WHAT IS SPIRITUALITY?
In recent years, if we examine the word spirituality as an aspect of religion we find it more or less carries a statement defining the believer's faith as being more personal, less dogmatic, more open to new ideas, rites and myriad influences, and more pluralistic than the faiths of the established religion. It also can connote the nature of a believer's personal relationship or "connection" with their god or belief system, as opposed to a general relationship with an understanding of that deity shared by all members of that faith. When God's creature searches for Him today, what does he find and where is He found? Unfortunately, if you accept the opening statement or definition we know in recent years that spirituality in religion has changed radically is now more an indication as we have said that the "believer's" faith is more personal, less dogmatic, more open to new ideas and myriad influences, and more pluralistic than the faiths of established religions. Somewhere in there are the boundaries of where the gods or idols of most people today can be found.
Is this what we want rather than what we need? This religious spirituality, the sign of our times today, is a product of the sixties "me too" generation, a form of the term coined then, 'renaissance man', a form of resurrection spun so it that does not contain our God but rather a homespun,self absorbed fixation in our minds that fits our lifestyle. It is or can be seen at times as being pantheistic, with comfort as its chief idol. Spirituality today is the nature of a believer's personal relationship or "connection" with their god or belief system, as opposed to the general relationship with the Deity understood and shared by all members of that faith. When we hear the term, "I am spiritual" are we not saying the word 'spirituality' in the world today is used as a rationalization of feelings and conceivably to be more sensual than a leap of mental faith in committing oneself, mentally and soulfully, to the Holy Deity of the God of Christians? Often times it is a defense system, an act to prevent one's comfortable ego from being questioned and agitated. Again I say it is a continuation of the selfishness of the sixties generation. I do remind you as Cardinal Tomas Spidlik wrote, “One cannot be spiritual without a soul” and as God told Ezechiel, “The soul that sins, dies”
Searching for meanings of the word as rooted and used in Catholicism I came across a definition given by the Apostleship of Prayer. This organization was very prominent in the English Church in which I grew up. It flooded the schools and churches every week with a prayer card and an intention for the prayer of the Catholic faithful that coming week. This is a paraphrase of their definition to give an understanding to the word from a Christian Catholic perspective.
The word “spirituality” is a relatively new word to our dictionaries. Nevertheless, no matter how we define spirituality, integral to that spirituality is the possibility of God's activity in the lives of people. Any person, then, is able to have experiences of God. Without that actuality, the whole religious enterprise is doomed. Throughout history, the question concerning religious experience has had a difficult and torrid time, for an awareness of God's presence engenders hope and healing to many, besides disclosing mystery and meaning to life.
All religious experience is a disclosure of a mysterious, transforming, and claiming presence, which can be only be affirmed, but because it possesses an elusive quality, it cannot be absolutely defined. Attempts at capturing this elusive quality have resulted in the claiming of different kinds of religious experience, depending on which of the five senses or in the Byzantine Church, which passion was involved in the experience. I urge you to take into account the perils associated with these feelings, these passions. The Fathers of the Church warned us strongly about the Passions. The key problem of any spirituality is coming to an understanding of the possibility of God’s or a god's Presence in the lives of people. Underlaying difficulties for faith and religious experience emerge from an inadequate or insufficient awareness of the contextual, cultural and psychological factors and the underlying philosophical paradigms which affect us. For example, Compunction, the gift of tears, is often mistaken for Hysteria, it is a term for a very necessary part of one's spiritual life, yet today it is rarely understood or seen and there is not one Father of the Church, Byzantine East or Latin West who did not urge us to acquire it. St Anthony of Padua puts it very succinctly, “Our souls must be pickled in brine” that is our salty tears.
Now within all kinds of spiritualities, primitive or sophisticated, various developments have arisen because of the dissimilar cultural milieus of the different ages leading to the emphasizing of some diverse element of that age to produce a new spirituality, e.g. the emphasis by St Francis of Assisi on poverty in an age that was becoming very opulent. Thus, in a specific historical age, Jesus' redeeming activity will become concretized in ways that makes use of the characteristics of that age in a new creative spirituality, not necessarily holy. We must believe then that creative spirituality will be the devotion for an age which if it is not already here it is coming upon us. In this way disparate schools of Spirituality will emerge as people struggle to meet a god of their spirituality. Unfortunately this will not spring from the needs of the people as they will not persist in their search for unity with the Almighty and Eternal God, the consuming fire of terrible jealous Love. I would not be far wrong if I write, it is my belief that the element needed today to discover a true spiritual life is humility and I certainly would not want to see abasement, which seems to be the humility we demand of others.
Spirituality can never be a private affair for it can only be sustained by a group of believers in a definite period of history taking into account how that period orients itself to the Bible and tradition. All this means that that in any spirituality there will be relationships not only between God and humans beings but also between human beings themselves.
Gutierrez presents an explanation of Christian spirituality, which we can as members of the of the Catholic Church, see in our worship.
‘Each and every claimed spirituality receives its initial impulse from an encounter with the Lord. That experience determines the path to be followed; it bears permanently the mark of the divine initiative and of the historical context in which it occurred.’
and today we must recognize which god we are seeking;is it mammon, foolishness or Truth