The Ignatian Exercises constitute the core of Ignatian spiritual practice, until today. Many studies have explored its theological and spiritual presuppositions. In this contribution I want to show that Ignatius’s enterprise contains a proper reflection on the relation between theory and practice – between the ‘vision of God’ and the primordial meaning of practice. In a way, his enterprise can be seen as an original answer to the crisis of metaphysical and theological reflection at the end of the Middle Ages. I will analyse Ignatius’s vision of ‘action’ against the theoretical background of the idea of ‘performance’ as it can be found in the work of Michel de Certeau SJ.
In a first part I describe the function of the text of the exercises in relation to its practice by analysing the several kinds of indications given by Ignatius, against the background of Ignatius’s intellectual and cultural context. Next I demonstrate how the relation between theory and practice that is presupposed in the text, can be seen as an answer to the challenges of the crisis of theology and philosophy at the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of Modernity. For this I will interpret the Exercises as a systematic elaboration of the intuitions in the Modern Devotion Movement (De imitatione Christi). It is well-known that Ignatius was influenced and inspired by this reform movement 
In the third part I focus on the performative dimensions of the Exercises and connect these with the idea of an experimental theatre – it is theatre to the extent that those performing the Exercises are performing the essence of their lives in order to discover their real desires. Then follows a comparison of this re-reading of the Exercises with some philosophical enterprises clearly influenced by the Exercises, e.g. Rene Descartes’s and Maurice Blondel’s approaches. The conclusions explain how the discovery of the philosophical dimensions of the exercises offer a meaningful contribution to the debate on spirituality in the modern era.

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