• May 31, 2013

By: Fr. Jerome Nyathi

Spirituality is a certain ENCOUNTER.  Illustrate with a diag. – the history of salvation; incarnation, OT, NT – ALL are called to this ENCOUNTER.

A human being is composed of; Body, Soul and Spirit – This Spirit links us with the SPIRIT (Trinitarian Family).

Modern usage of ‘spirituality’covers many things –wrong usage therefore.  Spirituality does not necessarily mean good, it also brings evil – Evil spirituality.  Thus contradicting spiritualities.

Kourie, C and Kretzschmar, L., in Christian Spirituality in South Africa, p.13 assert observe that contemporary spirituality impacts on the totality of life, it is non dualistic; it does not posit a bifurcation between the secular and the sacred.  It encompasses the entire life of faith, which includes body and mind as well as the social and political dimensions.  Such spirituality considers both the vertical and horizontal dimensions.  And to the two scholars the resurrection of jesus of Nazareth inaugurated and shaped Christian spirituality.

According to Jordan Aumann, Spirituality refers to “Religious or ethical value – becomes an attitude out of which we act”.  In short, it is the means which enables us to an end.

Spirituality is the why and how a human being relates some/all aspects of his or her life to the ultimate end.

Why are you a Catholic—God called me

How do you become one — through sacraments.

The Heart/Soul of Spiritual Theology – See 1 Jn. 1:1-4.  Experience.  John did not hear about the word of love, but encountered him with his hands, eyes ears etc.  St Augustine comments on the first Letter of John; John speaking to us is the one who lay his head on Jesus’ breast in the upper room, the John who knew Christ intimately.  John invites us to fellowship with the one he has experienced.  The beloved disciple is the one who leans on the word at the end of the Gospel. John drank in the mystery so that he is able to communicate it to us.  If we want to understand John’s words, we must drink at the same source…We discover that we are Mary Magdalene, Peter, the People of Israel etc.


Spirituality puts together the two worlds; world of experience and the world of reflection.  Example of what we are saying is clear in Meister Eckhardt who says; “If Christ is not born in me this Christmas, what does Christmas mean to me this time?  It means nothing”.  Spirituality is NOT knowledge about God but knowledge of him.

Signs of the times – There is thirst for religious experience – ‘spirit’ search through physical exercises, music, drugs – to touch the realm of bliss and peace (find meaning in life

Pilgrims are in search.

Is there Eastern and Western spirituality? – Essential elements of the Christian message is the same.  God reveals himself in scripture and tradition, sacraments, liturgy within the apostolic succession

Sources of Spiritual Theology

Common Sources to theology:

Sacred Scripture and Tradition

Vatican II states Sacred Theology relies heavily on the written Word of God, taken together with Sacred Tradition as on a permanent foundation…Therefore the study of the sacred page should be the very soul of Sacred Theology (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine evelation, no. 24)

Scriptures present God as Transcendent and Immanent

Study of mysteries revealed to us helps us to have a certain relationship with them.  Scriptures help us to wish to ascend, wish to fulfil that innate desire in man – desire to be/do good.  The Bible therefore is the rule and standard of all authentic Spirituality.  OT fundamentally says God loves us and needs our response through faith and obedience.  Then in the NT, God’s covnant with Abraham culminates in Christ who is the ‘last revelation’ and source and model of our life in God.

Scripture is the ‘speech of God put down in writing through the guidance of the Holy Spirit’, Tradition transmits the Word of God given to the apostles by Christ.

The two are closely bound linked/connected together – they make a single deposit of the Word of God.

Illustration Note how the Seed is planted and  grows

Tradition is the source of Spiritual Theology at the same level as Scripture because it contains some Scripture anyway  (Jn. 21:25).

First source of Early Christian Spirituality is rooted in early Christianity.

Spirituality was a practical science, a way of life in God.

