Thursday, 31 May 2012

08: A Science

A pleasure again to speak about Spirituality, especially "as a science".

This science is not just a pure science. Or better said, it is the Science of the Master in Spiritual life.
In order to become a master (an Elder Monk, or Starets, or simply a Spiritual Master) it is important to combine three things, or at least two of them (1 & 3):
1- Experience of God,
2- Science (Spiritual Theology) and
3- Discernment.

"A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." (Eccle 4:12)
The combination of these three qualities, might make a "Spiritual Master". Then after, if he/she is very good at the "Science", then he can teach it. If you remove the "experience of God",  you are sort of then teaching cooking without ever having tasted any dish. Ridiculous, but it happens.

This is why it is important to have the experience of God, to practise real prayer, real contact with God, according to the Living Tradition of the Church. If you don't have the Fire, you can't transmit it, you can't show it, you can't explain it. Your words will be empty. Right?

Starting the experience of God will certainly bring 2 things:
- wanting to learn more and more about Spiritual life (the science of it): by reading, by studying and by doing research
- wanting to be guided by a Spiritual Guide, or Master: this will bring discernment

Seeking Spiritual Direction (you can call it as you like: "spiritual accompaniment", "spiritual counselling", ...) is fondamental, because one needs living discernment, or if you prefer: applied discernment. One thing is to study medicine and another is to go to the doctor.
We are not born with spiritual discernment. We can be very smart, we can be very practical, we can have very good common sense. They help, of course, with no doubt. But they are not "spiritual discernment". 

"Spiritual discernment" is something that takes time to "enter" in us, and it has various steps in it - it grows in us, paralel to our spiritual growth. The needed discernment in the beginning of the spiritual journey, is not the same at all after a while: when one needs a different spiritual food. Who decides? Who notices the new need?

Without seeking discipleship, if one dives into spiritual life, this is to be considered seriously risky. It is like entering in a dark room, not being able to see the furniture in it. While the Spiritual Master (or the Spiritual Guide), sees better than us and can guide us and help us move in this huge dark room, and lead us to the following rooms. It is a huge gift from God to find good Spiritual Guides. One has to pray a lot for that Grace.

So,... back to what I was saying in the beginning: "Spiritual theology" is a science, yes, but it is not a science that one learns just by his/her own brain effort. Not at all. While having its rationality, it is about the Action of the Holy Spirit in us, and it requires (and can grow with the condition of) : experience and discernment.

One can read Spiritual Theology books, study it, and have diplomas (which it good), but with no experience and no discernment received through discipleship, he/she cannot be good in teaching "Spiritual Theology". He won't be transmitting Life, Fire...

Hope that helps...
Pray for me...
(to be continued)

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Couples “lost in translation” 1

Couples “lost in translation” between “Personal Lectio Divina” and “Common Lectio Divina” 1

Common Lectio Divina

In a community or in a group a question might be asked: “Is it possible to do a “lectio divina” all together (or to share on the Gospel)?”, because we know of Lectio divina (as a personal exercise).

Before answering this question I would like to categorise the two exercises by calling them “Personal Lectio Divna” and “Common Lectio Divina”. “Personal Lectio divina” is when we do it personally, without necessarily sharing what we received with others. On the other hand, the “Common Lectio Divina” is based on doing it together, and necessarily sharing what we receive.

To answer the question about the differences between these two exercises, let us understand their exact dynamics. Let us first remember the essence of lectio divina (the Personal one). Its goal is to listen to Jesus (who is our Master, Our Guide, Our Doctor) who is giving us a Word that is Spirit and Divine Life, directly, adapted to what He sees to be our personal need today and put it into practice. By receiving and putting today's word, we are healed in an area of our being (will and mind).

