Ignatian Mystique: Christ at the Center

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Under the Gaze of the Crucified Lord

The Ignatian has known Christ’s gaze from the Cross. He knows that Christ’s agony, death, and resurrection is the very epicenter of history, that it has a centrifugal force that spreads out through the centuries principally through its mystical re-enactment in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the sacred liturgy in general (the sacraments and sacramentals and divinum officium) for the sake of man’s salvation.

By participating in this mystical re-enactment he knows that that he has been united to Christ Crucified and cries out: “I am con-crucified with Christ” (Gal 2:20). This means that he is no longer under Satan’s power, that he has been joined to Christ becoming a member of His Mystical Body, thus passing  from the“Kingdom of Darkness” (Col. 1:13) by becoming a member of the “Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:11), the realm of light. And so he is keenly aware that he has Christ’s life pulsating within him, a totally new and super-natural life force capable of renewing his mind and will – and ultimately in the resurrection from the dead, his body – making him a “new man” (2 Cor. 5:17) in Christ.

This reality of the Mystical Body of Christ implies that Christ’s life, his salvific action which involved suffering, is prolonged in the action and suffering of the members of Christ’s Mystical Body. Indeed, in divine providence this is the way willed by God for the Savior’s life and action to reach its fulfillment, its pleroma: “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh, for His body’s sake, which is the church” (Col. 1:24).  This is how the salvation of the world is achieved.

In a preeminent way the Ignatian’s thoughts, love, and ambitions are focused on Christ Crucified. For it was particularly through the agony and death of Christ that the salvation of the world was achieved, is being achieved, and will be achieved through the end of time. To the resurrection through the Cross; through dying with Him to rising and living with Him unto eternity. It is the mystical force of the love of the heroic heart of Jesus Christ expressed to its uttermost in the Passion and Death of the Cross that radiates salvific light and energy through the universe for the destruction of the powers of darkness. It is from the power of the Cross that the Mystical Body of Christ is defended, grows, spreads through time, space, and within the depths of the soul.

That is why the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass focuses the Ignatian’s attention. He knows that the Christian connects with Christ Crucified through the  mystical re-enactment of Calvary. Through his participation in the Mass he knows that he is on Calvary standing beside the Cross, receiving light and strength, with ever more poignant shame and indeed horror for his and the world’s sins, and determined to be “con-crucifed with Christ” (Col. 1:24)  for the honor of God and the salvation of men.

Thus Christ Crucified is ever at the center of an Ignatian’s thoughts, love, and ambitions. “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2); “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14) Of the Crucified Christ he cannot remind himself too often. He wants the divine gaze ever to be fixed upon him and his gaze ever reciprocating. And so he places the Cross of St. Benedict on his chest and the Cross of the Five Wounds as a ring on his fourth finger, “that finger wherein beats the vein of the heart” (Honorius of Autun).  On the crest of the Society is the chivalric cross. In the Ignatian chapels at the very center, dominating all is the largest possible crucifix, portraying not an aesthetic Christ but a Christ in agony, tortured and in visible pain.

That is why the crest of the Society of Ignatians is the “Cross of the Five Wounds of Christ”, the four smaller crosses referring to the wounds on the two hands and feet and the large one pointing to the wound of His heart. To remain ever on the alert to his first love to which he has committed his mind, heart, and body, the Ignatian wears a ring with this cross.

As a priest and as an Ignatian this union with Christ in His Mystical Body has for him a particularly strong and poignant projection towards others, avoiding unChristlike self-centredness. He knows that due to his union with Christ his actions and sufferings are meritorious for the salvation of souls. With this alertness to the fact that to the degree of his union with Christ he can prolong the centrifugal force of Christ Crucified’s salvific action, moved by grace he spontaneously makes his own the words of St. Paul: “I make up in my flesh the sufferings…” (Col. 2:24). Thus, the Ignatian aspires to be ever more united to Christ and ever more effective for the salvation of souls by commiting his existence with a warrior’s resolve to asceticism, the only road to greater mystical union.