Saints and seasons

Nativity scene
Contemplating the Nativity, for St Ignatius, is not just a cerebral exercise; engaging with the mystery of the Incarnation requires all of our senses. Teresa White FCJ considers how our meeting with the gentle Christ child can effect a powerful transformation in us if are alive to the many ways in which we can receive the gift of his coming. Ignatius of Loyola, at the beginning of the Second Week of his Spiritual Exercises, encourages the practice of what he calls ‘the application of the...
Statue of St Ignatius
The life of the saint whose feast we celebrate on 31 July was changed completely when he read the stories of the saints who had come before him. But tradition has it that Ignatius had a devotion to St Peter even before his conversion as a convalescent, and that it was Peter’s intercession that brought about his recovery. To mark Ignatius’s feast, Philip Endean SJ explores this tradition and how it may have played out, both in Ignatius’s own life and in the mission of the Society of Jesus ever...
The great feast that concludes the Easter season, Pentecost, can only be properly understood against the horizon of the Trinity, which we celebrate a week later, says Professor Peter Tyler. ‘The descent of the Spirit reminds us of our essential Trinitarian nature: rooted in Christ we look both to the Father in Heaven as well as to our fellow suffering humans on earth.’ Suddenly from Heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind and it filled the entire house. (Acts 2:2)Thoughts...
Empty tomb
‘The walls we build to protect ourselves and to keep others out all contribute to the establishment of a tomb, an abode of the dead, a hell that produces sentiments of anxiety, suspicion, fear and despair’. But the bursting forth of a new world on Easter morning breaks the walls of this tomb and opens our horizons, writes David Neuhaus SJ: ‘resurrection renews hope’. The Cambridge Dictionary defines the word ‘horizon’ as ‘the line at the farthest place that you can see, where the sky seems...
washing feet
The liturgies of the Easter Triduum are rich and evocative, and the depth of their meaning and impact can only be discovered if we participate fully in them. Sr Anouska Robinson-Biggin FCJ identifies three invitations that we are called to respond to over these days, and offers an Ignatian guide to how we might answer those calls in prayer and action. In the final days of Lent, the liturgies of Holy Week issue each of us with an invitation to ‘be with’ Jesus in a special way. This time,...
Two people in the desert
Thinking Faith has led you into the desert this Lent, but Rob Marsh SJ wants to warn you to keep your eyes open on your wanderings through the wilderness. Jesus met Satan in the desert – what if the devil still waits there for us, and has tricked us into valuing ‘the absence and separation and aridity’ of the place where he dwells? Imagine C.S. Lewis’ demon Screwtape writing to his nephew and fellow tempter to advise him how to be effective in exactly this deceit... My dear Puspocket,About...
‘The Annunciation’ by Helen Elwes. Photo: Campion Hall
A very ordinary painting prompts an Oxford philosopher to think about the extraordinary feast that we observe on 25 March. When we contemplate the Annunciation, are we trying to understand, to penetrate, to grasp the transcendent mystery beneath what, on the surface, is very ordinary; or to recover a sense of the very ordinariness of the events which bore so much theological weight? At the top of a staircase in Campion Hall, the Jesuit-run private hall in the University of Oxford, there...
Window into garden
‘Reading Alice Oswald’s poetry in the middle days of Lent feels like stopping in a place of spiritual lushness,’ suggests Nathan Koblintz as he spends some time in the fertile landscape that emerges from the words of the award-winning poet. Traditional Lenten concerns of conversion, renewal, and watching and waiting all find new expression in her poems, which entice us to see and contemplate change. One of Alice Oswald’s poems is called ‘For Many Hours there’s been an Old Couple Standing...
'Crossing of the Red Sea' by Cosimo Rosselli
God’s power over life and death is manifested in the paschal mystery that we prepare during Lent to celebrate, and it was the Lord of life and death whom Israel came to know intimately in the wilderness, says Karen Eliasen. The exodus story revealed to Israel then, as it does to us now on our Lenten journey, that ‘being in the wilderness is being on an exquisitely sharp edge between life and death.’ Song of Songs may not seem an obvious biblical book to dip into for Lent - but the question...
Photo of desert by TREEAID at flickr.com
Early Christians spent time in the desert because it was there that they felt best placed to turn themselves to God. Nearly 2000 years later, the deserts of the world can still orient us to God, but perhaps for a different reason. Jaime Tatay SJ uses Ignatian ideas to show that the desertification of the natural world should challenge us ‘to shape more enlightened and responsible ways of thinking, feeling and behaving’. When we think of a desert today, we imagine a waterless, desolate area...

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