Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Goal of our Striving

These are my notes for our first lectures on Spiritual Theology in spiritual theology. Feel free to comment.

Spiritual theology is the queen or servant of all theology dogmatic and moral, speculative and applied. It applies the doctrines of the faith to the perfection of the moral life to determine the nature and analyze the parts of Christian perfection, mysticism and asceticism, their specific elements, stages of growth, the means to attain it, aids, the stages of prayer, discernment of spirits, ordinary and extraordinary mystical phenomena. As such, it takes up both the questions of ascetical theology and mystical theology. In the methodology of our class, these questions are taken up from the perspective of the ultimate end of the divine economy.

What is the ultimate end of the divine economy?
Perfect unity of creatures in with the Trinity

What is the mystical life? This is the object of mystical theology.
1. Unity with the mystery of Christ through the mysteries of the Church unto union with the mystery of the Holy Trinity
2. All activity under the impetus of the Holy Spirit that by grace attains union with God.
3. Ordinary operative graces that flow from baptism when not impeded by personal sin.
4. There are also extraordinary operative graces or charisms that do not ordinarily flow from baptism, but are granted to support the normal development of baptismal grace.

What is the ascetical life? This is the object of ascetical theology.
Asceticism means exercises or discipline and includes all human activity that freely cooperates with grace to dispose to God’s actions.

Lecture on Spiritual Experience and the Goal of our Striving
Spiritual Experience is deeper than thought, desire, imagination, memory –
It is of the heart: communal, ecclesial, liturgical, Christological, Trinitarian – as such what characterizes it is always the glory of God.

The Glory of God
Divine Glory is the radiant dynamism of God’s truth and goodness, his beauty that evokes the gift of self in total love. This glory is intrinsic and extrinsic in kind.

Inner life of the Trinity has an intrinsic glory that whose dynamism evokes a response
The response is the extrinsic glory manifest in the Work of the Trinity outside itself.
Greatest glory given by the human person – one’s salvation
Ultimate End: The Glory of God
Proximate Ends: Christian Perfection: Salvation B Beatitude
Means: Pursuit of Holiness: Sanctification B Life of Grace

St Thomas
Beatitude constitutes mans ultimate perfection I-II q3 a 2 and 4
I ,q 26, a1: Final beatitude in glory depends on
1) total perfection
2) knowledge of the good possessed in glory – the beatific vision

How can the intellect see God since it is not proportionate to him?
The encounter of God’s glory in the heart unleashes supernatural power purifying and transforming our faculties – this is only brought to completion in the life to come through the light of glory but it begins now in the life of faith. Spiritual experiences relate to this encounter insofar as they are purifying, transforming and uniting to God. These experiences include operative graces (God’s action that we receive and sanction) and cooperative graces (God’s blessing and aid to human efforts directed to preparing the soul for His action.)
Key Concepts:
Purification - sorrowful experiences by which the soul empties itself or is emptied for life with God
Transformation – yearning experiences by which God prepares the soul for a union of love
Union -- joyful experiences by which the soul enjoys the God’s friendship
Operative Grace - Gifts of God’s operation
Cooperative Grace - Gifts that allow Man’s cooperation

How do we get there?
The kenosis of Christ reveals the dynamism of Gods glory and the pattern of realizing it in our lives. It is the pattern of radical and reckless self-gift, of self-emptying out of a merciful love for the plight of a friend who suffers. This pattern reveals the nature of Christian holiness – friendship love of God. Affectively this is what God gives to each Christian and effectively it is what Christians share with one another and the whole world in response. The response is apophatic – a letting go of this world and a leaping into the love of Christ.

Key Concepts
Kenosis – Christ’s total self emptying love
Apophasis – leaping into the mystery of Christ’s love, an imitation of Christ’s kenosis, purifying inordinate attachments to this world, transforming the heart for a unity with the Trinity of which this life is meant to be an anticipation.

