Saturday, 30 June 2012

28: Understanding “Spiritual Theology”

The Blog's line

In this Blog, the policy is to remain faithful to one simple line: presenting and explaining “Spiritual Theology”.

Spiritual Theology” being a fundamental tool at the service of our “spiritual life”, a fundamental place in the Church for a deeper understanding of the Gospel. I won't wonder out of that “frame” or out of that "line", and, trust me, if I write, daily, for three years, it won't be enough: there is a lot to be done. Practical topics are in huge number.

Another point: I wouldn't really like to remain alone. So, please, do come and join with your ideas, and mainly with your “spiritual study”. Even if knowledge doesn't make us saints (that would be the wrong “gnosticism”), study, done under the Light and Love of God, can be source of many graces, especially if we do care to put it into practice. You won't find me talking badly about science, I mean never about “Spiritual Theology”. You won't find me either forgetting the practical side of almost everything we find in “Spiritual Theology”.

Sand man”

Despite many good and positive things in the earthly side of the Catholic Church, there is an ongoing deep crisis coming from many factors. One main positive one (that very few do mention) is that the “modern” (I should say: “post modern”, or “sand age time”) man (and women, don't worry) is really very demanding, much more than his ancestors. His container is bigger. Bigger than his grand pa's... or his great grand pa's. He needs more, requires more from God, from Jesus, from the Church, from the Priest, from the Monk, and mainly from the "Spiritual Master". He wants proofs, he wants experience, he can't be fooled with two or three good words, he can't be fooled with just a “moral law”, or “good will”. This is why bombarding him (and her) with words that start with: “you have to believe”, “you have to attend this service”, “you have to act this way”, “you have to go and do this” don't really work today. They did work in a more traditionally christian world. It is not the case today. He needs experience. He wants to try God. There is a deep thirst for experience. On top of that, the market is very challenging: not only we are not the centre of the “civilised world”, we are simply a minority. Plus, how many meditation classes or gurus are around today? They got the point, we (catholics) didn't really yet. In a way it is a bit late. But, never mind, the work is still here, in front of us, but just hugely accumulated. Piles and piles and piles. Just: let us work.

I love the challenge that “sand man” offers to Jesus' Message. I feel that much more can come out, and slightly different. The “capacity”, the “container” is just bigger. Mind you, I am not “praising” mister “sand age man”. I am just mentioning what I find very positive in him/her.

The starting point

Remember: my starting point is simple, but huge, humongous (I learned “humongous” when I first visited the States in 1996, and they told me it was more of 60s expression. I don't have a problem with the 60s. Sandman was emerging at that moment.): there are tons and tons and tons of Graces that Jesus wants to pour in us.
This is not “a philosophy”, or “an abstract concept”, or “a fashion”. It is a reality. Jesus wants to give Himself to us. But we sort of:
1- don't really know that enough
2- and, mostly, we are sort of lost when it comes to practicality: how can we receive of that amount of Love and Graces? What are we supposed to do in order to receive it?

So, this is my starting point, and this is “my philosophy”. By the grace of God, I won't get sidetracked from that line.

Remember the grace that saint Thérèse received the 9th of June 1895: God makes her discover how much He wants to love her, how much He still wants to give her. “This year, the 9th of Jun, feast of the Holy Trinity, I received the grace of understanding more than ever how much Jesus desires to be loved.” (“Cette année le 9 Juin fête de la Sainte Trinité, j'ai reçu la grâce de comprendre plus que jamais combien Jésus désire être aimé.”) (saint Thérèse, Autobiography, Manuscript A, end)
Or, if you prefer, I am standing beside the Apostles (hiding behind the curtains) during the moment they are gathered in the Upper-room with Mary, and they receive the Holy Spirit. I am watching the effects of the Action of the Holy Spirit, and trying to follow the trail of the Holy Spirit during 20 centuries. The Torrents of Love, that God wants to give us, and how we received them in the past, and what we learned (an accumulated huge experience, knowledge and wisdom).

