The Spiritual Life and the Contemplative Charism (3)

“The Creation of Adam”, Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1510.

The spiritual life in the contemporary world, demands a capacity to have an incarnate life. This means, primarily, that the human person ought to live according to body and soul. The Christian religion is known for its emphasis on the spirit, and the denial of the flesh, of the world – which belongs to Satan – and of Satan. Self-denial is the central virtue of the Catholic religion for it corresponds to altruism, that is, charity. Charity is eminently sacrifice. On the Cross, the obedience of Christ to the Will of His Father guides to make the ultimate sacrifice of His Life: Condemned as a criminal, He dies abandoned by His Father and the world. This, however, is not the end; Christ rises again and after 40 days elevates to Heaven before His re-united disciples.

Let us propose, however, a new approach to the Christian spiritual life. One that recognizes the proper place of the spirit of mortification, that is, the power of sacrifice, while at the same time, acknowledging the value of the mortal body — such an approach is inherently based on the mystery of the Incarnation. In this regard, let us first explain what the Incarnation is and what it entails in this respect. The Incarnation is the Catholic doctrine that Jesus-Christ is “the Word become flesh” (John 1:14) come into the night of the world, to bring the Light of the gospel: God has become man, without however, losing His Divine Nature; He lived a human life while at the same time, being Divine. The Incarnation is the central operation in human history, for it inaugurates the messianic times, the new world, the new creation of God, where He introduces a new principle: Grace! It marks then, the marriage of Eternity with Time, and of Christ with His Church. These considerations suffice in our discussion.

How do we apply the truth of the Incarnation to our spiritual life? First, by recognizing the value of our bodies, of our material life. Christ came, to redeem not only the soul, but also the body, for He took on a real Human Body. Hence, the human body that communes with the Eucharist is mystically incorporated into the Body of Christ and granted a share in the Eternal Life of Jesus-Christ. For these reasons, the human body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit and contains the promise of the Resurrection. There is an inherent value in the human body which is granted dignity and in fact, immortality. The body that shares in the Body of Christ, is made immortal, that is, divine. This implies important points on how to treat our human bodies: First, our bodies are created for the Glory of God and ought to praise him always. Second, the human body ought to be respected in its integrity and its health ought to be maintained in order to maintain proper balance. Third, in the case of suffering, the human body ought to be cared with love and attention, for it is sacred. Fourth, we ought to prefer to live according to a life of reason as opposed to the life of penance.

These points can be expanded further by relating them to the life of the soul. The soul is the principle of life of the human body. Without the soul, the body is not living. As such, the body ought to be cared for, with special attention. The spiritual health of the soul is important and it ought to be nourished with a good, virtuous, and pleasing life. Only by living according to reason, is it possible to respect the spiritual life of the soul. In that sense, it can be argued that, the spiritual life of the soul is promoted when the human person imitates the virtues of Jesus-Christ, foremost of which are His obedience, His charity, His humility, and His spirit of sacrifice. Sacrifice is particularly important, and a life lived according to reason simply means a dedication to discipline, order, and virtue. The life of the soul, above all, necessitates the oils of prayer and the sacramental life which infuses spiritual life into the soul — that is, grace. The soul wants to hope in the promises of Christ, and some important notes are to be made in this regard.

A spiritual life that is lived according to the Incarnation demands that we appreciate the natural world with a proper value, that we recognize the place of human society, and that we orient our lives towards the spiritual realm of Eternity. As such, though the world is under the domination of Evil and the Devil, it ought to be recognized as part of the Divine economy and as such, as tending towards the Good of the Divine Society of the Church. The Augustinian conception of history conceives human history as an opposition between the Earthly Jerusalem — the Catholic Church — and Babylon — the world. This is true and the authentic Christian attitude towards history. However, we ought to have a theological conception that recognizes the concrete goodness present in the world, in an attempt to consecrate its institutions to the Trinity and render it Catholic. As such, this is primarily a sociological aspect of the world that ought to be defended and recognized as good. God does not simply see the Evil present within the world, He also acknowledges the goodness of their activity, of work. In this regard, it is work, labor, that ought to be transfigured into leisure, that is, a spiritual activity that unites body and soul for the expression of the Incarnation.

These are considerations that ought to convince us, that, the Incarnation ought to provide the basis of our spiritual lives. We ought to focus our contemplation on this central mystery in human history for it directs towards a new creation, a new form of life, one that reconciles body and soul, man and society, the Trinity and man.

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