Spiritual Exercises


from Revd Alistair Jessamine

God is spirit, and those who worship him must
worship in spirit. John 4.24 NRSV

Saint Ignatius of Loyola (in Spain), the founder of the Jesuits, compiled a devotional manual which he entitled ‘The Spiritual Exercises’, and on the principle that, just as the physical body requires a certain amount of physical exercise in order to function well, so, likewise, does the spiritual aspect of human beings require spiritual exercise, which St Ignatius understood in terms of prayer, meditation and contemplation.

I could not agree more.

My own devotional life is mainly given over to specifically contemplative prayer (praying to God in my thought processes, that is, and not, necessarily, speaking to God verbally). I derive much edification and comfort from that form of spiritual exercise, I may say, as I do from simply meditating on a verse or passage of scripture, for example, or on devotional poetry contained, for instance, in some of the great hymns of the Church. Here is one such hymn (CH3, 670) from the pen of Frederick William Faber, and which speaks a word, perhaps, in relation to the ongoing scourge of Covid 19:

Workman of God! O lose not heart,
But learn what God is like,
And, in the darkest battle-field,
Thou shalt know where to strike.

Thrice blest is he to whom is given
The instinct that can tell
That God is on the field when he
Is most invisible.

He hides himself so wondrously,
As though there were no God;
He is least seen when all the powers
Of ill are most abroad.

Ah! God is other than we think;
His ways are far above,
Far beyond reason’s height, and reached
Only by childlike love.

Dwell long on these lines for, to do so, is to truly worship God in spirit; and may He richly bless you in your pursuit of Him. ALJ

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