"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)


DAY III: Ecological Consolation (July 20)

Large Full Moon in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
©iStockphoto.com/LCBallard
Third Rule of the Discernment of Spirits: SPIRITUAL CONSOLATION. I call it consolation when an interior movement is aroused in the soul by which it is inflamed with love of its Creator and Lord, and as a consequence, can love no creature on the face of the earth for its own sake, but only in the Creator of them all. It is likewise consolation when one sheds tears that move to the love of God, whether it be because of sorrow for sins, or because of the sufferings of Christ our Lord, or for any other reason that is immediately directed to the praise and service of God. Finally, I call consolation every increase of faith, hope, and love, and all interior joy that invites and attracts to what is heavenly and to the salvation of one's soul by filling it with peace and quiet in its Creator and Lord. (SE 316)
When I contemplated on this third rule I savoured the words "Creator—creature," and "praise—service." And these words are constitutive of the theme for today on "Ecological Consolation." The word "ecology" comes from two Greek roots: oikos (οἶκος), meaning "house"; logos (λόγος), meaning "word," "reason" or "plan." Whereas the word "consolation" is a two-way inner movement—being inflamed by divine love and the desire to offer to God all the love He gives. We begin to see a Creator who pursues all His creatures and makes His eternal dwelling within and among them. This dynamic is revealed in the cosmos, in our common home which is the oldest consolation across eons. The words "praise—service" are echoes from St. Ignatius' First Principle and Foundation which we have just considered reflecting on Day 2.

Nature is the natural place for prayer. Many of us feel God’s presence when with nature, e.g., when you look at the sunset, you begin to feel a surge of emotions. It is an amazing part of the day that could make a person look back, appreciate and wonder about one’s life. The sunset is beautiful and it naturally takes your breath away in sheer delight. So many people go to sunset destinations to photograph this moment. There are many who just spend silent moment with nature's beauty and magnificence—relishing the Creator's delight in what He does.

Loyola landscape, 2011. Photo credit: P. Walpole
Ecological consolation always filled the mind and heart of Ignatius. When Fr. Pedro de Tablares visited Loyola in 1550, in the lifetime of Ignatius, he described Loyola in this way: “completely surrounded by a forest and by trees of many kinds of fruits, so thick that one almost does not see the house until he is at the door" (Idígoras, Tellechea José Ignacio). Whenever Ignatius wanted to find God he found Him even in the littlest and the most unexpected. Tears flowed whenever he could no longer contain the uncontainable especially when he looked up at the stars in the night sky that beautifully radiated God's mercy and consolation. Pope Francis, who is himself a son of St. Ignatius, has written a watershed encyclical "Laudato Si'" on care for the common home. He has widened also the scope of the traditional works of mercy by adding an eighth which "calls for a grateful contemplation of God’s world." I quote, "We usually think of the works of mercy... in relation to... hospitals for the sick, soup kitchens for the hungry, shelters for the homeless, schools for those to be educated, the confessional and spiritual direction for those needing counsel and forgiveness.... we see that the object of mercy is human life itself and everything it embraces." The object of mercy is all of creation.

Two excerpts from the Spiritual Exercises that may serve as an eighth-worker contemplation: "This is to reflect how God dwells in creatures: in the elements giving them existence, in the plants giving them life, in the animals conferring upon them sensation, in man bestowing understanding. So He dwells in me and gives me being, life, sensation, intelligence; and makes a temple of me, since I am created in the likeness and image of the Divine Majesty." (SE 235) "This is to consider how God works and labours for me in all creatures upon the face of the earth, that is, He conducts Himself as one who labours. Thus, in the heavens, the elements, the plants, the fruits, the cattle etc., He gives being, conserves them, confers life and sensation, etc." (SE 236)

The Phases of the Moon
I would like to use one beautiful piece of creation we are blessed to look upon each night, the moon which is as steady and unwavering as the sun. The moon serves as a perfect mirror image of consolations. For one, it shines not its own light. Also, the moon is always present and moving together with our earth around the sun. Sometimes it is hidden only to come out again at another time. Consolation is always around the corner. Like the moon, it does not have a light of its own except that which shines from the Creator. This is often the root of the many deceptions orchestrated by the enemy. In discernment, we attach ourselves to the source of all consolation, the Heart of Jesus, and not to His consolations.

The moon reflects light in the darkness following God's command from the beginning, "Let there be light." See the moon as God's way of continuously creating you. Anytime you catch a glimpse of the moon, take that moment to thank God for the littlest graces. When you glance up at it, say, "The Lord bless us and watch over us; the Lord make his face shine upon us and be gracious to us; the Lord look kindly on us and give us peace."

Finally, the moon has often been seen as a symbol of the Blessed Virgin Mary, ever the apple of the Father's eye. Without light of her own, she reflects the light of Jesus Christ which makes her a most formidable intercessor in times of darkness. Mary is the “ladder” that joins heaven and earth without deception. Like the moon, she is the brightest, nearest and easiest path between the human heart to God's. In the words of the great English poet William Wordsworth, Mary is "our tainted human nature's solitary boast." Fr. JM Manzano, SJ

Meditate on the grace to beg for today: For an increase of faith, hope and love. Faith means: "You, O God, are right in every case, even when I cannot see it or perhaps would prefer the opposite." Hope means: "In you alone, O God, do I have my continued existence, and for that reason I leave behind all assurances resting on myself." Love means: "All my strength and heart and mind are straining themselves to affirm you, O God (and myself only in you), and those whom you have placed beside me as my neighbors." (Hans Urs Von Balthasar)

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