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April 2012 Vol 51 no 2


SEEKING THE FACE OF JESUS

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Contents

Climate Change and the Spiritual Exercises

There is much scientific evidence today to suggest that human activity, especially in industrialised countries, is having large-scale effects on global climate. It remains difficult, though, to get people to act together to mitigate these effects. Stephen McCarthy believes that the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, properly understood and applied, can be a tool to enable people to act effectively in this way.

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Who Are You, Immaculata? The Sinlessness of the Virgin and Human Dignity in the Thought and Life of Maximilian Kolbe

The Franciscan priest Maximilian Kolbe, imprisoned in Auschwitz, volunteered in 1941 to take the place of a married man condemned to a lingering death by starvation by the concentration camp guards. The man whose life he saved was present at Kolbe’s canonisation four decades later. Ruth Agnes Evans traces the way in which Kolbe’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and especially to her sinlessness, strengthened him for the sacrifice that he made.

Painting Jesus

Earl McKenzie is a Jamaican novelist and poet, philosopher and painter. Starting from the intriguing question of whether the act of painting can itself be a form of philosophizing, he goes on to consider here what significance the attempt to paint Jesus, a man of whom we have no physical description, might have. In this autobiographical essay McKenzie describes some of his own forays into art of this kind.

Sleeping with the Enemy: The Enneagram as a Tool for Reclaiming Wholeness, Health and Freedom

In recent decades the system of personality typing known as the Enneagram has become a common tool for promoting spiritual growth. In wrestling with those compulsions that I can come to recognise as originating in early childhood experience, I am enabled to become that person God has created me to be. In this article Gerry O’Neill traces this path of growth, and points out some of the obstacles that need to be overcome on the way.

Who Were the Resurrection-Announcing Angels

Each of the four Gospels tells of disciples of Jesus who go to his tomb once the Sabbath following the crucifixion is over, and are greeted by heavenly messengers who announce the news of his resurrection. But who were the angelic creatures bearing this important news? A careful study of the biblical texts, and of the Zoroastrian faith that influenced them, leads Ignatius Jesudasan to a surprising conclusion.

Dealing with Loss: Balthasar’s Three Forms of Abandonment

The concept of abandonment is one that is common in the works of the Roman Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar. In his Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius Loyola uses the idea of indifference in a comparable way. Richard Boileau draws on his own clinical experience of dealing with clients suffering from bereavement to suggest that these two notions can be of great help to those who are coming to terms with loss in their lives.

An Ignatian Retreat amidst the Poverty of Ecuador

In Ecuador a programme known as Rostro de Cristo (‘Face of Christ’) offers young Christians a chance to volunteer to live out their faith for a year in practical service of those suffering the effects of poverty. The programme includes regular periods of prayerful reflection helping the volunteers assimilate their experience. James Menkhaus, who has led people through this process, describes how it is structured and the effects it has.

On Jesus Crucified and Forsaken

Toufic Makhoul has already written for The Way expounding the spirituality of Chiara Lubich, founder of the lay Focolare movement. Here he considers the relationship between the suffering that Christ endured in his earthly life, and that which that his followers have continued to experience ever since. Makhoul has a particular concern with what this understanding might have to offer those living in ‘rich, spiritually exhausted Western societies’.

Book Reviews

on silent prayer
on the theology of vocation
on ecotheology
on why be a Catholic
on autism and the theology of disability
on secular monasticism
on the theology of Henri de Lubac
on mysticism and Wittgenstein
on a new study of Meister Eckhart
on insights into God's authentic presence

From the Foreword

WHAT DID JESUS OF NAZARETH look like? We have neither contemporary pictorial representations of him, nor even a description in words by any of those who knew him. Yet you can probably conjure up an image in your mind’s eye: of a long-haired, bearded man, looking rather older than someone in his early thirties might be expected to, somewhat unkempt, and stern or smiling according to your taste. Eastern icons, Renaissance artists and twentieth-century film-makers have all contributed to and reinforced this impression. Even when you know it has little basis in fact, it can be hard to shake off. Of course, Christian faith does not require a believer to hold any particular view about the appearance of Jesus. It seems, though, that the process of arriving at an image of one’s own can itself help us to deepen this faith, as Earl McKenzie describes here in ‘Painting Jesus’.

Theology recognises that the situation of those who suffer is a privileged place to come face to face with Christ in our world today. In chapter 25 of Matthew’s Gospel, bad and good alike are surprised to be told that the ways in which they have treated those in need accurately reflect their response to Jesus. The Ecuadorean volunteer programme Rostro de Cristo suggests that the best way to see the face of Christ is in the faces of the poor, in whom he promised that he would always be available to be discovered. James Menkhaus, who has helped young volunteers to encounter Christ in this way, describes the experience that they have undergone.

Toufic Makhoul turns to the suffering face of Christ ‘crucified and forsaken’ in his attempt to overcome the spiritual exhaustion of much of contemporary Western society. And Richard Boileau similarly concludes that it is above all by encountering a Christ who experiences himself as abandoned by his Father that we can best come to terms with our own bereavements and help others to come to terms with theirs. In the ministry of spiritual accompaniment or direction one Christian helps another to discover and remain turned towards the face of Jesus. Gerry O’Neill uses the Enneagram as a way of removing the psychological obstacles that might prevent someone from encountering God in this way.

It can rarely have been more difficult to encounter God than in the Nazi concentration camps. Yet, as Ruth Evans shows, even here it was possible for one man to live out his faith in a way that led to him being recognised as a modern-day saint. At the heart of the Christian faith is the conviction that, as St Paul expresses it, ‘nothing … can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8:39, Jerusalem Bible). It was the resurrection of Christ that initially convinced his closest associates of this, and here Ignatius Jesudasan takes a close look at those gospel texts that describe the first announcement of this news. Paul used his insight to strengthen his hearers, enabling them to face the seemingly insuperable challenges of their day, and Stephen McCarthy hopes that a similarly rooted faith-perspective will enable us to face one of the greatest of our own contemporary challenges, that of climate change.

The chorus of a modern hymn by Carey Landry begins ‘We behold the splendour of God / Shining on the face of Jesus’. Spirituality invites us to that same experience, motivated not by a curiosity to see what his face looks like, but so that we might receive the strength to confront the sometimes daunting task of continuing to live lives of discipleship in an unbelieving world. The articles in this edition of The Way illustrate a range of ways in which this strength may be granted. Taken together, they build up a composite picture of what it means to see the face of Jesus in the world around us.

Paul Nicholson SJ

 

 

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