Progress Through Mental Prayer (Fr. E. Leen) – read online Christian Perfection and Contemplation (Fr. R. Garrigou-Lagrange) – pdf; or pdf, epub here . Something analogous to this is found in the doctrine of those who hold that the essence of Christian perfection consists in the contemplation that issues from the . Christian Perfection and Contemplation is an entire treatise on the operation of grace in the spiritual life that clearly and skillfully . Publication date: 05/01/
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Needless to say, part of what makes Christian spirituality distinctive is its underlying beliefs—in other words, how it understands the reality of God, the value of the material world, human nature, and identity and how these interconnect.
The great variety of spiritual traditions and writings within Christianity originated at different times and places. However, they are continually being adapted in the light of new historical and cultural contexts.
Scholars have sometimes found it helpful to identify different types of Christian spirituality. Their choices vary, and the types are interpretative tools rather than straightforward descriptions. The ascetical type, sometimes associated with monasticism, highlights discipline and detachment from material pleasures as the pathway to spiritual growth.
The mystical type focuses on the desire for an immediacy of presence to, and intuitive knowledge of, God, frequently via contemplative practice. The active type promotes everyday life and service to other people as the context for spiritual growth. The aesthetic type covers a range of ways in which the spiritual journey is expressed in and shaped by the arts, music, and literature. Finally the prophetic type of spirituality embraces an explicit commitment to social justice and the transformation of society.
Christian spirituality has become a major area of study.
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It is an interdisciplinary field shaped by scripture, theology, and Christian history, but which may also draw upon psychology, the social sciences, literature, and the sciences.
Finally, the traditions of Christian spirituality increasingly engage with important issues of social and cultural transformation, for example interreligious dialogue, peace and reconciliation, ecological questions, the future of cities, the world of business, and the meaning of healthcare.
However, the notion is sometimes difficult to define precisely because it is often detached from traditional religious beliefs, and specifically from its Christian origins. In broad terms, spirituality expresses something fundamental about human nature. In her famous book, Mysticism: The Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness, Evelyn Underhill suggested that human beings are vision-creating beings rather than merely tool-making animals.
Specifically, it embraces the ways in which human values, lifestyles, and spiritual practices relate to understandings of God, human identity and the material world. This is not a purely individual matter but includes the quest for a transformed world. The contemporary concept of spirituality refers not only to spiritual practices but also to a framework of values, often implicit rather than explicit, directed at a more intentional lifestyle.
In contemporary spirituality literature, the following approaches regularly appear. First, spirituality concerns what is holistic—that is, a fully integrated approach to life.
Historically the notion of the spiritual relates to the holy. Second, spirituality involves a quest for the sacred.
In religious spiritualities, such as Christian ones, the sacred relates to beliefs about God or the Absolute. However, in wider culture, it may refer to broader understandings of the numinous, to the undefined depths of human existence or to the boundless mysteries of the cosmos. Third, contemporary spirituality frequently involves a quest for meaning and purpose. This reflects a growing decline in respect for traditional religious and political authority, particularly in Western countries.
The question of meaning also relates to an understanding of personality development. An interesting example is the concept of spiritual development in documentation for English schools produced by the government Office for Standards in Education, in In spirituality terms, to thrive is to flourish as a human being in the fullest possible sense. Finally, contemporary definitions of spirituality reflect a search for ultimate values beyond a purely materialistic approach to life.
Spirituality also overlaps in significant ways with ethical behavior and moral vision. Origins of the Concept The concept of spirituality originated within Christianity.
The word translates a Latin noun spiritualitas, associated with the adjective spiritualis spiritual.
A spiritual person see 1 Cor. At that time, under the influence of the new theology, influenced by the retrieval of Greek philosophy, the concept of spiritual began to be used as a way to distinguish intelligent humanity from non-rational creation. Yet the Pauline moral sense and the supra-material sense of spiritual continued side by side in the 13th-century writings of a great theologian, St.
The noun only began to refer to a spiritual life in 17th-century France—and not always in a positive way. It then disappeared from religious circles until the end of the 19th century, when it again appeared in France in positive references to the spiritual life as the heart of Christian existence.
From there it passed into English usage via translations of French writings. The great world religions reflect different cultural and historical contexts. Consequently, they developed a range of concepts and words to express the reality that we nowadays call spirituality.
However, the adoption of the actual word outside Christianity appears to have begun in the late 19th century due to contacts between Europeans and Indian religious figures.
For example, the famous Hindu thinker Swami Vivekananda — regularly travelled outside India. Christian Spirituality and the Scriptures All Christian spiritual traditions are ultimately rooted in the Jewish and Christian scriptures, particularly the teachings of Jesus Christ in the four gospels. However, the connection with these texts is not straightforward. The extensive range of Christian spiritual traditions across time are also attempts to reinterpret the wisdom of foundational scriptural texts within new historical contexts.
