Definition And Levels Of Spirituality

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Table of contents

  1. Three Levels of Spirituality
  2. ‘Method or Pattern in Spirituality’
  3. Reflection on Holiness refers to a growing participation in Trinitarian life
  4. ‘The Spiritual Journey’ Three Stages – Purification, Illumination, and Union

For me, Spirituality is to grow in the love of God imbibing the qualities shown by the Lord Jesus Christ and to walk on His footsteps surrendering my whole-self in the service of humanity.

Three Levels of Spirituality

The article speaks of three different but related levels of spirituality. They are as follow- (1) the real or existential level of lived experience, (2) Spirituality of group and varying spiritual traditions and (3) the study of spirituality.

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A person’s lived experience is the first and most basic level of spirituality. This is the real of existential level of spirituality. In this level, the Christian life is guided or influenced by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives the individual and community the gifts, fruits, and charisms that builds up the Christian community. This level of Christian spirituality embraces the whole human person. Since by baptism every Christian is plunged into the lived experience of life in the Spirit, spirituality on the existential level must include the experience of all Christians. The Christian spirituality as lived experience must be personal.

Although it is personal, this experience is neither received nor lived in isolation. Each person is introduced into a particular social and enculturated spirituality. Hence the second level of Christian spirituality is that of group spirituality. It includes family, society, parish, specialized groups, and religious communities and so on and so forth. This level often revolves around the formation of teaching or development of symbols, rituals, artistic and other expression and guidance about the lived reality. This level historically has meant the rise of varying traditions or schools of spirituality. Therefore, there are different emphasise on spirituality.

The third level of spirituality is the study, practical or academic of spirituality. With the demarcation of moral theology from dogmatic theology, there arose the subtle questions and emphasis on morals obligations and casuistry, which robbed theology of its spiritual dynamism. Thus the study of spirituality grew as the separate discipline, as the reaction against this deadening of theology.

‘Method or Pattern in Spirituality’

Christian Spirituality as an academic discipline studies the lived experience of Christian faith. The objective of Christian spirituality is the expansion of knowledge and understanding of God-human relationship. Human being has the innate spark of divine and has the capacity for transcendence and experience the transcendent God who calls everyone to live the life of holiness. One cannot experience God unless God takes initiatives to reveal Himself. “Apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). God calls one once for all but it is human’s response and effort that help him/her to grow in that call. The Second Vatican Council (Lumen gentium 5) asserts the universality of the call to one and same holiness. The constant growth in holiness requires God’s grace and sincere desire to live the life of holiness. Living the life of holiness necessarily require the faith in God. James William Fowler says that there are different stages of faith. One grows in faith not all of a sudden but step by step. There is no shortcut in faith journey or spiritual journey. There are various elements that make up one’s spiritual journey.

Similarly, there are various elements that make up my spiritual journey. They are as follow- prayers (personal and community prayers), fasting, penance, the holy scripture, meditation, reflection, silence, sacraments (especially, the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation), dogma, doctrines, constant examination of the conscience, spiritual conference, retreat, pilgrimage, lives of saints, devotion to Mother Mary and saints, and so on and so forth. The above elements help me to grow in the knowledge, understanding and essentially faith in God. They assist me in my spiritual journey to become holy and to enhance in holiness.

The perseverance in the life of holiness calls for the imitation of Christ. Jesus Himself invites to follow His way, truth and life. The basis of my spiritual journey is Jesus’ way, truth, and life. I am called to be another Christ. Therefore, my life and spiritual journey must be patterned and shaped in Jesus’ way, truth and life. First of all, it is my sincere Desire to grow in my spiritual life and holiness. I must strive for growth and enhancement in my spiritual journey and in life of holiness. Secondly, Self-surrender: the sincere desire to grow in spiritual journey and life in holiness helps me to surrender myself wholly in the hand of God who loves me, cares for me, protects me, guides me, helps me, strengthens me, and so on and so forth. Jesus’ love, care, protection, guidance, help and support lead me to accept Him as my personal God. Thirdly, Praise and Worship: His love, care, protection, guidance, help and support also direct my heart to praise and worship Him. I am created by God out of love that I may worship Him as my Lord and God who died on the cross to save the whole mankind from death and sin. Here, I see the other-centeredness of Jesus which is the invitation for self-transcendence, to let go my ego, pride, anger, and all the negativities; and to be the other oriented person without any prejudice and guile. Fourthly, Loving Service: the self-transcendence and other centred orientation calls for the selfless service in love for the betterment of the humanity without any discrimination of caste, race or religion. Fifthly, Community Building: the other centeredness and selfless service help me to build up a good community. Jesus on earth while His ministry did not separate or isolate Himself but formed a community a disciples. The commandment ‘love one another’ also calls for the community building. Lastly, Witness: being in the community I am called to be the witness of Christ’s way, truth and life by my living the life of faith. It is mandatory for me to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ in the world. This is my pattern to grow in my spiritual journey.

Reflection on Holiness refers to a growing participation in Trinitarian life

What is my understanding of holiness? I have been hearing the word ‘Holiness’ from my childhood. At times, my understanding of holiness consisted in living the life without any sin. For me, a holy person was one who was prayerful; who lived the sinless life; who was away from the things of the world; who never attended any social events or visited any fair. In popular traditional terminology, a holy person was the one who was ‘set apart’ from the world. He was unaffected by joys and sorrows, suffering and pain, and problems and difficulties of others and of the world. Now, my understanding of holiness has been purified. It does not consist in separation from the world but the separation from the way the world acts. It consists in doing God’s will and consciously involving oneself in the daily activity of the world. It is to discover God’s will in my everyday life. It is being just what God wants me to be. For me, holiness is to love God with whole of my heart, soul, understanding and strength and to love others as I love my own self and the entire cosmos.