Change of scenery

Today, if a catholic monk, having lived hidden for 30 years, comes out of his monastery, and starts to wonder in the world and condemns his fellow catholics, and say that they will go to Hell, I am sure you might find that a bit “too much”, a bit “politically incorrect”. Wouldn't you? How can he send the Church of Christ to Hell? 
Of course many of the sins of today's christians would send them to hell, but I am sure that you would find that this “politically incorrect” behaviour is a bit too much and that he should tone his voice and way, in order to remember love, mercy, and acceptance…
If yourself have many griefs against many members of the Church, I am sure you can imagine that the collegiality of the Bishops wont let this monk be “free”, in the outside world, for long time. They'll bring him back to his monastery, quite rapidly, under obedience, or out of any strategical "threat".

Too much of a violent preaching

Would we try to understand why is he speaking so violently, and condemning his fellow brothers? Can't he just speak about the Love of God and His Mercy, and stop condemning people? A bit rough. But monks can sometimes be rough. Especially if they are the kind of “spiritual” ones.
Can't this preaching be coming out of love? Well, you would say: "well rightly so, but he should speak more about the Love of God". - Well he is rightly saying that people are not making any effort to receive that Love.

Well I'll get you out of your misery because you must be wondering: - what is he trying to say? - Well, frankly I find today's Gospel (Matthew 8:5-17) very “politically incorrect” or, if you prefer, I find that the world we live in is simply dying out of “political correctness”.
In today's Gospel, Jesus, has just finished his great Sermon of the Mountain, and just healed one man from his leper and now is healing a non-jewish person. Like, if you prefer, put in today's terms: healing a Hindu, or a Muslim or an Atheist. He finds that this “Atheist” (a Roman soldier of some sort) has more faith than the catholics (just to put it into perspective). So, with no warning at all: Jesus starts to send all the Catholics to Hell. So you wonder: why? What happened? No warning?

This is too violent! Please don't try to turn a blind eye onto that. It is too obvious, and please just: face it. Jesus is extremely violent with Catholics. Just imagine Him saying the same today: "Amen, I say to you, in no one in the Catholic Church have I found such faith. 
I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven,
 but the children of the kingdom (the Catholics) will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth." (see Mt 8:5-17)

Put this way: it is a bit too much, isn't it?

We are very calmly sure that “all is fine” and, suddenly, a huge final storm comes and sends us to Hell (the “outer darkness”). You can't dilute this violent statement, and its violent contents. Please don't try to find excuses. The matter is serious. Jesus' contemporary Jews were what we are today: people who received everything: all the Promises, all the Prophets, all the Graces in order to receive their Messiah. Well, we are worse: we have Him amongst us. So our condemnation should be immensely bigger.
Are Jesus' contemporary Jews worse than us? Not sure about that. Why would God treat people worse than others? Is He unjust?

But the thing is that you'll read today's Gospel, and feel fine, untouched, (you are the "caste of the untouchables") and you'll sleep well. Amazing isn't it? You'll continue to go to Sunday Mass, and feel fine.

Spiritual Theology

Now, how this relates to “Spiritual Theology”?
“Spiritual Theology” tells us about the “tons and tons” of graces Jesus wants to pour in us. It shows us what to do in order to receive them. It explains to us what will happen, the transformation that will occur in us. Great no?

In today's Gospel Jesus is commenting on the quality and characteristics of the faith of a non-jewish Roman soldier.

