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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 2 of 2)

Without which no meditation is supposed to be complete


The

course of drill extends over four weeks[677] (twenty-five days). It includes prolonged and detailed meditations on four great subjects:--sin and conscience; the earthly Kingdom of Christ; the Passion of Jesus; and the Love of God with the Glory of the Risen Lord.[678] During all this time the pupil must live in absolute solitude. Neither sight nor sound from the world of life and action must be allowed to enter and disturb him. He is exhorted to purge his mind of every thought but the meditation on which he is engaged; to exert all his strength to make his introspection vivid and his converse with the Deity unimpeded.

True meditation, according to Ignatius, ought to include four things--a preparatory prayer; _praeludia_, or the ways of attuning the mind and sense in order to bring methodically and vividly some past historical scene or embodiment of doctrine before the soul of the pupil; _puncta_, or definite heads of each meditation on which the thoughts are to be concentrated, and on which memory, intellect, and will are to be individually exercised; _colloquia_, or ecstatic converse with God, without which no meditation is supposed to be complete, and in which the pupil, having placed the crucifix before him, talks to God and hears His voice answering him.

When the soul's progress on the long spiritual journey in which it is led during these meditations is studied, one can scarcely fail to note the crass materialism

which envelops it at every step. The pupil is required to _see_ in the mirror of his imagination the boundless flames of hell, and souls encased in burning bodies; to _hear_ the shrieks, howlings, and blasphemies; to _smell_ the sulphur and intolerable stench; to _taste_ the saltness of the tears, and to _feel_ the scorching touch of the flames.[679] When the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane is the subject of meditation, he must have in the _camera obscura_ of his imagination a garden, large or small, see its enclosing walls, gaze and gaze till he discerns where Christ is, where the Apostles sleep, perceive the drops of sweat, touch the clothes of our Lord.[680] When he thinks of the Nativity, he must conjure up the figures of Joseph, Mary, the Child, _and a maid-servant_, hear their homely family talk, see them going about their ordinary work.[681] The same crass materialism envelops the meditations about doctrinal mysteries. Thinking upon the Incarnation is almost childishly limited to picturing the Three Persons of the Trinity contemplating the broad surface of the earth and men hurrying to destruction, then resolving that the Second is to descend to save; and to the interview between the angel Gabriel and the Virgin.[682]

A second characteristic of this scheme of meditation is the extremely limited extent of its sphere. The attention is confined to a few scenes in the life of our Lord and of the Virgin. No lessons from the Old Testament are admitted. All theological speculation is strictly excluded. What is aimed at is to produce an intense and concentrated impression which can never be effaced while life lasts. The soul is alternately torn by terror and soothed by the vision of heavenly delights. "The designed effect was to produce a vivid and varied hypnotic dream of twenty-five days, from the influence of which a man should never wholly free himself."[683]

The outstanding feature, however, of the _Exercises_ and of the _Directory_ is the minute knowledge


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