On the other hand, in order to know what is “Common lectio divina“ we need to know what is/are its goal/s. Various answers might be given:
1- to seek together the will of God for the community or the group
2- to encourage each other, in our journey
3- sharing our “listening to Jesus” helps each other, illuminates each other, strengthens the faith of each other
4- we can “push” each other in order to grow in our journey
5- allows us to put our relationships under the light of God
Other goals could be found, that will motivate us to do a “common lectio divina”. None of the above goals could be underestimated or dismissed by any christian.

In accordance to that, we can easily understand that “personal lectio divina” is not exactly the same thing as “common lectio divina”.

Relationship between the Person and the Community

The community (or group) is composed of persons, and only inside of the heart of each person can the community start. A person who lives a community life, but who, in his/her heart, doesn't receive, accept, love, and pray for his/her community, remains an isolated person.
The group is not an entity! When one dies, he cannot say to God: “my friends did this, and did that”. God will say: “and you, what did you do?” Therefore we cannot escape from the personal responsibility, and from the “corner stone” of each community: the single Person. It is true as well, on the other hand, that we help each other and that we are as well accountable for it. But without the “corner stone” of carrying our own responsibility for the personal growth there is no group.

Having sad all that, doing a “Common lectio divina” has its own importance and its own dynamics. “Personal lectio divina”, while being fundamental, doesn't necessarily replace the “Common lectio divina”. God taught us to seek together His will, and promised that when two or three are gathered in His Name, searching His will, He is present amongst them and therefore is acting in a more powerful way. God is communion, the Trinity is a communion between the Three Persons, and seeking, as a community, the word of God, creates something even more powerful. “They will know you from the love you have for each other” (John) and since love is constantly working on the truth (seeking the truth, trying to make the truth be the its reference), the truth not only in us, but the truth that inhabits our relationships, it is of absolute importance to allow the Light and Love of God to dwell amongst the members of the community, all of them, in order to grow in Holiness.
It is then by seeking together the truth in our relationships that we can as well grow. The personal act of seeking Truth for ourselves, directly, from God doesn't exempt us from seeking the Truth together.

Person and Community are not exclusive of each other, they don't oppose each other, on the contrary, they do complement each other, but they do so bearing in mind that the Person is the Corner Stone of the Community and that the Community does not give accounts to God, but the persons that compose it.

When God makes us grow, interiorly, personally it is never at the expense of others, but allowing others to be born in our heart, learning, exercising Divine Hospitality, where the Outpoured Love of God is enlarging our heart in order to receive everybody in it, without excluding anybody and any act made from anybody.

This is why opening ourselves to the others, generates always a new growth in us. “the one who loves me, puts into practice my commandments (my words) and (then, and because of it) the Father will (be moved “anew” to) love him and we will come and dwell in him” (John 15:23). This is why, as saint John of the Cross points out in his Spiritual Canticle, we can “provoke”, “generate” a greater love from God to us by putting in practice the heroic love saint Paul depicts us.

God does not establish His grace and love in the soul but in proportion to the good will of that soul’s love. He, therefore, that truly loves God must strive that his love fail not; for so, if we may thus speak, will he move God to show him greater love, and to take greater delight in his soul. In order to attain to such a degree of love, he must practice those things of which the Apostle speaks, saying: “Charity is patient, is benign: charity envies not, deals not perversely; is not puffed up, is not ambitious, seeks not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinks not evil, rejoices not upon iniquity, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”” (1 Co 13:4-7)(Saint John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle A, stanza 12, paragraph 11 or CS B, 13,12)
(to be continued)

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

07: The journey of the gift of ourselves to God

I received today a very kind message from a lady, thanking me for a text I have posted years ago on my website, and forgot about it to the point that rearranging my site, I totally missed that text and forgot to put a link to it. It is still stored, but doesn't appear as a link. She found it just by googling 'giving yourself totally to God'. What a luck!
The title of the text is: 'The journey of the gift or ourselves to God' It was a reply to a question that a young Egyptian Christian lady asked me: 'How can I give/surrender myself Completely to Him - I insist on 'completely' - to accept His will, with pleasure and peace of heart' (her own words)
In the email I received today the other lady (I guess from the USA) was saying that the text described her exact personal experience of God. Wow... so humbling. This shows that teaching spiritual life is not something done in vain, and that it is possible to describe for wide range of persons - in a useful way - the main aspects of the experience of God, and the various steps of growth.