"When he entered Capernaum, a Centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying, "Lord, my servant is lying at home paralysed, suffering dreadfully." He said to him, "I will come and cure him." The centurion said in reply, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come here,' and he comes; and to my slave, 'Do this,' and he does it."
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, "Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth."
And Jesus said to the centurion, "You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you." And at that very hour (his) servant was healed." (Mt 8:5-17)

The soldier is actually a Centurion, he has subalterns under his orders. He explains to Jesus how he understands order and execution. And in God, "order" and "execution" are immediate. There is no distance in God between "saying something" and "having the capacity to realise it". When God says something, He can do it, immediately. The soldier said to Jesus that he believes that it works like that for Jesus. The soldier is totally opened to the fact that Jesus is capable of "saying/wanting something" and "putting it into practice" immediately.
The act of faith is not about just a mere general concept of the existence of God (Like: "I believe in God"). The act of faith here is about the fact that Jesus is capable of doing what He wants; that if He wants it now, He can do it. He has the capacity to do it.
The Centurion is opened to the Power that is enclosed in Jesus. He is opened to the Action of this Power.
One must add: it is a Power of Healing, a power orientated toward Salvation, toward changing the human being body, soul and spirit. Or if you prefer: spirit, soul, and body.

I like the Pope John Paul IIs definition of faith: faith, in its deepest essence, is the openness of the human heart to the gift: to God's self-communication in the Holy Spirit.” ("Dominum et vivificantem", 51). If you wonder what is “Dominum et vivificantem”? well it is Pope John Paul II Encyclical Letter on the Holy Spirit. (You can find it here)

“the openness of the human heart to the […] Holy Spirit”.

Jesus praises the quality of the faith of that Centurion. The quality. The openness of that man to the Action of the Holy Spirit. Jesus gives the Holy Spirit. He is called: “Messiah” because He is full of the Holy Spirit, and He is the Giver of the Holy Spirit ("He breathed on them" (John 20:22)). When you see a picture like the following one, please do think that these Rays that come out of Jesus' Heart are nothing but the Holy Spirit Himself. (remember to ask for the Holy Spirit)

The mission of “Spiritual Theology” is to understand the transformative Action of the Holy Spirit in us.

So, when you say: "I do believe in such and such", or, “I don't believe in such and such”, just remember that believing means: to open my heart, to open myself (and ask for it) to the Action of the Holy Spirit. Our main study should be: understanding, according to the Mystics, what He wants to realise in us. Step by step.

Back to square one

Now, back to that “violence”. Why would one has to be violent when he preaches the Kingdom of God?
You can have all the interpretations you want, the nice soft ones, and the rought and tough ones. In the end of the day, when you visit your dear friend for his/her birthday, and offer your gift that you carefully prepared from weeks and he or she rejects your gift, and loves his other friends ones, what would you do?? I leave you free to express your feelings in that very moment, to understand your feelings. But remember: that was Jesus' Case... He prepared His Gift, He came to give it to you... and you went after other people's gifts.

Today, His violence wouldn't work in our "correct world". Would that change anything to our final destination (the "outer darkness")? The person who doesn't receive the Gift of God, as the mystics describe it, aren't they politically, correctly, in the "outer", correct, political, "darkness"? Hell....
Let us be fair, He tries all the tools in the box and people don't want. He didn't put them in Hell... By not receiving His Gift, they are out of the reach of His Action. They don't want to receive his Gift, so, as a consequence: they don't know what is His Gift... they have no experience of it. Heaven or Hell are not God's arbitrary last minute decision: they are simply ours, during our lifetime on earth. You don't want His Gift? He won't force you to have it (as dramatic as it sounds). As a consequence: you don't have it. He won't impose it on you last minute. It can't even be imposed, it requires your will, your desire.
Simple physics! "Simple...!"

(How many christians today don't have a clue of “what is the Holy Spirit?”, “what is His Action in us”, “what are the graces that saint Theresa of Avila describes”, for instance... they just put their conscience in sleep mode, thinking that “Sunday Mass is enough”. Hell... no. Many pastors do lead them as well to this conclusion. (well, sprinkled with a bit of a moral theology, or of some biblical lucubrations)

In today's Gospel, Jesus used the word “hell”... he called it: the "outer darkness"...

Let us leave the “outer darkness” and learn about His Gift and what we are supposed to do in order to receive it. "Spiritual Theology".... yes please...

(The Journey  Continues...)