The Scriptures and the Spiritual Life
Why are the Scriptures dynamic for the Spiritual life?
To understand the role of the Scriptures in the spiritual life, we must begin with the premise that these writings are the Word of God, and that this Word is, above all, the divine person who became flesh and dwelt among us. The Scriptures are not static for the spiritual life but dynamic. That is why different saints throughout the centuries have had their lives completely transformed by just one verse: ‘go sell all you have’ for St. Anthony, ‘make no provision of the flesh’ for St. Augustine. The encounter of Christ in the Scriptures evokes apophasis and this is the beginning of the spiritual life.

What is apophasis and how is it related to kenosis?
The human leap into the mystery of God’s love follows the same pattern of the Word made flesh who emptied himself, it is also a response to the dynamism of Christ’s gift of self.

Preaching and the Beginning of the Spiritual Life
How do ministers of the Word lead souls to encounter Christ in the Scriptures, to begin the spiritual life?
This Word is self-emptying, it comes to us through kenosis (he emptied himself) and invites us to leap into the mystery of his reckless love. This is implicit in every word of the Word of God. That is why the Church recognizes that beyond the literal meaning of the text, there is also a spiritual meaning even when the literal meaning does not seem spiritual. We search for this spiritual meaning by asking, not only literal questions, but also allegorical, moral, and anagogical questions:
Allegorically, we can see a given text in relation Christ and the work of redemption, or in relation to the liturgy and the sacraments.
Morally, we can see a given texts in terms of exemplars to imitate or patterns for the Christian life.
Anagogically, we can see a given text in relation to the ultimate end of the divine economy, the final eschaton. Sometimes an anagogical truth calls on us through all the senses of the text: literal, allegorical, and moral. We demonstrated this in terms of the holiness of God revealed Exodus 3 and 4.

Lecture on Our Life in Christ
The Scriptures are a source of encountering Christ, but they in fact reveal that he is present in more wonderful ways than even the written word. On the level of divine revelation, it is appropriate to say that Christ has come once and for all. There is no new revelation objectively speaking. But subjectively, the coming of Christ is still being realized and in the power of the Holy Spirit this coming is dynamic and continual. This means he is always present to us in the world in new ways. Presences of the Word in the World can be distinguished in seven kinds - the presences are experienced in ever new ways by each and every soul searching for Christ – because Christ is searching for each and every soul.

1. Creation
2. Hypostatic union
3. Personal, the Grace of Indwelling
4. Ecclesial, the holy synaxis gathered in prayer
5. Scripture and Tradition
6. Eucharist and other Sacraments
7. Eschatological, all things are ordered to Christ’s power and authority

Our Life in Christ

Reasons for the Incarnation – (1) salvation, (2) to reveal Father’s love, (3) to provide example of obedience, and (4)to deify humanity
Achieved through the visible and spiritual missions

Coming of Christ established his mystical Body
Incorporation-- members of the mystical bodyB the Way (Christ as means of holiness)

Through his mystical Body he communicates himself to us:
Exemplar of Holiness B the Truth (the following and the imitation of Christ)

Efficient, meritorious, mystical head B the Life (union with Christ)
Mystical Head
order (hierarchy)
perfection (full of grace)
Power (all comes from him)

How do we receive this?
sacraments and living faith

The glory of God is the ultimate end, our sanctification is the proximate end and incorporation in Christ is the only way of attaining both ends. Everything depends on living the mystery of Christ with ever increasing intensity because Christian spirituality is nothing other than an intimate participation in the mystery of Christ.

Spiritual Experience and the Divine Indwelling
How are the invisible missions of the Son and the Spirit distinguished and related to each other?
According to St. Thomas (ST I, q. 43) To be sent means to be present in a new way, the Word and the Spirit are present whenever we become more like them in knowledge and love. Hence, the Word comes or is sent with every new knowledge that stirs up love for God, and Spirit comes with the stirring of the affection of our love for God. These missions always go together meaning that with every new increasing in knowledge there is an increase in affection. Through this knowledge and love, the Word and the Spirit avail themselves to the soul to be enjoyed and to be of service. The Father sends his Son and the Spirit so that souls may enjoy union with God and be enabled to accomplish some great work. The Son and the Spirit place themselves at our disposal for this purpose. The missions of the divine persons are the source of the divine communion and personal vocation of each soul.

