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Spiritual Theology


Modern definition of spirituality: 'that which is transcendent in and ... Compline (bedtime) Night Office: Matins (Vigils) (2 or 3 am) Eastern Distinctives ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Spiritual Theology

Spiritual Theology
  • Traditional definition of spiritual/ascetic/mystic
    al theology that part of theology that,
    proceeding from the truths of divine revelation
    and the religious experience of individual
    persons, defines the nature of the supernatural
    life, formulates directives for its growth and
    development, and explains the process by which
    souls advance from the beginning of the spiritual
    life to its full perfection. (Aumann, Spiritual
    Theology, p. 22)

Definition (cont.)
  • Modern definition of spirituality that which
    is transcendent in and beyond us (Miller, 1999).
  • Modern definitions tend toward universality and
    inclusivity, and are correspondingly vague and
    empty of content.

  • Aquinas two conditions of final beatitude in
    glory (Summa Theologiae I, q. 26, a. 1)
  • Perfection of the individual
  • Knowledge and experience of God and the good
  • Beatific vision the intimate and joyful union
    of the souls of the blessed with God in glory
    (Aumann, p. 42). See 1 John 32 1 Cor. 1312.

  • Two primary approaches
  • Apophatic (negative) theology God in negation,
  • Kataphatic (positive) theology God in presence
  • Some writers consider these separate stages (e.g.
    the Carmelites), other see individuals as
    inclined toward one or the other of these paths

  • Standard division
  • Via purgativa/Purgation an intense and
    profound purification of all the faculties and
    powers of the soul and body (Aumann, p. 177).
    Focus on avoiding sin and resisting temptation.
  • Via illuminativa/Illumination. Focus on progress
    in the good, advancing in charity.
  • Via unitiva/Union.
  • Stages can be intermingled.

Stages (cont.)
  • Other similar schemes
  • Aquinas Beginners, proficients and perfect
    (Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 24, a. 9).
  • Hugh of St. Victor, Underhill Preliminary stage
    of awakening.

Stages (cont.)
  • Purgation
  • Moral reform and confession self-knowledge
  • Physical discipline food, sexuality
  • Mental discipline guarding the heart (Hilton)
  • Detachment from created things self-denial
  • Suffering
  • Development of humility

Stages (cont.)
  • Illumination
  • Increasing sense of the presence of God
    occasional mystical experiences
  • Increasing sense of love for all things and
    oneness with them

Stages (cont.)
  • Union Description
  • that most intimate kiss of all, a mystery of
    supreme generosity and ineffable sweetness.
    (Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermons on the Song of
    Songs, 3.5).
  • Thus the soul which finds its good in cleaving
    to God will not consider itself perfectly united
    with him until it perceives that he abides in her
    and she in him. Note even then may she be said
    to be one with God as the Father and Son are one
    . (Bernard, 71.6)
  • when God and man cleave wholly to each
    other--it is when they are incorporated into each
    other by mutual love . (Bernard, 71.10).

Stages (cont.)
  • Union Characteristics
  • Ineffability
  • The breath of your beloved is to me a goodly
    odor, and I receive of its fullness gratefully,
    in however small measure. For it causes the
    memory of your abundant sweetness to arise in me,
    and I find the ineffable sweetness of your
    condescending love in this saying My beloved
    is mine and I am his. (Bernard of Clairvaux,
    Sermons on the Song of Songs 67.5).
  • In a manner which exceeds description and
    thought, the man of God is found worthy to become
    not God but what God is . (William of St.
    Thierry, Golden Epistle, 263).

Stages (cont)
  • I was within the heaven that receives more of
    His light and I saw things that he who from that
    height descends, forgets or can not speak for
    nearing its desired end, our intellect sinks into
    an abyss so deep that memory fails to follow it
    (Dante, Par. 1.4-9).
  • you who feel, beneath the rays of the eternal
    life, that sweetness which cannot be known unless
    it is experienced . (Dante, Par. 3.37-40).

Stages (cont.)
  • Examples Bernard
  • 3 kisses (Song of Solomon Sermon 3, 4)
  • Kiss of the feet confessio conversion and
  • Kiss of the hand devotio continuing
    repentence, avoiding sin
  • Kiss of the mouth contemplatio mystical union
  • Stages amor carnalis, amor rationalis, amor
    spiritualis (Sermon 20)
  • the love of the heart relates to a certain
    warmth of affection, the love of the soul to
    energy or judgment of reason, and the love of
    strength can refer to constancy and vigor of
    spirit. (20.4).
  • reason is a disposition of the mind ready to
    conform to the truth in all things. (William of
    St. Thierry, Golden Epistle, 202).