Audio 1 : Jesus Amoroso

I just found that song (see below). I find it so audacious, so pure and so beautiful. We rarely express our love to Jesus. I think we should have much more often songs of that type. In reality, this song is very mystical. I know some poems of saint Thérèse that were sang by a French Carmelite (Pierre Eliane), initially only by guitar! They were sublime, full of beauty. 

Jesús amoroso, el más fino amante
Loving Jesus, the finest lover
quiero en todo instante, sólo en ti pensar.
in every moment, I want to think only of You
Tú eres mi tesoro, Tu eres mi alegría,
You are my treasure, You are my joy
//Tú eres vida mía, yo te quiero amar //
//You are my life, I want to love you//

Oh Corazón dulce, de amor abrasado,
Oh sweet Heart, of love inflamed, 
quiero yo a tu lado por siempre vivir.
for ever I want to live by your side. 
y en tu llaga santa viviendo escondido,
in your holy wound, I want to live hidden, 
de amores herido en ella morir,
wounded by [Your] loves, in it [I want] to die,
de amores herido en ella vivir.
wounded by [Your] loves, in it [I want] to live.

Friday, 29 June 2012

27: The Spiritual Journey 3/11

3- The Journey of the Son of God
is a descent in us
to unite Himself with us

Let us now go deeper in the meaning and implications of the Incarnation, not only seen as a short moment in time (when the Son of God comes in Mary, during the Annunciation (see Luke 1:26..)) but as a whole process, i.e. longer, deeper and mystical. "Longer" in time, and "deeper" in the meaning and in the implications and "mystical" in the relationship it creates between Jesus and each one of us: "By his Incarnation, he, the Son of God, in a certain way united himself with each man" (John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis, 13; Vatican II, G.S., 22)

The Incarnation is not a historical event that is independent from us, distant from us, that we can watch, as we would watch TV. It is not only something that happened to one being (Jesus born from Mary) 2000 years ago, in a town called Nazareth. It is not circumscribed in a very short period of time and "that's it": 9 months in the womb of Mary. It is not either only just some event that we can consider, and be moved by. It is infinitely much more. Incarnation changes everything and we should become aware of the changes and their implications on us.

To say: "when the Son of God takes flesh, in a certain way, he unites himself to you and me" is very different to saying: "a Prophet is born 2000 years ago".
When we say that when He appears to the world at the age of 30, and is baptised, we need to understand that He is baptised in us, in our humanity, in our condition, he is like a "sponge" that absorbs each one of us and carries us, this makes a big difference.
Then I understand that if He is carrying me in Him (mystically) He becomes "my way" (Jesus is "The Way"). That when he goes through the temptation in desert, it is for the aim of doing for it himself first, and therefore opening the way for me. He does it "for me", carrying me in him.
This means that you and I are contemporaries of any event we read in the Gospel.
Are you with me?
This is simply: Huge.

It is something not to be taken lightly: if somebody, of that ilk, made such things for you, you can't just say: "Incarnation is when the Son of God takes flesh in the womb of Mary". He didn't just "take a human nature". No, no. He took infinitely much more: he took you and me. Carried you and me, in Him, in his human nature. His made of his human nature our dwelling place, our tent.

The "lamb" (Jesus seen as "the Lamb") is a word that fundamentally expresses a mystical dimension, a mystical Being who is capable of absorbing other beings in him (out of Love, and by Love). John, the one who performs Jesus' Baptism, calls Him: "the Lamb" (see John 1:29). Of course he alludes first to the daily sacrifice of a Lamb in the Old Testament (see Exodus 29:38-42) but he certainly, by the Holy Spirit, sees further, sees the Sacrifice of the Cross.
Jesus is about to start his Mission, he enters in the river Jordan, symbol of our humanity, of the body, soul and spirit of each one of us. This is surely mystical (for the "mystical dimension" of christianity please see this article: "The unavoidable mystical dimension of Christianity")!
This movement of union with each one of us, movement of "entering" in each one of us, a descent in us, will continue until it reaches its greatest height: the Death of Jesus on the Cross.

