Thought for the week: Abigail Maxwell’s new Ignatian prayer

‘A false belief about God can get in the way of seeing God.’

‘God in me may manifest differently from God in others.’ | Photo: by Grant Ritchie on Unsplash

Christianity is blemished by its use as an imperial ideology. Some Christians believe in a ‘God of power and might’, and Quakers are not immune. A false belief about God can get in the way of seeing God.

Being ‘made in the image of God’. does not mean God is a biped, but that I am loving, creative and beautiful. Adding ‘powerful’ is a distortion. My strength is in my weakness. Coming to Quakers, I heard of ‘that of God in everyone’, which I still confused with the ‘Father Almighty’. If I were ‘powerful’, I should be able to achieve those things my ego desired, or considered Godly.

We have other names for it. There is the ‘inner light’, which some see in worship when they close their eyes and descend within. Isaac Penington ‘met with the Seed’, and Christ’s tenderness melted his heart.

Recently I have been dwelling on a phrase in Mary Oliver’s poem ‘Wild Geese’: ‘let the soft animal of your body love what it loves’. I see my mind as a manifestation of a physical brain, with neurons and axons. It is conscious and unconscious, manifesting in spoken ministry when I say words I have not thought before. The taxonomy seems crude, but I conceptualise an ego and a soul.

The ego is formed by society, and differs according to privilege. If the privileged are egotistical they will be self-aggrandising. Disprivileged people are affected by ego in a different way, to be overly concerned with how others react to them, and want to fit in, or to rebel and be ‘prickly’. And, ‘There’s something inside so strong’.

Under the ego, I am a fountain of Love. I express that Love as best I may, for the good of the world. I always have, though the ego perverted my desires and stopped me seeing it. My power is the gentleness of a hen gathering her chicks under her wings, or of flowing like water independently of the ego’s plans, dreams, exultation or despair.

God in me may manifest differently from God in others. God in Jesus whipped the traders from the temple and blessed children. God contains multitudes, all that it is possible for a human to be. A prayer ascribed to Ignatius Loyola asked ‘to toil and not to look for rest’, a muscular conception of Christianity that drove me beyond the limits of my endurance, so that I broke down. But now the soft animal of my body loves what it loves, and behold, it is very good. So I have rewritten the prayer:

Teach me to serve as I deserve
To give, and to delight in giving
To tend the wounds of those hurt by fighting
To toil, and take the rest I need
To express who I am, and not to ask for any reward
save that of knowing that I am who I am, 
a fountain of Godly love.

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