What is my understanding of Trinitarian life? In my catechism class, I was taught and I do believe that the Holy Trinity is the absolute unity or communion of the three persons Father, Son and Holy Spirit in one Godhead. There is no higher, no lower; no before, no after; no superior, no inferior among them. The members of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, are co-equal and co-eternal. They are related to each other in the perfect communion of love. The holiness of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit consists in love. Therefore, my holiness consists in loving God with whole of my heart, soul, understanding and strength and in loving one another as myself. God is love and he who abides in love abides in God and God abides in him or her. Thus, I become the dwelling place of God. My life becomes the sanctuary, an altar, the tabernacle.

The Holy Trinity is the perfect communion of three persons in one Godhead. The Trinitarian life is the love relationship that exist among the three persons in one God. Therefore, the Trinitarian life become the source, model, a reference point, and an invitation for me to build a two dimensional loving relationship - horizontal relationship and vertical relationship. Horizontally I am related to God (Trinity) and vertically I am related to fellow human beings, nature and with entire cosmos. In horizontal relationship, I get assurance, hope, strength, consolation, comfort, joy, peace, satisfaction and happiness from God to be virtually related to the human beings, nature and cosmos. The question how can I concretely participate in the Trinitarian life and thereby grow in holiness seems to be challenging, but I can participate in Trinitarian life by the grace of God. I can participate in Trinitarian life by personal actions of everyday life; by my sacrifice of time and comfort for others; by being obedient to God, my elders, and superiors; by being humble to everyone; and by living the life for others. In the early morning when I get up, the first thing I do is that I invoke the Trinitarian God by making the sign of the cross and ask the grace and strength to commit myself in the salvific plan of God by way of my service and action. Every service even the smallest one is the means to holiness as far as it is human, sincere, morally good and meritorious. My commitment in the salvific plan of God by way of my loving service for God and fellow human being, and nature helps me to grow in the journey of holiness. It is because love is the epitome of all virtues and highest expression of holiness.

‘The Spiritual Journey’ Three Stages – Purification, Illumination, and Union

The article, ‘The Spiritual Journey’ speaks of ‘Stages’ or ‘Steps’ one takes toward God. Origen saw the spiritual life as passing through three stages by which one first of all purifies ones loves of sin (Stage of Purification) in order, secondly, to be illumined by the grace of God (Stage of Illumination), so that, thirdly, one might find union with God (Stage of Union).

I would try to describe some terms that I have learned through my experience and studies and that might be analogous to the Purification, Illumination and Union. First of all, I would use the term Conversion, transformation, self-discipline, and an ordered life as analogous to Purification. The stage of Purification is commonly associated with the beginners who recognize the need for growth and maturity in spirituality; who desire to reform some attitudes that have guided them until now; who let go bad habits, sinful behavior, and unhealthy attachment to material things and who move towards truthful relationship, authentic self-giving to others, and conscious act of charity, prayer, love and so on and so forth. The term conversion and transformation too are the beginning of spiritual life like that of stage of purification. One forgets the old-self and put on new self. Transformation takes place in orientation; one seeks other-oriented from self-oriented and one focuses on self-discipline and maintains certain orders in spiritual exercises and prayer and meditation.

The stage of illumination is a one step up from the stage of purification. There is significant shift in prayer and meditation. One rise up to the level of contemplation from rambling and wandering meditation and prayer. One shades the slightest of falsehood and have the right understanding of one’s horizontal and virtual relationship with God, self and others. It is not the blissful ecstatic stage or stage of perfect unity with God. I would analogously use the terms earnest seeker or searcher, for illumination. Having the right understanding of God, self and others, one earnestly seeks to realize the state of ecstasy in the relationship with God and perfect union with God.

The stage of union is the realization of the habitual presence of God in one’s life and the experience of being one with God. I would use term oneness as analogous to the term union. There is absolute unity in the trinity, the oneness of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So also, one can have experience of absolute unity and oneness with God in living the life and involving in the daily activity of the world. It is unconscious oneness and union with God like that breathing unconsciously. I breathe continuously but I am unaware of my breathing. The absolute unity and oneness with God is similar to unconscious breathing.

I chose a biography of St.Teresa of Kolkata titled ‘Mother Terese – The Authorized Biography’ by Navin Chawla which exemplifies the Christian life. Navin Chawla has showed in his biography the works and activities of Mother Teresa minutely. Chawla describes the compassionate love and selfless service of Mother Teresa for unwanted, suffering, and the poorest of the poor. When she was travelling to Darjeeling, she saw the suffering and pathetic life of the people. She got a call to serve the poorest of the poor. Chawla describes it as “Call within the Call”. I see at this point the conversion in the mission of Mother Teresa, from the cloistered life to the life in the streets serving the poor, suffering and dying. She recognized Jesus in suffering. The service to the suffering was serving Jesus. She was united with Jesus by her selfless and loving service to the others. I see here the self-giving love for others of the stage of Illumination and the stage of Union. She was united to Jesus through her service and she found all consolation and strength in Jesus in the Eucharist. She is the model of Christian Life who lived all Christian virtues in her life.

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Definition And Levels Of Spirituality. (2022, February 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 13, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/definition-and-levels-of-spirituality/
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Definition And Levels Of Spirituality [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 21 [cited 2024 Jun 13]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/definition-and-levels-of-spirituality/
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