As you can see on the diagram below (you may click on it to see it separately) we are deepening our understanding of the steps of the Incarnation.
3- The Journey of the Son of God is a descent in us to unite Himself with us

Incarnation: is not only "entering in mere time and space" of the Eternal God. It is much more. It is not just entering in human nature ("taking flesh"). It is about using this "flesh" as a "Tool" in order to enter, mystically, deeper, in each human being.

The Son of God is the Redeemer, therefore, His Incarnation is finalised by this goal. The Incarnation itself, its own texture, is a journey of entering in the human being, in order to then "carry" him, inside, like a sponge, and bringing him back to God. Therefore the incarnation doesn't end when he is born from Our Lady. It continues. He continues His journey of getting closer to us, in order to Redeem us. This is the way of Love. Love attracts and unites the one who loves, to the object of his love. "Love" is the Holy Spirit, the main Author of the Incarnation. The Holy Spirit attracts Jesus toward us, in order to be united with us. But we are darkness, half-dead, far from God, we are "sitting in darkness and the shadow of death" (Luke 1:78-79 and Is 9:1). Jesus follows this "Law" of attraction, of desire to be united, that moves Him constantly. This "Law" in Him is the Holy Spirit.

The Son of God has to reach the depths of the human being in order to be able to carry them, bring them back to the Light, to God. This is to save. It is a "physical" incarnation in the human being.
This journey of descent in us is also a journey of purification: He purifies us.

In order to do so, He proceeds by steps, stages. From outside of our being, He enters toward the deepest layers of our being.

- He purifies our body, by all the efforts of his body, his fasting, his sacrifices, his ascesis, his acceptance of the body sufferings (thirst, tiredness, ...).
- He purifies our emotions (part of the soul): he loves everybody, even those  that cause him a lot of pain because of their heart, which are hard like stone. He walks the extra mile in order to help the ones that need more, who's souls are troubled. He is patient with all.
- He purifies our deepest part (the top of the soul, its "eye", the spirit, or heart). He accepts to bear the darkness of our separation from God ("God God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mt 27:45-46)). He becomes sin (2 Co 5:21).
- He wants to reach the totality of our being, He accepts to die for us, for each one of us, realising the total exchange of His Being with ours.

The life of Jesus, his ministry, his Redemption, acts in different stages. Each main step in His life corresponds more to specific depths of His Action in us.
His Action, again, is about: getting closer to us, purifying us, transforming us into Him, all this is done by the Holy Spirit.

We can see better now the relationship between His Life, His Action in us, and the Transformation that it realises in the Apostles.
Their account (the Gospels) is not only the book that tells the story of Jesus. It  is much more than that. It is the account of Jesus' work of purification and transformation in us. The book of His descent in us, done out of His Amazing Love. The Gospels are as well the account of the transformation of the Apostles.

For instance, if one would like to follow Peter, to see how Peter followed Jesus, he'll find these various steps of transformation in Peter:
1- First Peter is generous, entire, and leaves everything for Jesus.
2- Peter of course acts humanly. Even if his goal is divine (Jesus), like everybody, he starts by receiving Jesus' "Milk" in the sense that he perceives what Jesus does rather in a human way. Jesus starts with him, by purifying his senses, human attachment to material things (clothes, food, pleasures, human glory...). He shows him the first steps.
3- Peter reaches the peak of this first part of his spiritual journey (see Mt 16) when he recognises, by inspiration from God, the Divinity of Jesus. This shows the journey accomplished, the first freedom he reaches, he who left everything to follow Jesus. But a lot is still to be transformed in him, he can't go deeper unless Jesus "drags" him to it. He strongly (out of his short sighted views) refuses to accept Jesus' death, or that anybody would even harm him. He is holding, humanly, to Jesus.
4- Jesus starts to behave differently from Peter's perspective (Jesus heads to Jerusalem).
5- This is the peak of his change, and deep purification: when Peter has to face the apparent total loss of all what constitutes his life: Jesus. Jesus will die. Peter says he will defend him, he does so with his sword, but in the end, he doesn't know what he is doing. He ends up, with his "human way of following Jesus", experiencing the total weakness of his way, his total incapacity to  follow Jesus. He ends up by saying: I don't know Him. Peter reaches the peak of his purification, he experiments his nullity, his nothingness, his radical incapacity.
He then has to face Mary.
He then has to face Jesus, Risen.
Peter is now different. He knows he is nothing, and that he can't follow Jesus, with just generosity. One needs much more.