I went to read that text (yes! don't laugh, its written ages ago). Truly one can say that it is a real summary of Christian spiritual life (audacious to say that, but when you read it you'l tell me).
I should really amend few errors, but from where I am now, I can't access my website. I'll do it later. So you'll have to bear with me.
You can find the text here:

And here is how it starts:

"You asked me a very deep question: "how can you realise completely the gift of yourself to God, and you add "I insist on "completely", to accept His will with pleasure & peace of Heart". Maybe you didn't expect how important is that question, and how it needs a long explanation! It is the basic question for us Christians, and we need to understand clearly a very basic element of our life, the heart of the Gospel. I divided my explanation in 7 parts. They are all linked together, and they are all equal in their importance and need to be understood carefully, in order to have see the whole picture!

1- Introduction

As a starting point I would like to recall the deep meaning of Marriage according to the western theological Tradition: "it is the mutual gift of a man and a woman!" He gives himself to her, and she gives herself to him. This is the very essence of marriage for the western Church! So, as you see, it is a mutual gift of themselves.
Let us now understand in a deep and truthful way what Jesus is for us! The Son of God, came from haven, became a man, and gave himself to each of us on the Cross! He gave Himself totally on the Cross, to you, to me, to every human being! This is very important! This is why he is called the Groom, the Spouse! Because he gave everything to you! He would like you to be his Bride, so He invites you… he calls you, deep deep in your heart! So, your reply to Him, your response to His amazing Love, is to give yourself to him, totally!"

I hope you like it...

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Spirituality 06: Teaching with "greater precision"

If one teaches (prepares a good meal for you) I like it to be done with "greater precision" or if you prefer "more accurately".
Here is the passage:
"A Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, an eloquent speaker, arrived in Ephesus. He was an authority on the scriptures. He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord and, with ardent spirit, spoke and taught accurately about Jesus, although he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the Way (of God) more accurately." (Acts 18)
He knew only the baptism of John". So no Holy Spirit. Not very accurate indeed. Without the Holy Spirit, there is no possibility to reach God!

I like as well the notion of "the Way of the Lord". He is a Way, there is a Way, a Journey... (this is what is "Spiritual Theology" is about: teaching the way, the goal, the steps, the means, the discrnement that help us reach the goal and not deviate or slow down)

It is then very important not to remain with an amateurish way of doing "Spiritual Theology". It is a science that requires precision. One cannot explain how to pray with a vague presentation.

Precision, accuracy...

Not only eternal salvation depends on it, but as well our life on earth (remember: it is about eating, food, growth) depends on it...

Tell me what you eat?

How did they prepare your meal? with "greater accuracy"? I hope so... :-)



PS: Teaching "Spiritual life" is about: preparing words to be said, given, offered as FOOD. Are they edible? are they fat? healthy? tasty? well presented? clear? useful? applicable? 'incarnable' in us? can we digest them?

05: Teaching how to comtemplate

Some people have as a motto: "Contemplating and sharing what we contemplated". This means: one needs to have a personal spiritual life, and a deep prayer life, and therefore become able to contemplate God, have an experience of God, and then he or she can share it, speak about it, about what he or she saw, experienced.

Saint Dominic de Guzman

Others have a slightly different motto. They say: "Contemplating and teaching others how to contemplate". I would put it this way: "teach the poor how to fish, better than feeding him". A bit harsh no? Or: "teach people how to cook good meals, better than feeding them", or selling them good meals. One would argue: 'we don't have time to cook'. - Rightly so. In the case of spiritual life, learning how to contemplate is certainly higher than just reading a book speaking about God or listening to a talk.

