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in the practical love of God in this world is found man's highest perfection. (2.) Now this love consists in the conformity of our will with the will of God, in virtue of which, our wishes and dislikes are identical with those of our Creator; for where this identity of wishes and desires does not exist, there cannot be love. (3.) This conformity supposes our election made by Divine impulse, in virtue of which we elect to serve our Creator in that state, or (in the state already chosen) in that degree of perfection in which He wishes to be served by us. (4.) In order to make this election well, we must be possessed of that indifference mentioned by S. Ignatius, concerning riches or poverty, honours or contempt, health or sickness, life or death; for if anyone should be unwilling to choose whatever was pleasing to God, his will would no longer be in conformity with the will of God, and therefore he would cease to love Him.
That which is mainly, nay, essentially, opposed to the love of God is sin. We spent the first week in endeavouring to root it out of our souls; but its sad consequence remained, which is a strong inclination towards riches, pleasures, and honours; wherefore, in order to reduce our soul to a state of equilibrium, we were obliged, by proposing to ourselves the example of Christ, to turn our desires in an opposite direction, and by means of the third degree of humility, to form our soul to an esteem, a love, and a desire of those things which our corrupt nature despises, hates, and abhors most—namely, humiliations, poverty and sufferings. This we have endeavoured to accomplish in the succeeding weeks.
Relieved, then, of so many troubles, freed from so many chains, having overcome so many obstacles, we are at length masters of our affections; and our soul, in the enjoyment of perfect liberty, eagerly seeks God, the only object of her happiness. And since she has won her victory, and has arrived at the possession of freedom, by means of the example of the life of Christ, it is but just that she should make Him the object of her love, and that her most ardent and lively affections should be centred in His sacred humanity. The following meditation will powerfully incite us to this; and the last will supply the soul with an effectual stimulus to acquire a most pure, lively, and strong love of God, who is her Creator, her first beginning, and her last end.
But, whereas, on the one hand, prayer is that which principally fans, keeps alive, and increases the flame of Divine love; and on the other hand, all are not skilled in the art of mental prayer, S. Ignatius, whose only object was to procure the perfection and salvation of his neighbour, has pointed out some methods of prayer which are accommodated to the capacity of everybody.
The first consists in going over, and reflecting on, not so much speculatively as practically—(1.) the commandments of the Decalogue and of the Church; (2.) the capital sins; (3.) the operations of the three faculties of the soul—the memory, the intellect and the will; and (h) of the five senses of the body; examining meanwhile how much we have sinned against the former, or by means of the latter; dwelling upon each point for about the space of time that would be occupied in reciting the "Our Father" three times. Regarding the precepts, we may, moreover reflect—(1.) how just they are; (2.) how salutary; (3.) how holy. As regards the sins, we should not make an examination of conscience, but merely reflect how abominable and hurtful they are; and on the contrary, how lovely and advantageous to the soul are the opposite virtues. Respecting the faculties of the soul, and the senses of the body, consider how noble and useful they are, and for what end they have been given to us by our Creator. Finish the exercise by thanking God for His gifts; by begging of Him to pardon your sins; by proposing a sincere amendment of life; and by asking God's grace to carry your resolution into effect.
The second method of prayer consists in occupying ourselves for sometime in meditation on the meaning of the words and sense of some prayer, as, for example, "The Lord's Prayer," the "Hail Mary," or one of the Psalms; and to dwell upon it so long as we can derive therefrom holy thoughts or feelings of tender affection. Wherefore if the mind and heart find matter to engage them, even in one or two words, we should tranquilly confine our meditation to them, even though we should pass an entire hour in. this manner; and afterwards we can read over the remaining portion of the meditation cursorily.
The third method of prayer is identical with the second, but shorter and more rapid. We dwell upon the signification of the words, and on the sense, with a lively attention, it is true; but not for any length of time, as in the preceding method; delaying upon each word merely for the space it would take to draw one's breath.
From what has been said we perceive that the distinctive feature of the first method is examination; of the second, meditation; while the third is tha most simple of all, and contains less of examination and meditation than the other two. It is, nevertheless, most useful in enabling us to say our vocal prayers with attention and devotion; and for this reason we should frequently practise it, more especially such of us as are bound to the recitation of the canonical hours.
Now that we have seen the foundation on which the Exercises are based, the end which they propose to themselves, the means by which they conduct us to to this end, the connection of these with one another, and of all with the end; it only remains to see briefly what are the means by which we may remain in secure and constant possession of that precious fruit, for the acquisition of which we have made so many meditations, and formed so many resolutions. The general means, then, are: (1.) Fervent prayer every day. (2.) To make a daily examination of conscience, and especially the particular examen. (3.) The frequentation of the sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist. (4.) The choice of a fixed confessor, to whom we should manifest all the feelings of our heart without reserve. (5.) The holy practice of spiritual reading, conversation with devout persons, the avoidance of dangerous company, and a scrupulous care in shunning the occasions of sin. (6.) Kecollection of spirit, and an occasional withdrawal from the ordinary distractions of the world, in order to apply with greater leisure to the affairs of our soul.
It will be very conducive also to our perseverance in virtue, if we esteem very highly this commencement, and as it were foundation of a good life which we have now laid in these Exercises. (2.) To conceive a holy fear that, if we do not live hereafter in the manner in which we now know that we ought to live, we shall be the more severely punished by God. (3.) To be persuaded that up to the present we have done nothing more than to receive into our soul the first seed which God has been pleased to plant there; and that, henceforward, it will be our duty to nourish it, to care for it, to cultivate it, and to bring it to maturity. But the most excellent of all means to ensure perseverance is the love of Christ, to which we ought to be incited by the three motives, which we shall set forth in the following meditation. These are—(1) the glories of His humanity, (2) His excellence because of His divinity, and (3) His love for us.
Consider the excellence of his humanity. (1.) The body of Christ is the temple of God, "for in Him dioelleth all the fulness of the God-head corporally" (a). It is the most perfect work of the Holy Ghost, for "the power of the Most High overshadowed Mary "(b), miraculously forming it from her most noble and most pure blood. It is the "sanctuary of holiness"; as well because of the impeccability of the Redeemer's soul, as because of its enjoyment of the beatific vision, and the intensity of the love of frui
(a) Colossiana ii. 9. (b) Luke i. 35.