I am leading a contemplative practices group at a Methodist Church in the Twin Cities, part of a Lily Grant funded program administered by St. Catherine University. Last night our theme was Living Authentically – Naming and Releasing Your Attachments: Attachments to the Past and the Future and Disordered Attachments to the Things of This World.
One of the things I talked about in my presentation was my friend St. Ignatius’ First Principle and Foundation, which I’ve discussed here before. Ignatius viewed this consideration, the first thing he invites people making his Spiritual Exercises to pray with, as a fundamental statement of human meaning and purpose.
In David Fleming’s contemporary rendition, the First Principle and Foundation reads:
The goal of our life is to live with God forever. God, who loves us, gave us life. Our own response of love allows God’s life to flow into us without limit.
All the things in this world are gifts of God, presented to us so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily.
As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God insofar as they help us develop as loving persons. But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives, they displace God and so hinder our growth toward our goal.
In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice and are not bound by some obligation. We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or short one. For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God.
Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening his life in me.
During our break, the pastor of the congregation pulled out for me the Wesley Covenant Prayer, a prayer John Wesley expected Methodists to pray this prayer at the beginning of each new year as a way of remembering and renewing their baptismal covenant. The prayer bears more than a small similarity to Ignatius sentiment. In traditional rendition it reads:
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things
to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.
However one phrases it, we are invited to remember that God is the end. We belong to God.