I feel it makes more sense to me if somebody is treating me like a human being, and not like an "under human being". I don't want to be harsh, but I find it difficult to just drop it, renounce to a higher call: learning how to contemplate.

People are often fed up with what they find in the "market" of religion and spirituality, they want to do it by themselves, they don't want people dictating to them what to think, what to do, what to eat. They want to be treated as adults... 

My feeling is that today (and tomorrow), the motto is more this one: "Contemplate, and teach people how to contemplate".

Fr Marie-Eugène: "my vocation is theological, to unite people with God"

Or, if you prefer: "Learn to contemplate, see how it works, perfect your art, grow, reflect and ponder upon your art, and then start to teach it to others".

What would you do?


PS1: By the way, "teaching how to contemplate" is the core of "Spiritual Theology".
PS2: On that same note, one can see the spread of a new "virus": books that have on their title: "Lectio divina", and when you open them, you find that they are offering you their own "lectio divina". It feels to me like a person ate and is just offering you what they ate (direct from their stomach). Disgusting no? A book on "lectio divina" should teach people "how to listen to God".

Friday, 18 May 2012

04: A Science

It is always a real pleasure and a passion to speak to you about Spiritual Theology and share my thoughts on it.

What is Spiritual Theology (or Mysticism)?

It is a Science.
Till today, it is considered a branch of Theology. (I speak of course only for the Catholic Church) A minor branch sadly, and quite weak today.
It should be not only a Major Branch in Theology, but it has in itself enough capacity and resources to be an independent Faculty, equivalent to Theology, Psychology, Philosophy,... It can provide a complete first Cycle in University Studies.

What defines a Faculty, a new Faculty is a new science. One can easily understand this by studying the (recent) history of Psychology. This Science, and its Faculty didn't exist before Freud's efforts and discoveries and what came after.

A science is defined by its object and by the light under which one can see the object.

In the case of Psychology the object that we study is the Soul. In the case of Spiritual Theology, the object is the Soul and the spirit (or heart). The lights here and there are different.

Spiritual Theology, or Mysticism is very close to Theology of course, because it relies on the supernatural light of Faith. But is goes much beyond the simple light. The more God gives His graces, the more the light that results is greater.

It is a Science. What for?

It helps us in our journey to reach God, to receive God himself and be united with Him.
This Science teaches us the journey (and its steps) toward the Union with God and the Fullness of Love. It shows us the means to use in order to grow and be transformed and reach the Goal (Union with God).

As we can guess, being a science, doesn't mean that it is at the reach of any person. It is a supernatural Science (it uses the super-natural Light of God), and much much higher than mere Theology. It requires a deeper experience of God in order to be understood properly.

This science is about the experience of God. It has a theoretical aspect, certainly, a rational side, but only because the Loving Light of God falls in our brain. But without that loving light, it turns to be a real ordeal for the person who delves in it. It is all practical, in the sense that it explains what to do in order to grow, to make one more step toward the Union with God.

Spiritual Theology is the science of the Masters of spiritual life. Formators/Educators in Spiritual Life should be Masters in Spiritual Life.

A Spiritual Master is the person that forms into spiritual life, transmits it to another person, by teaching, by spiritual direction, by his prayer. The Master in spiritual life has in himself three characteristics, united and combined harmoniously in him: Experience of God, Science of Spiritual life (Spiritual Theology), and finally Discernment.

As we can see, Spiritual Theology is the most important Science, the most useful one.

For me, "The Good Samaritan" symbolises "Spiritual Theology" that takes great care of the human being, bringing him from a "half dead" state to the participation to Divine Life

There is a great thirst today to learn about the ways to reach God, to enter in contact with Him. This is why there is a real urge to revive Spiritual Theology, to change its situation from poor to very healthy and Leader of other Sciences.