Wisdom says that only in fire
You will find the Beloved.
Do not make a home
In the certainty of words
Instead, leap into the fire
Until you are burnt in the fire,
You haven’t been anointed by the Beloved
Jelaluddin Rumi (translation: Ari Honarvar)
A moment occurs in our life when a piercing happens, changing our perspective about everything. A simple moment out of the blue and often not wished for or wanted.
What usually follows is that kindness and sympathy is offered, words that will ease the transition. Sometimes we just stay there frightened and shocked, removed from the experience, caught in the words.
Ignatius chose the other road, ‘Alone and on foot’, and so began a ‘new’ life, with each step shaping God’s journey into Ignatius. He called these moments ‘movements of the spirit’. They were his compass as he walked this unknown road, his desire to save souls, a student on the road and not in charge.
Ignatius walked from his castle to begin his pilgrimage to Jerusalem, leaving his family and his identity. He had offered himself to God, wanting to do penance for his prior life. This was what was burning in his heart and he suffered. His vanity had taken a large blow with the cannonball, but this was not the thing itself, only the means. His time recuperating on a sick bed opened him up to a vast inner emptiness. What was the purpose of his life?
Ignatius entered the fire and the fire entered his heart. The comfort of words can only go so far, and then there is the silence of life. How fickle are feelings, always shifting from one thing to another, till God’s calling is heard within, the perfume, the taste of freedom and energy, life. A call- response, who is calling first, or are both calling and desiring the other? For Ignatius this call would take him through his strong zealous personality to something emptier and potent. His focus was Christ. He was now available.
And us? What has been our re-birth? Perhaps it was missed because time could not be taken to enter the disruption/loss/ death/diagnosis/ injury/ falling in love with the wrong person. Too busy, too needed, not alone enough.
This is his ‘moment’ of conversion, the seed of life entered his soul, turning, turning him. The ego, that part of us which is so necessary to form and grow us into maturity, gives us ‘skin’ and capacity. It can become an imperious task master. It is a skin that can be discarded but never by our own efforts.
I remember my own fire, standing on the corner of Macquarie St opposite the Mitchell State library. I looked out and up, so much busyness around me, noise. I knew in a simple moment I was not this, I had a sickness and who knew which way it would go. The doctor said, don’t worry, it is out of your hands. It was such a freedom, and I thought, let me begin. I knew not how or where, but that did not matter either, I knew it would unfold. And of course it did. I was thrown Into the fire.
Enter the fire says Rumi, himself a mystic in the Sufi tradition. Enter the fire of love.
This was Ignatius of Loyola setting out, a pilgrim, who would enter the fire of love.
These early steps of Ignatius have much to offer us right now. Begin again, set out on the road, let your God teach you. Jump into the fire.
Thank you to Caroline Coggins for this contribution to our Erromeria Pilgrimage. Caroline is a Spiritual Director and Giver of the Spiritual Exercises at JISA Canisius in NSW. Caroline is also psychoanalytic therapist and a long term yoga practitioner, and lives on NSW’s beautiful mid north coast.