Do you see my point? Do you see how the Gospel is the first book of "Spiritual Theology", because it tells, by the Apostles, their autobiography, how they "followed Jesus" and the steps in following Jesus. They had the audacity, supreme audacity, of telling us their fiasco, their total, and radical failure. You do not find in any religion the sincere recognition from the first disciples of a founder of a religion of their nullity.

Nobody believed in the Resurrection! This should attract our attention to the fact that the Gospel is a kind of an "autobiography" of his first followers. Or better: the Gospel is the book of the spiritual journey of transformation of Jesus' follower.

Do you see my point? We follow their footsteps.

Peter is really the head of the Church, not because he did this or that. He is the head, because he embodies the way of following Jesus, he shows us, in himself, in his life, the stages of "following Jesus". His failures are normal, and they embody the curve we are all invited to follow, in order to die, and rise with Jesus. The stages of his spiritual transformation are offered clearly to all of us.

Please do read and meditate on the above diagram (click on it to enlarge it). See the stages of Jesus' descent in us. Try to see how Jesus in fact, after his Incarnation, is still entering deeper and deeper in us, in Peter. See the quotes you find on the diagram that help understand the different stages.

(To be continued... just be patient!)

Thursday, 28 June 2012

26: The Spiritual Journey 2/11

2- The Journey of the "Son of God"

Let us take a closer look at the "Journey" of the Son of God. When we say "Son of God" we obviously mean the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son, who is God.

In order to follow the full movement of His descent we will be following the text of the letter of saint Paul to the Philippians.

"Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; "Christ Jesus: rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant,

  • being made in human likeness.
  • And being found in appearance as a man,
  • he humbled himself
  • by becoming obedient to death
  • even death on a cross!" (Phil 2:5-8)

For the sake of showing the various steps in the descending movement of Incarnation, I will split that text in different moments as follows:

2- The journey of the Son of God

But, as you see, Jesus will grow, in His human nature, as saint Luke says: “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52). Not only that, but in His mission, He has various steps.

1- The moment of Incarnation: The Son takes flesh in Mary's womb.

2- At the age of 30, he starts his ministry: "Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age" (Luke 3:23).

3- After probably around 3 years, He heads toward Jerusalem: "After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem" (Luke 19:28).

4- He enters in His Passion, and becomes "like a slave" (Philippians 2).

5- On the Cross, for 6 hours, he dies, giving Himself to us.

During the moment of Death, there is an exchange: Jesus receives us in Him, and gives us his life. He takes our death, our sins, all our being, as he is, far from God, all in the darkness, and gives us His divine life, his Body, his Soul, his Spirit.


As we can see, there is a development in Jesus life, in the Son of God's life on earth. These further steps show us that we can't just understand His life as being a linear plane, with just one great act at the End, the act of Redemption on the Cross.
Our perception of "time" and of its elapse is starting to change.
For instance, there is a big difference in Jesus' life between the years before His ministry and after. Similarly, there is a big difference between the months (/years) before He heads toward Jerusalem and after. This is the same as well for the moment He enters in His Passion.
Let us keep this in mind while deepening our understanding of the Incarnation, and Jesus' way, for his human nature.

Remember as well

We are saved by His human nature, by His own human will (see Third Council of Constantinople: 680-681 A.D.). His own human nature and his own human will had their own journey of growth and will constitute for us our own journey of growth, because He is mystically carrying each one of us in order to become our Way.

PS Please, just be patient, we are going, step by step, and it requires some more posts to have a better picture.

