Today’s Lectio Divina:
Didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body. 1st Corinthians 6: 19-20 (MsgB)
Ignatian Truth #7: Ignatian spirituality is all about Holistic Spirituality. We intentionally focus on inward feelings, emotions, and desires, but we also live our lives in balance; tending to the body, the mind, and the spirit…our actions, our thoughts, and our feelings.
As we discussed in an earlier blog, Ignatius, who saw God working in and through all things, would never subscribe to a worldview that separated the sacred from the secular. Likewise, the Spiritual Exercises, while encouraging us to focus on interior movements (more on that in future sessions), never assumes the intimate, inward work of God to be of more importance than the outward expressions of our spirituality.
So, while Gnostic thought, born out of Greek tradition, focuses exclusively on the things of the spirit, elevating the unseen above the seen, Ignatian spirituality is birthed out of the Holy Scriptures, where God works equally through the body, the mind, and the spirit. Many historians say that it was this holistic worldview toward life that first originated amongst the Hebrew people, was modeled by Jesus of Nazareth, and then shaped the beliefs of New Testament Christianity.
Paul, in many of his letters to friends doing church in very non-Hebrew cultures, had to war against Gnostic thought that had seeped into the lives of his new converts to Christ. In today’s scripture, we find Paul getting pretty graphic with his words, as he warns the good people of Corinth about the ‘sexual revolution’ that was making the rounds of their fair city. Apparently, there were some in the Corinthian church who had decided that the body was not important to God, only the Spirit (Gnostic thought) and it was now fair game to have sex with anybody a person felt attracted to. The argument was, “why not…the body is dying away and will not go with me to heaven, so why not enjoy all the earthly pleasures we desire…while we can?”
Hmm. Sound familiar?
Paul gets right to the point and tells it like it really is…
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By His power God raised the Lord from the dead, and He will raise us also. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ Himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with Him in spirit. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 1st Corinthians 16: 12-18 (NIV)
You see, Ignatian spirituality picks right up where Paul left off, warning us to be fully aware that God is extremely interested and involved in the whole human existence; the body, the mind, and the spirit. And quite honestly, if we begin dividing our lives into nice, neat little compartments, believing God is active only in certain sections of our lives (i.e. the spiritual), then we are certainly on the road to destruction.
We see this error of compartmentalization repeated in every generation of the church. Just look around the Americanized church today, and it won’t take long to find big-name leaders who have enjoyed a high reputation for being a holy man or woman of God, only to find that their private lives are filled with sexual misconduct, spousal abuse, and things so ugly I can’t mention them here.
Friends, it’s time to once again pay attention to all the things God pays attention to. If Ignatius was right, and God is, indeed, involved in all things, we must be aware, like Paul warns the good people of Corinth, that our bodies are an intricate part of our spirituality. And those who ignore this truth are truly playing with a fire much larger than we can ever contain.
My prayer: Father God, it’s very easy, in our generation, to believe all the hype of the on-going sexual revolution, and let our physical bodies become separated from our spirituality. Apparently, this is not a new problem for Your people. Ancient of Days, please come and give me the strength, as Paul suggests, to live a life of purity and wholeness that allows my body to give glory to God. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: So, how have I allowed society to influence the way I view my physical body? Have I become, like many in this generation, one who elevates the importance of the body, spending an excess of time, energy, and resources beautifying it? Or have I gone the other direction, where I devalue the worth of my body, believing that “spiritual” people have no reason to pay attention to such things? What might it look like for me to bring my physical body into a balanced and holistic, Christ-centered awareness?
How are you experiencing God as you ponder on these Ignatian truths today?
Over a period of twelve weeks (3 sessions per week), we will take this journey into Iggy’s Biggies, contemplating twelve foundational truths found within the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. We suggest you bookmark our blog series homepage to keep all the writings in one place for your future reference. Take note that each blog session begins with a short scripture reading. My suggestion is that you don’t hurry through, or skip the text, but treat it as a Lectio Divina reading where you slow down and sit a bit with God’s Word, allowing it to penetrate and influence you as you read.
If you’ve never journeyed through the Exercises, might I suggest that you find a qualified spiritual director and ask them to accompany you along the way? Here at The Contemplative Activist, we can offer a good number of highly qualified folks to do just that.
Oh, and if you enjoy what you’re reading here, we encourage you to share this page and our website, The Contemplative Activist, with your friends!