Therefore, there is an inevitable tension between a thread of continuities in the history of Christian spirituality and the fact that particular historical expressions are always in response to specific circumstances. This tension is expressed in an interesting way by the late Michel de Certeau, the eminent French social scientist and historian of spirituality.
Christianity implies a relationship to the event which inaugurated it: It has had a series of intellectual and historical social forms which have had two apparently contradictory characteristics: Yet, the contextual nature of the event of Jesus Christ permits the contextual nature of all subsequent attempts to follow his teachings. Apart from the obvious fact that Jesus and his first disciples were Jews, the Christian scriptures grow out of the Hebrew scriptures in many different ways.
Equally, the Hebrew scriptures have had a significant impact on Christian spirituality across two thousand years from the use of the Book of Psalms in Christian liturgy and the Song of Songs in medieval Western mystical writings to the role of the Book of Exodus in lateth century spiritualities of liberation.
It implies a complete way of life. This implies not simply a teacher-student relationship between Jesus and his disciples. It also implies that the Christian disciple absorbs a whole way of existence by being alongside the teacher. The notion of Christian discipleship has two elements. The second element is actively to follow the way of Jesus. In New Testament terms, to become a disciple is not a matter either of selecting a reliable spiritual teacher or of relying on the teacher only until we have gained sufficient wisdom to move on.
Jesus is recorded as choosing his own disciples Mark 1: This involves four things. First, discipleship is not self-chosen but is a response to a call by God. Jesus is recorded as calling despised tax collectors Matt. Unusually for the time, 1st-century Palestinethere were also women in his immediate circle Luke 8: There is a tension here.
Christian Spirituality and Social Transformation - Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion
On the one hand, Jesus called upon everyone to repent and to welcome the Kingdom of God. Yet, on the other hand, the call to join him in formal discipleship is only made to a select number. Third, the call to discipleship implied a radical break with the past that involved leaving family, work, possessions for example, Luke 1: Thus, Matthew 10 lists the work of the disciple as proclaiming the good news, curing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing lepers, casting out demons Matt.
The letters of St. Paul, for example, express this as participating in the cross of Jesus and in his resurrection—in other words, in the triumph of glory over suffering and life over sin and death Rom 6: This dynamic is continually strengthened by the regular celebration of the Eucharist in early Christian communities.
The notion of union with, and participation in, the life of Jesus Christ is further developed in St. Paul, who also uses the language of adoption. Second, and closely related to this, is the emphasis on discipleship as membership of a family.
Spirituality and Christian Beliefs As already noted, Christian spirituality implies an understanding of God, the material world, and human identity. In other words, spirituality and beliefs are inseparable. However, as we shall see, in the study of Christian spirituality, how the relationship between beliefs and spirituality is understood has changed over the years. The fundamental point is that the varied traditions of Christian spirituality grew out of spiritual practice rather than out of abstract theory.
Equally, formal definitions of Christian doctrine about God, or about Jesus Christ as both human and divine, did not arise from intellectual speculation. Thomas that perfection consists especially in charity, and principally in the love of God, although it necessarily demands also the other virtues and the seven gifts.
Thus, although the human body is of the essence of man, his essence is constituted especially by the rational soul, which distinguishes man from the animal.
Evidently the state of grace and the charity of beginners do not suffice to constitute perfection, properly so called, but only perfection in the broad sense, which excludes mortal sin. One must then grow in charity to reach the spiritual age of the perfect. To attain it we need abnegation, a great docility to the Holy Ghost through the exercise of the seven gifts, and the generous acceptance of the crosses or purifications which should destroy egoism and self-love and definitely assure the uncontested primacy of the love of God, of an ever more radiant charity.
Paul tells us about them, and then from St. John of the Cross, a doctor of the Church who has most profoundly studied this question of the purifications of the soul. If the Church proposes his teaching to us as that of a master, it is especially that we may gather from this teaching what is of primary importance in it. We shall, moreover, find in it a great light by which to distinguish the three ages of the spiritual life: We should not forget the loftiness of Christian perfection, considered in its normal plenitude or its integrity.
Paul contemplated it when he wrote to the Philippians: Not as though I had already attained, or were already perfect; but I follow after, if I may by any means apprehend, wherein I am also apprehended by Christ Jesus. I do not count myself to have apprehended. But one thing I do: Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, be thus minded. Let us also continue in the same rule. For many walk, of whom I have told you often. But our conversation is in heaven. So stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.