(to be continued...)

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

25: The Spiritual Journey 1/11

1- The Spiritual Journey

While defining "Spiritual Theology", we mentioned that we have to define at least three things:
1- the goal of spiritual life (actually we have two goals: union with God and the fullness of Love)
2- the stages of the journey
3- the means to achieve the goals.

We mentioned that knowledge of all the stages of the Journey of our transformation in Jesus is fundamental.
Knowing the stages is not a vain knowledge, a waste of time or mere curiosity. It helps us to know, in each stage:
a- what God wants to do,
b- what we are supposed to do, and
c- the result of our correspondence to His Grace, our transformation, what God really does. Therefore, knowing about the stages will help us, at least to a degree, "re-cognise" where we are.

When you read saint John of the Cross and saint Theresa of Avila, you find that a large part of their works, if not all of it, are following the development of Spiritual Life, describing, at each stage, the three elements mentioned above: a, b and c. These two saints are Doctors of the Church for Spiritual Theology.

Let us now embark in this discovery of our Journey.

The real measure of time

In order to understand the stages of growth of our Spiritual Life, let us start by understanding the normal vision of our Faith: how we see the Gospel, how we see Jesus' life, how we understand it, and how we understand it in relation to us.

Our vision of Jesus' public life is quite linear, chronological: our understanding of the Gospel is simple, straightforward. Jesus' life is divided in mainly two parts:

1- His ministry, his preaching and healing in Galilee and Judea.
2- His time in Jerusalem, his Passion, his Death and his Resurrection.

1- The static linear vision

Nobody can argue, or challenge this vision. It sticks to the facts.
But at the same time, if we remain with this linear vision, two main aspects of Jesus' life are not addressed with the attention they deserve:

1- The fact of Incarnation and its various mystical consequences for us.
2- The mystical dimension of salvation: i.e. the direct relationship between Jesus and each one of us.

These two aspects presuppose the presence of an interaction between God and the human nature, and between Jesus and each one of us.

In the linear vision of Christian life, the consequences of Incarnation don't really appear enough. We are just view Jesus' public life, in its two main parts.

This simplistic way of presenting the Life, Message, Mission, and Redemption of Jesus might be considered good, but the perception of time they offer is simplistic.
The unit of measure for Christianity should not be only "time" as we know it on our watches. The unit of measure should be "transformation". Transformation that happens in God (He will take flesh) in Jesus (Incarnation, His union with each one of us, Redemption). We should be attentive to the developments in Jesus' life, and then in ours.
Our life is about believing in Jesus and in what he did for us. Is what He did for us just a static short act of salvation on the Cross and nothing more? Or is there more to it?

The dimension of transformation is a much richer unit of measurement than mere "time".

I would like to start the deepening of these three related facts:
1- the way of Jesus, the steps in His own life and then
2- Jesus as our Way (what He did for us), and
3- what He wants to realise in us, and finally the stages of our transformation in Him.

The more we progress in our analysis of the Gospel, of Jesus, the more we'll notice how these facts are intimately, mystically related, more even: they are one.

(to be continued...)

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

24: Defining Spiritual Theology 3

"Successful Spiritual Theology"

What is a “successful Spiritual Theology”? "To be successful" is something essential, it is to reach fruition, or, in a much more simple way: to achieve the goal you set up.

Jesus himself points relentlessly on the necessity of "bearing fruits". Just check “fruits” in the Gospel of saint John, or just read again the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13 and parallels), you'll see that the only soil that bears fruits is the fourth one, the “Good soil”. This is the peak of the Parable: "bearing fruits" is the goal. And "with abundance” please!!

The human being is like a tree (see the majority of the parables, see as well the mysterious healing Jesus performs on a blind man, done in two steps (Mk 8:24)): he is supposed to bear fruits.

