“The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” The Jesuit priest and poet Gerard Manley Hopkins shouts this double meaning proclamation in the first line of his great poem about our God-loved world.
The earth is charged as with electric impulses to reveal God’s glory. The earth is also charged as one might be commanded to do a certain task of importance. Both these meanings become focused this week with our considering the charge given to Elizabeth, Mary, and a man named Joseph.
It takes a certain humility to be surprised, a humility that allows there to be the unexpected, the unusual, and the frightening. This kind of humility we can call “openness” as well. It is a spirit or interior attitude or disposition that makes one available to whatever might be spoken or offered. It is not something that one can turn on or off; it is an abiding outlook or sensitivity to what is out there or in here.
We are praying with and for the grace of that humility this week as we watch and listen to three characters living their roles in the drama of salvation. It is the opening scene of the last act. We will be getting to know the ways of Jesus, the main character, by first watching those who play their parts by bringing him on stage. Ignatius encourages those making the Exercises to try to get into the scene by use of their imagination. We use memory and our power to think and somewhat downplay this natural faculty that we all have, our imaginations. We can more easily come to truth, we think, by logic, use of facts, and use of our memories. We say that fantasy is the result of imagining, and what good is that?
Psychology uses our sense of sight to move our imaginations in what are known as projective tests. You may have taken the Rorschach, for example. In that test, you see an inkblot and, by your verbal responses, some important truths are revealed to the person conducting the test. The person taking the test has revealed something true by using the imagination. It is more powerful than most of us believe. Ignatius trusted all the human faculties to be powers by which God could get to us.
So this week, we put this faculty to work so as to be open to the graces of openness, humility, and trust. Be attentive to where you are standing when Mary is visited by an angel. Be aware of what you imagine the angel is saying and what Mary is thinking. What do you say and do as you accompany Mary to the house of Elizabeth? What is Joseph doing after he awakens from a dream in which he understands that he must marry his betrothed even though she is with child, which he knows is not his?Then Ignatius asks us to make reflections on ourselves and draw some insight and grace. Perhaps we watch Mary from a distance. That is good. Now we pray with those feelings of distance. Perhaps the distance comes from not wanting to have anything to do with mystery and having to trust. There we are then, praying with a truth, whose realness has been revealed in a new and dramatic way. For Ignatius, getting close to Jesus and his close friends is a way of getting closer to ourselves. This is in no way self-preoccupying or narcissistic. The closer I get to myself and my real truth, the more intimately will I find Jesus being with me. God’s Truth, made flesh, enters the lives of these three persons by charging them with trust and charging them with the mystery of giving in to surprise and adventure. This is a frightening, yet consoling, week for us who watch and listen to the human struggle to let God into our private and personal scenes. We also pray to receive the grandeur of God’s charge.