Christian Spirituality


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The History of Christian Spirituality in the Catholic Tradition


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Christian Spirituality:

Christian Spirituality In the Catholic Tradition

The Spiritual Life:

The Spiritual Life Sacred Scripture and

Laying a Foundation:

Laying a Foundation The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Verbum Dei , Vatican II, 1965

Verbum Dei:

Verbum Dei “Sacred theology relies on the written Word of God, taken together with sacred Tradition, as on a permanent foundation….”

Verbum Dei:

Verbum Dei “Therefore, the ‘study of the sacred page’ should be the very soul of theology….”

Verbum Dei:

Verbum Dei “In the sacred books the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them.”

Scripture’s Primary Witness:

Scripture’s Primary Witness God has acted in the life of man The Bible then is not so much a code of laws or a book of questions and answers Rather, it is a history of what God has done in the lives of men It is a history of what God has done for humanity as a whole In order to fulfill in them the design of grace.

Who is This God?:

Who is This God? One does not go to the Bible to get ideas about God and to talk about God One goes to the Bible to understand what God is to us and to respond to his presence

The Fathers of Vatican II:

The Fathers of Vatican II “It pleased God, in his goodness and wisdom, to reveal himself and to make known the mystery of his will (cf. Eph 1:9). His will was that men should have access to the Father, through Christ, the Word made flesh, in the Holy Spirit, and thus become sharers in the divine nature (cf. Eph 2:18; 2 Pet 1:4). By this revelation, then, the invisible God (cf. Col 1:15; 1 Tim 1:17), from the fullness of his love, addresses men as his friends (cf. Ex 33:11; Jn 15:14-15), and moves among them (cf. Bar 3:38) in order to invite and receive them into his own company.”

In Other words…:

In Other words… God makes himself known to us by what he does for us God makes himself known to us by the extent to which he intervenes in our human history Ultimately, this creates a relationship in which God approaches man, and man, by a free act of faith, offers himself to whatever God wants to effect in and through him.

The Bible, therefore…:

The Bible, therefore… Is the word of God that reveals to man his high destiny Answers man’s innate desire to rise from a fallen condition and to experience the divine Is the rule and standard of all authentic supernatural life Ultimately, seeks to fashion us in the image of God

The Christian Spiritual Life:

The Christian Spiritual Life Everything must be understood and evaluated in the light of Scripture Sacred Scripture ever remains the unifying factor and the ultimate standard It transcends all diversity Our task, then, is to determine the basic principles of the Christian life as revealed in the Bible That is to say, the truths that are valid for every Christian of every age and state of life

Biblical Interpretation:

Biblical Interpretation Of course, for a Christian spirituality, the New Testament will have priority But, unless we understand the Old Testament, we cannot understand the New The Bible is the word of life because it is the word of truth We, therefore, accept the teachings of Scripture on God’s terms and not try to force into our own intellectual context

The Old Testament:

The Old Testament

Man of Antiquity:

Man of Antiquity “The first chapter of Genesis is the first chapter of faith.” (Yves Congar ) In opposition to the pagan religions that were born of out of fear of an unknown deity. Man of antiquity had an awareness of the sacred which he expressed in a cultic religion that was shrouded in various mythologies Religion was a projection of his instinctive needs, such as health, life, fertility, protection against the unknown

An Immediate context:

An Immediate context Recognition that man must somehow participate in the creative powers…of a god or gods Fertility cults arose as a basic form of worship concerned with expressing the intensity of the desire of men to participate in the power of the gods


Genesis But the Book of Genesis records that the first step in man’s relation with God was his creation in the image of God in a state of innocence The state of innocence was later lost because of man’s sin We know nothing of the “original sin” but that man became acutely aware of sin and therefore found access to the one, true God much more difficult

God’s Initiative:

God’s Initiative Truly, the OT is the record of God’s initiative in the salvation of man…his return to innocence and perfect communion with God Time and again, the OT records God’s goodness to the descendants of Abraham reaching a climax in the golden age under David and Solomon Time and again, God revealed Himself through his actions…often accompanied by signs

The Exodus:

The Exodus The sign par excellence was the Exodus from Egypt Accompanied by so many miraculous events that the people could not doubt thaat they were under the special care and protection of their God God Himself became involved in man’s earthly existence Demonstrating that God is at once transcendent and immanent

Man Revealed:

Man Revealed “The living God is affirmed by the Bible as sovereign source and measure, to which man and all things must unceasingly be referred and must conform so that one does not just exist but exists truly , realizing the meaning, the fullness of one’s existence.” (Yves Congar )

God’s Initiative; Man’s Response:

God’s Initiative; Man’s Response But…God’s initiative demands a response from Israel By obedience to the law given on Sinai By religious worship Thus, the obligation of the people to observe the terms of the covenant is solemnly ratified by the holocaust, the sacrifices and the sprinkling of blood (Ex 24:3-8) But, ritual must always proceed from and bear witness to a living faith and obedience to God’s word

The prophetic tradition:

The prophetic tradition A constant and continual call to faithfulness Not so much to ritual But rather to our creation as creatures in the image of God The call to repentance and conversion is central to the prophetic mission Cf. Is 54:4-8

Approaching the God of Jesus Christ:

Approaching the God of Jesus Christ Hence, we have reached the high point in God’s revelation of Himself No longer simply as God of power and majesty ( Yahweh Sabaoth = God of armies) But as Father of love and mercy!

The OT’s Bottom Line:

The OT’s Bottom Line God loves us and asks our response to his love through faith and obedience This is not “stated” as such in the OT Rather, it is revealed in God’s interventions in human history; especially in his relations with Abraham and Moses The “wisdom books” (i.e., Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiates , Ecclesiasticus , Wisdom) provide maxims according to which man can guide his life as a response to God’s love and mercy

OT morality:

OT morality Personal effort based on A deep trust in God The entire OT is oriented to the perfect communication of God to man The newness of the eternal covenant consisting precisely in the Word made flesh, through whom the kingdom of God will be definitively established

The OT and Christianity:

The OT and Christianity For us, the OT, ultimately, is the preparation for Xt and His kingdom “The economy of the Old Testament was deliberately so orientated that it should prepare for and declare in prophecy the coming of Christ, Redeemer of all men, and of the messianic kingdom…. For in the context of the human situation before the era of salvation established by Christ, the books of the Old Testament provide an understanding of God and man…

The ot and Christianity:

The ot and Christianity “…and make clear to all men how a just and merciful God deals with mankind…. Christians should accept with veneration these writings which give expression to a lively sense of God, which are a storehouse of sublime teaching on God and of sound wisdom on human life, as well as a wonderful treasury of prayers; in them, too, the mystery of our salvation is present in a hidden way.” ( DV , n. 15)

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