Paul presents here a perfection that is not merely Platonic or Aristotelian, but Christian in the full sense of the word. Paul proposes not only to himself as the apostle of Christ, but to the Philippians to whom he writes, and to all of us, to all who will be nourished by his epistles until the end of the world. Such perfection evidently requires a great purification of the soul and an unusual degree of docility to the Holy Ghost. It has been said that St. Thomas Aquinas wrote little about the purifications of the soul.
Such a statement disregards what he wrote in his commentaries on the Epistles of St. Paul and the Gospel of St.A Hunger for Wholeness, Ilia Delio, OSF – Madeleva lecture 2017
John, when, carried away by the word of God, he rises toward the summits of the spiritual life which the great mystics love to describe. One should read in particular what he wrote on the third chapter of the Epistle to the Philippians, which we have just quoted, about the desire to know Christ intimately and to be admitted to share in His sufferings, at least in order not to lose our crosses, in order to become conformable to Him, and to save souls with Him.
Thomas wrote on these words of Christ that are recorded by St. Every branch that beareth fruit, He will purge it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Thomas writes on this subject: He purifies them by sending them tribulations and permitting temptations in the midst of which they show themselves more generous and stronger. No one is so pure in this life that he no longer needs to be more and more purified. John of the Cross spoke at great length. We are concerned here with what is required to attain the summit of the normal development of charity.
When we use the term "summit," we must not forget the word "normal"; and inversely, when we use the word "normal," we should not forget the word "summit.
Because the generality of Christian souls do not here on earth actually reach the stage of living in an almost continual union with God, we should not declare that this union is beyond the summit of the normal development of charity. We should not confound what ought to be or should be with what actually is: In a society which is declining and returning to paganism, a number take as their rule of conduct, not duty, the obligatory good, which would demand too great effort in an environment where everything leads one to descend, but the lesser evil.
They follow the current according to the law of the least effort. Not only do they tolerate this lesser evil, but they do it, and frequently they support it with their recommendations in order to keep their positions.
They claim that they thus avoid a greater evil which others would do in their place if, ceasing to please, they should lose their situation or their command. And so saying, instead of helping others to reascend they assist them in descending, trying only to moderate the fall.
How many statesmen and politicians have come to this pass! A somewhat similar condition exists in the spiritual life. At this point we are seeking to learn what should be the full normal development of charity, and not the level which this virtue as a general rule actually reaches in good Christians. Paul confirms this by his insistence upon charity as "the bond of perfection" Gal 3.
These words of St. Paul only summarize the teaching of Christ that the whole law depends on these two precepts of love: In order to understand this explanation more clearly it is necessary to understand the two senses in which the term can be used. Thomas Aquinas speaks of a first and second perfection. The second perfection is the end, which is either operation, as the end of the harpist is to play the harp; or something that is attained by operation, as the end of the builder is the house he makes by building" Summa theologiae 1a, Applying this division of perfection to Christian life, one is said to possess first perfection, or is substantially perfect as a Christian, when he possesses sanctifying grace, through which he participates in the supernatural life of God.
As the human soul constitutes a body truly human, and brings with it the powers necessary for human development, so sanctifying grace elevates the soul to supernatural life and brings with it all the infused theological and moral virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Considered integrally or as the sum total of things necessary, second perfection will require all the virtues and gifts.
But in the operation of which virtue does man attain his end, or union with God, while still on earth? Not in the operation of the moral virtues, since they are concerned rather with the means to the end than the end itself; nor can it be found in the operation of faith, which no longer exists in one who enjoys heavenly vision of God; nor in hope, which also disappears in the possession of the Divine Good in glory.
Charity alone remains as the source of effective union with God in this life. Now it is charity that unites us to God, who is the last end of the human mind, since 'he who abides in charity abides in God, and God in him' 1 Jn 4. Therefore the perfection of the Christian life consists chiefly in charity" Summa theologiae 2a2ae, Although everyone in a state of grace receives the virtue of charity, which gives him the capacity for supernatural friendship with God, the mere capacity for such friendship does not make him a perfect Christian in the proper meaning of second perfection.
When charity is referred to as second perfection, which is perfection in the formal and proper sense, it is not the habit but the act of charity which is meant. Charity is a virtue, a power ordained by its nature to make the Christian capable of loving God as the supreme Good. But power is made perfect only in actual operation.
For this reason the formal or second perfection of the Christian life consists in actual charity, not in the mere capacity for love. Nevertheless, in order to be perfect in charity in this life, one need not be engaged at all times in the actual exercise of the love of God; such uninterrupted love of God will be possible only in heaven. What is required for such perfection in this life is that all the other activities of Christian life should flow from the love of God.
It is precisely because man cannot always be actually loving God in this life that the other virtues have a role to play in Christian life here on earth.