Friday, January 25, 2013


It's an Ignatian word, magis.  Literally, it means "more." 
Ignatius was often one to speak in terms of heroics, of doing great things for God.  Last fall I spent a day at a retreat, a tenth-anniversary event sponsored by the Ignatian Spirituality Institute, my training ground for spiritual direction.  The questions upon which we were invited to focus were. "What have you done for Christ?  What are you doing for Christ?  What will you do for Christ?"  Magis questions.
Not very Reformed Protestant questions, in the purest sense of the latter.  Whatever.  During my miserable three terms of Greek, I used to write "AMDG" (Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam - from when the word magis comes) ~ "For the greater glory of God"  ~ at the top of each page in my notebook as at  way of forcing myself through class after class of torment and confusion.  Maybe it worked.  (If nothing else, Greek is now but a faint memory.)
A few months ago, my spiritual director mentioned, in an offhand kind of way, that magis doesn't just mean "more" in the sense of numbers, or amounts, or other quantifiable possibilities.  It means "more" in the sense of more style, more elan, more flair, more flouish.    Quality, not quantity.
That's how the word "style" made it onto my list of words to accompany "serenity."  It's not that I have an abiding passion for Vogue magazine; I don't. 
But it seems to me, approaching sixty, that magis defined as "flair and flourish," is a laudable approach to life.  In concrete terms, I am unlikely to hike up to a mountaintop with much in the way of energy or finesse these days.  (And in another decade, even less!)  But a bottle of wine and an excellent cheese at the top ~ that would be a way of reaching the summit in style.
This affinity for magis probably explains my preference for hIGH church over low, and for the Cleveland Orchestra over a grubby rock band in a bar.  (Not that I didn't love Led Zeppelin being honored at the Kennedy Center last month ~ rock with style!)
I wonder how it might be applied to nursing home visits, where the battered linoleum floors and limp curtain room dividers cry out for magis.
Or to meetings in which Robert's Rules and the Presbyterian Book of Order prevail.
Or to a life in which, some days, every moment is still a struggle against which Greek pales by comparison.
Worth pondering, I think.
And for the record, I've been writing a sermon, and so I'm sitting in the living room in my pajama bottoms and a long-sleeved t-shirt, contemplating the need to wash my hair.  I have a way to go before style becomes second nature.


  1. You know, I love the image of you half in your jammies writing your sermon. So many of us experience sermons and homilies as these abstract, often dry, lessons that are very often disconnected from the half-in, half-out space in which most of us feel most comfortable.

    I wish there was a way for some of that comfort and self-care to find it's way into a sermon or homily at most churches. That this is something of value, connected to our spirituality and to God.

    More comfort. Magis comfortis. :) I'm sure that is neither Greek nor Latin but you know what I mean.


    1. LOL your command of ancient languages equals my own!

      I am very much a morning person, which means that I embark upon major writing projects early in the day. (I can get 3x as much done, and 3x better, between 7 and 10 am then between the same pm hours.) So most of my sermon writing attire = pjs, locale = bed or comfy chair, and accoutrement = blanket. There must be a sermon in there!

  2. I am considering switching to early morning too. Maybe I won't be coiffed, but Ill be present!

    You have inspired me to reflect on magis. It is something I am always pushing myself for, but sometimes the best is what I can do at the moment.

  3. A fine post to read on a day I plan to draw rectangles into a design. Photo later.