, however noble, to be my end.
My end is that of the angel; is that of Jesus Christ; is that of God Himself.
God does not exist, could not exist, except to know Himself and to love Himself;
and I only exist, or could exist, to know and to love God. 3) All my happiness.
I cannot serve God in time without possessing Him in eternity. I cannot give
myself wholly to God without His giving Himself wholly to me. "I am thy
exceeding great reward" (Gen. 15:1). His glory and my happiness are inseparable.
It is, then, a question of my eternal destiny, and I myself am the arbiter of
it. O my soul! picture to thyself on one side Heaven, with its ineffable
delights; on the other Hell, with its fires and its despair; one or other
will be thy eternal heritage, according as thou shalt have served or offended
the Lord on earth. It is for thee to choose. "I call heaven and earth to
witness this day that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing.
Choose, therefore, life, ... that thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and obey
His voice, and adhere to Him, for He is thy life" (Deut. 30:19,20).
1. Sorrow for the past. "O God, Thou knowest my foolishness, and
my offenses are not hidden from Thee" (Ps. 68:6).
2. Contempt for creatures. "All those that go far from Thee shall
perish: Thou hast destroyed all those that were disloyal to Thee. But it is
good for me to adhere to my God" (Ps. 67:27, 28).
3. Love of God. "What have I in heaven? and beside Thee what do
I desire upon earth? Thou art the God of my heart, and my portion for ever"
(Ps. 67:25, 26).
Taken from The
Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius by TAN
Books & Publishers, Inc.
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