Early Christians – had practical experience, simple obedience to Gospel message, and were living witness

Goal of spiritual life – simply salvation

Salvation (soteria) – For Plato soteria meant security, a state of prosperity, good health, well being.  Human seek well being and happiness.  Hellenic Philosophers did not agree with the above.  For them happiness came from pleasure/human desires.  Christians knew that happiness is fulfilment of the whole person – St Irenaeus c.a.200A.D. says “The glory of God is man fully alive” gloria dei homo vivens

St Paul makes this exhortation; Mat you be kept safe and blameless, spirit, soul and body, for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Hesed in OT means ‘grace’ – Salvation through Christ  (Acts 4:12) – saved through his name.  Holy Spirit is the life-giver (1 Cor.12:3).

For some, especially in the Catholic Tradition it is about prayer, meditation, confession, making retreats and ascetical practices such as fasting – a way of disciplining the soul. (Practice of spiritual disciplines but weak in translating these to full-time religiosity).

In the Protestant tradition, it is about joyful experience of justification and conversion along with the consequences for ethics and daily discipleship. (Activism and individualism)

Barton, S. C in The Spirituality of the Gospels defines spirituality as that which has to do with the sense of the divine presence and living in the light of that presence. (p. 1). This involves knowing and being known by God, on one hand and responding  with the whole life on the other.  It has to do with life under God, for Christians this life is revealed in Jesus by the Spirit.

Thus we consider the Gospels in this light.  In Matthew, Jesus is God with us (1:23), in Israel there is the understanding of the God of Abraham.  People live as the light of the world (5.14).

Mark talks of the good news of Jesus Christ and of the coming of the reign of God (Mk. 1,15).

In Luke-Acts, there is the strong sense of the way (Lk. 9,51, Acts 9,2) – opened up by Jesus and his apostles in the power of God’s Spirit.  Faith, repentance and perseverance demanded thus.  The fourth gospel talks about a witness (Jn. 1,14) those born again in the spirit. (Jn. 3).

Bible is some kind of ‘love letter from God’.

Spirituality and study of it are self involving, thus best teachers of this are the ones who have progressed in the life of the spirit and life in the spirit. Saint Paul puts it thus; The uspiritual person does not receive the gifts of the spirit of God, for they are folly to him and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.  The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one (1 Cor.2,14-15).

Spirituality of Matthew “Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect” Genealogy – call to all humanity.

Essence of Christian Spirituality.

It is a sense of the divine presence – experiencing and living in the light, Our Father (6,9).  God’s presence is very strong, he is the author of the universe, preparing the way for the birth of the Messiah (1,2-17).  The conception of Jesus is thoroughly miraculous and is attributed to the power and work of the Holy Spirit (1,18,20).  The one who is to be born is to bear witness to the divine presence and divine grace “His name shall be called Jesus, ..save his people from their sins (1,21) and his name shall be called Emmanuel (1.23).  Events at his death his appearances manifest his presence, “I am with you up till the end of the world (28,20) .  Baptismal event also shows his presence.  Jesus teaches with authority (chpts. 5-7), transfiguration.  Matthew’s gospel is both theocentric and christocentric.

God’s presence is experienced as fatherly. This has a number of dimensions.  First is providence – he sustains the world or his creatures. He makes the sun rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the just and unjust (5,45).  Second, there is the recognition of his final authority and humble dependence upon him.  Jesus shows this at the temptation (4, 1-11).

Third, God’s experience of father involves an awareness of living in a spiritual relationship.  Life of obedience to God and humility in the service of God since this is not a relationship of equals, yes relationship of reciprocity (6,14-15). Idea of Jesus as a teacher is also illustrative of what we are saying (sermon on the mount).  Disciples also turn out to be instructors (28,20) Learned is by being with Jesus in Matthew’s mentality – watch with me 26,38 and 40.  Later this concept is understood as gathering in his name where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst 18,20. Also learned by hearing the commandments of Jesus and doing them.