EUROPE/RUSSIA - The Russian edition of the "Spiritual Exercises" of Ignatius of Loyola presented in Moscow

Friday, 8 March 2024 jesuits   saints   spirituality   ecumenicalism  

by Chiara Dommarco
Moscow (Agenzia Fides) - "Warning: this is not a book to read", Father Stephan Lipke, director of the Saint Thomas Institute of Moscow, began with irony when opening the evening organized at the Institute's headquarters to present the re-edition in Russian of the “Spiritual Exercises” of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. With his singular incipit, Father Lipke immediately wanted to point out one of the peculiar characteristics of the work: "It is a book that speaks to those who have experienced the Ignatian method of prayer: reading it without having ever lived this experience is like reading a recipe without having ever seen or tasted the dish you want to prepare".
The event, held on the afternoon of Wednesday, March 6, offered participants (both those present and those connected online) the opportunity to delve deeper into some aspects of the rich Ignatian spirituality, capable of speaking both about the tradition of the Latin Church as well as the tradition of the Eastern Churches.

After the first edition in Russian, which appeared in the 1980s, the new edition, published in 2010, has been sold out and, in response to the numerous requests received by the Jesuits of the Russian Region, it has now been re-published. "If we approach the text after experiencing the method proposed by Saint Ignatius, we begin to understand the language he uses and to read our lives as a Gospel that must be written, learning to look with the gaze of Jesus at the people we meet and the circumstances that we live," said Father Tadeusz Drozdowicz SJ, bursar of the Saint Thomas Institute. Like him, Father Viktar Zhuk SJ, parish priest of the church of Saint Vladislav in Vitebsk (Belarus), connected remotely, also shared some reflections based on his own experience as a Jesuit and retreat preacher. Several participants spoke during the course of the evening, highlighting how the teachings of Ignatius of Loyola can also be fruitful for Christians belonging to the Eastern tradition, as testified by a Catholic spouse, who was able to participate with his Orthodox wife in a week of spiritual exercises proposed by the Jesuits.
Since its first edition in 1548, published in Latin with the title "Exercitia Spiritualia", the work of Saint Ignatius has been translated and re-edited over the centuries throughout the world and remains today one of the fundamental texts of Christian spirituality. The history of the Order in the territories of the Tsarist Empire is peculiar. When Pope Clement XIV suppressed the Society of Jesus in 1773 with the papal brief Dominus ac Redemptor, Catherine II, who had forbidden any pontifical provisions within the borders of her Empire, did not decree the expulsion of the Jesuits from the territories she ruled. Thus the Company continued to exist and prosper under Emperor Paul I and during the early years of Alexander I's regency, offering free public schools to thousands of students.
However, in 1820, that is, six years after the restoration of the Order, sponsored by Pope Pius VII and sanctioned in 1814 by the bull Sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarum, the Jesuits were expelled from the Empire. The current Russian Region of the Society of Jesus includes Russia, Belarus and Kyrgyzstan.
There are currently eleven Jesuits in Russia, divided into three communities and located in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Tomsk and Novosibirsk. The two Jesuits in Belarus live in Vitebsk; while the ten from Kyrgyzstan live in Biškek, Oš, Talas and Issyk-Kul', the latter town where they have a retreat house. Week-long spiritual exercises according to the Ignatian method are offered regularly in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan, and occasionally in Russia. (Agenzia Fides, 8/3/2024)