«Conforming does not mean an external imitation but it expresses the essence of belonging to Christ, as “to be conformed to the image” (Rom 8:29) of the Son (1). Meanwhile tradition uses the expression Imitatio Christi, “Imitation of Christ” for what we call here conforming, it is not meant to be nor a slavish copying Jesus’ words or deeds neither a sort of moralizing based on Jesus’ example. As David M. Stanley points out “Imitatio Christi involves the arduous process through which the contemporary Christ operates with a man on a long term basis” .(2)
Man and woman were created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27), and this image was deformed by sin, but can be restored to integrity by turning to Christ the true image of God (2 Cor 4:4) and through an intimate association with him “all of us, gazing the unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Cor 3:18). St. Paul describes this change also as acquiring a new self: “you have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator” (Col 3:9-10).
Conforming is part of the process of the Christification of the creation, in which the Universal Christ unites in himself all. With other words, by conforming we are inserted in the process of the salvation history in union with Jesus who is the “Christ-for-the world”, the Head of the creation, as God’s plan is “to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth” (Eph 1:10) (3). Clearly that means also that conforming to Christ is not restricted to those who are incorporated in the Church but it is possible for non-Christians and even for those who not even know the name of Jesus Christ. One is “conformed” to Christ in every single spiritually and morally good act without the necessity that it should be performed for consciously supernatural motives (cf. Mt 25:31-46). The grace of Christ exists also outside of the Church and is deeper and more pervasive than we used to suppose (4) . If we think of Jesus Christ as the person who realizes in a unique way what is the best in human reality, than every human person can meet him even without knowing of the historical Jesus: “If Christology represents the unique fulfillment of anthropology it follows that everyone who fully accepts his life as a human being has thereby also implicitly accepted the Son of man. Hence…such an individual has already encountered Jesus Christ without knowing however that he had met with the person whom the Christians call Jesus of Nazareth” (5) (Quote from our Manual; read also the Introduction to the Second Phase)
Step 7: The Parable of the Kingdom of Christ
Step 8: God Prepares a Way for Our Salvation - The Mystery of the Incarnation
Step 9: God So Loved the World - The Birth of Jesus
Step 10: The "Hidden Life" and the Value System of Jesus Christ
Step 11: An Enneagram Exercise and The Value System of Jesus Christ
Step 12: The Value System of Jesus Christ - A Summary
Step 13: Three Types of Attitude toward Possessions
Step 14: Three Types of Attitude in Scriptural Case Studies
Step 15: Baptism and Temptation of Jesus - Three Degrees of the Love of God
Step 16: Jesus Calls His Followers- Arriving to a Decision
Step 17: Jesus Teaches the Way - Arriving to a Decision (cont.)
Step 18: Jesus Heals - To be Free to be Able to Choose - Arriving to a Decision (cont.)
Step 19: Who is Jesus? - What quality do I long and pray for - Arriving to a Decision (cont.)
Step 20: Jesus raises Lazarus and gets anointed at the supper in Bethany- Arriving to a Decision (cont.)
Step 21: Jesus arrives to Jerusalem, enters the city and the Temple- Concluding the Second Phase
Notes: (1) See the description of conforming in Tyrrell, “Christotherapy II,” p. 159.
(2) Stanley, “A Modern Scriptural Approach to the Spiritual Exercises,” pp.75-76.
(3) Cf. Alex Lefrank, S.J.-Maurice Giuliani, S.J., Freedom for Service. Dynamics of the Ignatian Exercises as Currently Understood and Practiced, (Rome: World Federation of Christian Life Communities, 1989) p. 68. The authors of this study present the movement of the Second Phase as the extension of our relationship with Christ from “Christ-for-me” (First Phase) to “Christ-for-the world-with-me”.
(4) For a presentation of this view of the salvation through Christ, see Karl Rahner, The Dynamic Element in The Church, (New York: Herder and Herder, 1964) pp. 42-83. Rahner was the main contributor to the Vatican II on the question of the relation with other religions, and the Council endorsed his theory of “anonym Christians” (without the controversial name) (see more about this topic in Joseph H. Wong, “Anonymous Christians: Karl Rahner's Pneuma-Christocentrism and an East-West Dialogue" Theological Studies, Vol. 55, 1994)
(5) Walter Kasper, Jesus the Chist, (New York: Paulist Press, 1977) p. 49 in the chapter where the author presents Rahner's "transcendental Chrisdtology from below". (Picture: The Wedding at Cana. Fresco, 2001. Vladimir Grigorenko, Ukraine. St. Seraphim Orthodox Cathedral, Dallas TX)
(Picture: The Wedding at Cana. Fresco, 2001. Vladimir Grigorenko, Ukraine. St. Seraphim Orthodox Cathedral, Dallas TX)