Exhumator Esoterics

Encyclopedia of Spiritual — Letter C - CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY

CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY
Exhumator Esoterics
Exhumator Esoterics





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Christian spirituality describes a quality of life or a collection of practices that, according to Christian theology, fosters responsiveness to the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Christian Godhead. Christians believe that spirituality or spiritual practices, which range from prayer to seeking justice, not only cultivate their love for God, but they also foster love for neighbor and true selfhood-the optimum state of individual flourishing. While Christian spirituality, due to the early influence of Greek philosophy, has sometimes been identified with escaping or denying this life and body for a heavenly realm, in its fullest expression it is concerned with enhancing and completing embodied human life. Irenaeus, the second-century bishop of Lyons, proclaimed, "The glory of God is humanity fully alive," which identifies human flourishing with God's glory. Christians expect that connecting their lives to the Spirit's activity of embodying God's love in the world will culminate in the Kingdom of God, in which all creatures embody the purposes of God and their deepest yearnings. Christian understandings of spirituality have as sources the stories of God's work in the world, as contained in the Bible and elaborated by theologians, but also the concrete practical experiments of Christians throughout history. A more complete grasp of Christian spirituality requires an articulation of its Trinitarian theological context and its particular practices.

THE TRINITARIAN THEOLOGICAL CONTEXT OF CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY

According to Christian theology, spirituality is first a quality or practice of the inner life of God before it is a human quality or practice. The Biblical theological assertion that "God is love" describes the inner life of the Triune God, characterized by lively, interdependent, and mutually enhancing relationships among the Three-in-one, and approximated in Christian spiritual practices that engage practitioners in a similar dance of self-giving love with God and neighbor. This Trinitarian communion of mutual love is the primary condition for the flourishing of individual and corporate life, for diversity and unity within the inner life of God. Yet according to Christian Trinitarian theology, since God's nature is love, God's life cannot be contained within these internal Trinitarian relationships, but in order to be sustained as love must be extended. In creating the world, God extends this love. Indeed, God created a world in God's own image, in which love or mutually enhancing interrelationship-ranging from environmental ecosystems to human development- is a condition necessary for its flourishing.

The failure of humans to live in such lively, mutually enhancing, and loving relationships with each other, God, and all creation describes our brokenness or sin. Failing to live in loving mutuality means that humans cannot live into the fullness or glory for which we were created, nor can we support the general good of humankind and creation so that they too may be lifted into the glory for which they were created. In addition to extending God's love through creation, God also extended love in the advent of Jesus Christ, whose reconciling ways of living and dying open us to the love that is internal to God and required by creation for its flourishing. After Jesus' ascension into heaven, Christians believe that the role of the Holy Spirit is to further God's love by awakening humans to God's love, empowering them into the fullness for which they were created and extending love to all creation.

The culmination of God's Kingdom as envisioned in Christian theology involves restoring all creation to the glory for which it was intended, including lively, mutually enhancing, loving interaction with all. In this eschatological vision, diversity does not involve isolation or fragmentation, but includes mutuality and complementarity among people, God, and all creatures. In this vision, unity does not involve obliterating or ignoring differences, but a harmony in which all are empowered in their uniqueness in and through their relationships with God and neighbor. This unity that the Spirit is knitting together, toward which all Christian spiritual practices are inclined, mirrors the inner life of God.