It is a crisp, Autumn morning in the year 1674. An 18-year old student at Winchester College, with the rolling countryside of county Hampshire and the great Winchester Cathedral whispering to him from his window, is preparing for his day. An open pamphlet on his desk, and the words of a Morning Hymn on his lips, the devout, singing student commits his day to his Lord. Unknown to him, the last of the 14 stanzas of that hymn will go on to become, very possibly, the most-sung hymn in all of history.
One grave misunderstanding about spiritual formation is that it is focused solely on, primarily on, the toning of the bedrock of our inner, hidden life. But what is true is that what you see on the surface of a person, on the surface of you, speaks of what is happening in the holy deeps. One shift beneath the surface – will completely change the entire landscape.
Spiritual formation is life formation; a reshaping of our inner and outer ways that is compelled and precipitated by unseen movements deep within the soul.
Every day, up to eight times a day, I silently perform a 1-3 minute spiritual ritual that is – quite literally – changing me. Now in my early 50s, I have decided it is the single most vital personal habit I have formed to date. According to my wife, I am becoming a different man.
photo courtesy of Anna Siran Wilt
Spiritually igniting, robust yet simple, the habit that is changing me is called the “Daily Examen.”
The Daily Examen is just one example of Ignatian spirituality and, in particular, the Spiritual Exercises. The Examen is…
…A technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us. The Examen is an ancient practice in the Church that can help us see God’s hand at work in our whole experience” (www.ignatianspirituality.com).
In Mark 11:1-11, Jesus is entering the Great Jerusalem, meaning “City of Shalom, City of completeness, wholeness, of God’s all-permeating Peace.” But as the Prince of Peace enters – the Prince of Shalom Himself – a holy mess is about to be made.
Jesus marks the beginning of His Passion week, as crowds before Him, crowds behind Him, and crowds all around Him voice a singular cry: “Hosanna!” – a cry of triumphant praise, that means “Save, now!” But no one is prepared for the kind of saving, the kind of rescue operation, the kind of deliverance mission about to be initiated by the One whose very name, Y’shua, means “The Lord saves.”
Ignatius of Loyola was a man who believed that we must first lead ourselves before we can lead others – and that leading ourselves as Christians calls for constant, focused attention.
A Child Of Privilege
Born into wealth, in a castle in Spain in 1491, Ignatius was a child of privilege. Though his family had wealth, however, he couldn’t buy his way out of the wars that were raging in his lifetime. Sent to fight with France in 1521, Ignatius was wounded in the leg by a cannon ball and sent to recuperate.