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January 2006 Vol 45 no 1


DIRECTING THE IMAGINATION

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Contents

Receiving and Rejecting: On Finding a Way in Spiritual Direction

At every point in the spiritual life, different impulses are at work. We need to make choices about which to explore. Robert Marsh suggests a radically simple policy: stay with the movement and avoid the counter-movement.

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Vocation, Freedom and Discernment

Ignatius says that the one giving the Exercises should be standing 'as in the middle of a balance'. How can we recognise when we are being directed appropriately?

Letter to a Former Retreatant

One of the most noted directors in the first generation of Jesuits explains how he understood the giving of the Exercises: a ministry of gentle support within an attitude of radical respect for the exercitant's freedom.

Birthing and the Spiritual Journey

Anne Dooley is both a spiritual director and a midwife, and in her double role she is struck by the parallels between spiritual growth and giving birth.

Theological Trends
Battered Hearts and the Trinity of Compassion: Women, the Cross and Kenosis

Many theologians who are sensitive to feminism have felt a need to abandon the traditional doctrine of Christ's self-emptying sacrifice on the cross. But Mark Yenson believes that the language of self-emptying, or kenosis, can be retrieved. Jesus was not merely 'handed over' as a passive victim to be abused and killed. Rather, he gave himself over to the cause of God's reign.

Ignatian Spirituality and the Rebuilding of Self-Esteem

Humility and generosity are virtues only if they are rooted in a sense of one's own value-something which is difficult for many people. Beth Crisp reflects on how Ignatian spirituality can help us acquire-or reacquire-a healthy self-esteem.

Servants of the Lord

Ignatius invites to imagine Christ as king-an image which retreatants today, and perhaps always, have found problematic. Nathan Stone explores images of kingship and authority in the Bible and reflects on how we can fruitfully engage with Ignatius' text today.

The Spirit in Contemporary Culture
'A Scatter of Little Sights and Happenings': The Poetic Vision of Ruth Bidgood

It is poets, above all, who expand our imaginations. Bonnie Thurston, a biblical scholar and herself a practisiing poet living in West Virginia, introduces us to the work of the Welsh poet Ruth Bidgood.

The Christmas Cover-Up

Many readers will be enjoying this issue at the season of Christmas or in its immediate aftermath, amid a commercialism that is all too addictive and sometimes tasteless. Yet our salvation is to be found only in the mess, chaos and shadows of 'the holidays'.

Book Reviews

on Nicholas King and translating the New Testament
on friendship both in general and among the Quakers
on John O'Malley and religious cultures
on what we mean by 'spirituality'
on finding God in film
on the Jesuits under Everard Mercurian
on laity and the Church's governance
on the Eucharist
on globalisation, sexuality and the Church
on a Jesuit biography and an ex-Jesuit memoir

 

From the Foreword

One theme in this issue of The Way is that of spiritual direction. Francisco de Villanueva, from sixteenth-century Spain, and Rob Marsh, from contemporary Liverpool, both explore the interplay between the director's skill and the Creator's initiative. Ignatius' phrase, 'the person who gives to another the way and order in which to meditate or contemplate' (Exx 2) is an evocative, precise expression, for all its cumbersomeness. What is at stake is something more than mere accompaniment, more than supportive grunts or Rogerian repetitions. Often, the creative movement where the God is 'inflaming the soul' (Exx 15) escapes our notice at first. We need to be directed towards it. Nor is it just the director who is active; God's touch engages our reflective and imaginative powers. Nathan Stone's article revisits a long-standing issue about Ignatius' use of kingship imagery. How do we speak of Christ the conquering King in an age when warfare has become anonymous mass brutality? The first step in answering that question is to recognise that there is no one biblical teaching on kingship, but rather a series of biblical arguments about authority and justice, arguments about what it means for a people to live under God's sovereignty. Any Christian conversion encourages us constantly to be re-envisaging ourselves and our society. The biblical witness both records and stimulates an open-ended imaginative process in which human identity is reconfigured. Ignatius presents rather than commends his symbols, inviting us to take them up and draw comparisons with our own experience (Exx 224). Where the process might take us is left open. Even tasteless Christmas catalogues can, as Mike Daley suggests in 'Spirituality and Living', provoke us to reflect on how God is really speaking within us, both individually and socially. The living God is constantly producing something new, something which involves cost and effort on our part too. Thus Anne Dooley writes in this issue on the parallels between spiritual growth and bringing a child to birth. In the same spirit, Beth R. Crisp writes very personally on how Ignatian spirituality enables us to configure our sense of self more appropriately, while Mark L. Yenson refines and re-imagines the idea of Christian self-emptying in the light of what we have all gained from feminism. For her part, the Welsh poet Ruth Bidgood, introduced to us here by Bonnie Thurston, evokes for us in her own way what the imaginative reworking of memory can unleash within us. God's gracious initiative involves us in turbulent activity:

There are days when waves of unremembered life
tumble in, one upon another, almost
irresistibly. You can feel the thuds
through the soles of your feet, through blood and bone,
all the channels and sluices of the body.
If the sea-wall gives, houses and a host
of little, loved, scruffy gardens will be drowned,
stay endlessly soggy and salt. Best
have your boat ready, furbish your skills
in navigation, submit to being lifted
higher than you could have imagined,
ride the flood, voyage to countries
you had given up hope of revisiting. Don't ask
whether that high tide of remembering
will ever carry you home.

Philip Endean SJ

 

 

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