The fruit of life is holiness. Holiness is to reach the fulness, the completion of our own spiritual development. In doing so we face two great obstacles:

1- Till today, we hardly are able to define holiness. We remain with general concepts, and if we dig a little bit we don't really get a grasp of it. We often remain with general indications: - just do this and you'll be fine. - But tell me precisely what is holiness? An experienced eye will rapidly see the flaws in the answer. Everybody agrees on the fact that "the goal of our life" is "to reach holiness", but it often ends here. Beware tough: this is seriously risky not to be able to define it. (I'll tell you another day how, in the Catholic Church, we reached unanimously that conclusion: "everybody is called to become holy".)

2- Admitting that we reach that first goal: “defining holiness” - which would be really amazing because it makes us more credible - we are totally helpless in showing "the way to reach it", "the steps", "the stages", "the secure means" to holiness. You see? Immediately if you start addressing these issues, you'll have “resistance”. From the “we can't do that”, to “it is not the same for everybody”, “we can't know if we are there”, “we can't monitor the growth”, “there are no defined steps for a journey”, or you might end up by the contradictory statement (contradictory with the previous n°1 (see above)): “holiness is not for everybody”.

What remains in your hands? Simply: almost nothing. This is what Jesus would call: an unsuccessful life. There are “NO FRUITS” in this life (as needed according to the Gospel). We are trees that never reach their completion: the fulness of their hight (or if we do so, we are seen as "big mountains", "Hercules", "incredible Hulk" or... name it: exceptions.). We speak too much, and do nothing when we get to serious matters. We are trees that don't know how to reach completion.

A successful Christianity, a successful “Spiritual Theology” (it is the strictly the same thing), happen when you have in front of you and very well defined:

- a clearly defined goal,
- clear steps as well
- accessible practical means to reach it.

Otherwise, you might just call being christian: foolishness. We do leave holiness to randomised attempts, made by some "foolish" ones who decide to go for the journey.

A successful pedagogue (teacher) is the one that takes you from A to Z, through b, c, d, and so on. If your pedagogue didn't go through b, c, d, he/she can't really help you for long time. Simple! Wake up! “Successful” is: to be able to lead you, to show you the way, until you reach completion.
The real teacher has a “secure teaching” that leads to the Goal. He offers a secure complete journey.

A “Spiritual Theology” that doesn't perform these tasks is simply: chatter. Avoid loosing time and energy. Just an example: when you start reading John of the Cross: from page one, he sets the goal, and embarks you in a journey, that leads you to the maximum, to the top of the Mountain. He has the audacity to do so. He IS a Spiritual Master. Now we need spiritual Masters that are not only books we read, but humans that are here on earth with us. We don't need people who start the journey with you, with great audacity!, but don't know how to lead you when you face certain advanced steps, and are certainly incapable to lead you to the goal!

Do you see what I mean by “Successful Spiritual Theology”?

Unsuccessful Spiritual Theology is simply: ridicule.

Suppose one of you wants to build a Tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ " (Luke 14:28-30)

- That "tower" is “holiness”. It is very high, high as God himself is high, because He is the Holy One.
- “enough money to complete it”: your first money here is the direct Call from Jesus. The second money here is “knowledge” of the Goal and of the journey and the means (Spiritual Theology). The third “money” here is: your determination, your entrepreneurial spirit, your adventurous spirit.
- “sit down, and estimate” sir... sit down... if you have the first and the third, do you have the second money? If you don't know, you don't have the knowledge, the secure knowledge, the “successful Spiritual Theology”, then, how would you do it? You'll start, as many start, but you won't be able to finish it.... what a ridicule thing to see: an unfinished building !!!

Please do join-in in understanding what is “Successful Spiritual Theology”. This is serious matter; not to be taken lightly. Random or general indications are not enough. The journey is serious, and serious secure knowledge is needed. Otherwise stopping in front of your unfinished “work” : “everyone who sees it will ridicule you”.

When life starts, and you stop it, what is it called? - Abortion.
When spiritual life starts in you (that is Jesus in you) and you stop it (out of "unsuccessful spiritual theology") how do you call it? I would use the same word.

Is the Life of Jesus in you, and its completion less important? Com'on.