Stages (cont.)
  • Richard of St. Victor Stages of contemplation
  • Imagination, e.g. wonder over creation
  • Imagination according to reason, e.g. seek
    rational principle for what we see
  • Reason according to imagination, e.g. speculation
    about invisible things from their similitude with
    visible ones
  • Reason according to reason, e.g. speculation
    about invisible things (celestial souls, highest
    goods) from that which we know through
    experience and acquire from understanding
  • Above but not beyond reason, e.g. divine showings
    of things we cant investigate or grasp fully
  • Above and beyond (or even against) reason

  • Primarily an Interior Journey
  • Knowledge and Reason intellectual process or
    openness to learning
  • Relation and Love affective process
  • Grace and Infused Mystical Experience

  • Ascetical (normal) Prayer and its grades (Aumann,
    Teresa of Avila)
  • Vocal prayer
  • Meditation application of the mind to some
    supernatural truth
  • Affective prayer a simplified meditation in
    which love predominates
  • Prayer of simplicity or acquired recollection
    a simple loving gaze on some divine object

Methods (cont.)
  • Mystical or contemplative prayer direct
    knowledge of God accompanied by delight
    blending of cognitive and affective
  • Teresa Prayer of Quiet (complete absorption in
    God), Prayer of Union, Prayer of Conforming
    Union, Prayer of Transforming Union

Methods (cont.)
  • Sacraments Baptism, Eucharist, Confession
  • Study and reading lectio divina
  • Friendships, spiritual direction and discernment
  • Self-examination
  • Revision of life
  • Focus on spiritual realities
  • afterlife
  • vanity of the world
  • passion of Christ,

Methods (cont.)
  • Daily rhythm, e.g. monastic Divine Office based
    around the Psalms and life of Christ
  • Morning Office
  • Little Hours
  • Prime (6 am)
  • Terce (9 am)
  • Sext (noon)
  • None (3 pm)
  • Vespers (530 pm)
  • Compline (bedtime)
  • Night Office Matins (Vigils) (2 or 3 am)

Eastern Distinctives
  • Spiritual warfare
  • Transcendence
  • Imagery
  • Prayer emphases

Images, Metaphors and Symbols of Spiritual Growth
  • Mutual love between Bride and Bridegroom
    (Bernard, Sermon 83-85)
  • In love alone, of all the movements of the soul
    and the senses and affections, can the creature
    respond to its Creator, if not with an equal, at
    least with a like return of gift for gift.
    (Sermons 83.4).
  • God is sought not on foot but by desire. Any
    the happy discovery of what is desired does not
    end desire but extends it. The consummation of
    joy does not consume desire, does it? Rather, it
    is oil poured on flames, which itself catches
    fire. Thus it is. Joy will be fulfilled (Ps
    1511). But there will be no end to desire, and
    so no end of seeking. (Sermons 84.1).

Images of Growth (cont.)
  • Light and Vision
  • He may not rashly fit his fact to the face of
    the most serene Bridegroom in case he is
    dazzled by light (Pr 2527), and wrapped again in
    a darkness deeper than before. (Bernard, 3.2).
  • Gods true greeting has such force that it
    takes away all the bodys strength and reveals
    the soul to herself and she takes on a divine
    radiance. Then the soul leaves the body, taking
    all her power, wisdom, love and longing . Then
    she sees one complete God in three Persons and
    knows the three Persons in one God undivided.
    (Mechtild of Madeburg, Flowing Light of the
    Godhead, I.2).

Spiritual Direction
  • Seen as important from very earliest times
    (Desert Fathers)
  • Goal Helping the directee grow closer to God
    relationship with God is the primary focus
  • Emphases
  • Prayer as the primary means to relationship
    other disciplines and moral activities also
  • Listening and discernment

Spiritual Direction (cont.)
  • Director-Directee Relationship
  • In modern times, tends to be more egalitarian
  • Hospitality metaphor used
  • Mechanics
  • Regular meetings but less frequent that in
    psychotherapy, typically once a month
  • Retreat format and experience deemed important

Spiritual Direction (cont.)
  • Training
  • Calling the primary qualification, which is
    evidenced by people seeking out the director
  • Ongoing personal spiritual direction essential
  • Experience in the spiritual life
  • Familiar with theological, spiritual and
    psychological literature
  • Familiar with techniques of spiritual growth
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