Spirituality of the Early Church
The spirituality of the Early Church derives from this reflection on how Christ is encountered. Their spirituality was Christ centered, eschatological, ascetical, liturgical and communal. It was based on an imitation of Christ, seeing in his coming, his death and his resurrection a pattern to be imitated and a mystery to plunge into. The community waiting for his coming and in liturgical prayer was vital to this imitation of Christ, it enabled it because it provided the dynamism of His presence.

Accordingly, through imitation of Christ, the early Church understood that it was realizing Christ’s command to perfection and the teaching of the Apostles to imitate Christ.

Key Scripture passages:
Command to perfection
Some pertinent passages:
Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect Mt. 5:48, Col 3:14, 1 Jn 4:19
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful Lk 6:36
Enter through the narrow gate Mt 7: 13-14
Be imitators of God. Ephesians 5:1

N.B. Notes for the lecture on the supernatural organism will be provided in a future posting.

Lecture on Command of Christ to Perfection

St Thomas “Beatitude constitutes mans ultimate perfection” see I-II q 3 a 2 and 4; I, q 26
Christ is the efficient cause, meritorious cause, and mystical head of the spiritual life: That is life in union with Christ by which we enter into beatitude.
The glory of God is the ultimate end, our sanctification is the proximate end and incorporation in Christ is the only way of attaining both ends. Everything depends on living the mystery of Christ with ever increasing intensity because Christian spirituality is nothing other than an intimate participation in the mystery of Christ.

In this context we know that Christ commanded us to be perfect in this life. Given our sinfulness is this really possible? To answer this question we must consider the nature of Christian perfection.

The Perfection of the Christian Life

Perfection is the condition of being completed or finished without excess or defect – the end of a process, a totality and plenitude, a fullness of being – sense these words have many meanings depending whether we are speaking about specific or a totality of acts, the term perfection is analogous.
Perfection is absolute and relative – absolute perfection is found only in God, creatures are relatively perfect (in relation to him)
Relative Perfection can be
(1)essential (a perfection of the very substance of the soul),
(2)operative (a perfection of the psychological actions of a soul),
This is transitory in the life, permanent in the life to come.
(3) final (a permanent state, the beatific vision), instrumental, primary
(pertaining directly to charity) and secondary (pertaining to other virtues formed by charity).

In Christian perfection, it consists primarily, but not exclusively in charity, in charity friendship love of God. Essentially sanctifying grace and operatively charity either in itself or through other virtues. The acts of other virtues attain to a secondary perfection that serves the union with God that charity establishes. Instrumental perfection is expressed through the evangelical councils – they are instruments that aid in the pursuit of perfection.

St. Thomas explains that Christian perfection consists especially in charity because charity alone unites us with God while the other virtues initiate or prepare for this union. Summa II-II, 184 a 1.

How do we attain this perfect love – is it really possible in this life? Summa II-II, 184, a. 2
Not in terms of the object loved, that is God, we can’t love God perfectly as he deserves – this is absolute perfection possible only to him.
Not in terms of the lover, that is the soul in relation to God, we can’t always have our affections turned toward him – this is a final perfection possible only in the beatific vision.
However, on the part of the lover in relation to things impeding a perfect love, perfect love is possible in two ways:
1) By removing anything contrary to charity like mortal sin
2) By removing any desire that hinders one’s affection for God – these would not be sinful desires, but desires for otherwise good things that distract us from loving God.


Matt Hartley said...

I'm stilling having a problem with the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic glory. Saying we don't have access to the intrinsic glory of God, but only the extrinsic, seems to blur the distinction between grace and nature, raising up material creation to share that which elevated nature shares, the life of the Trinity. It would seem better to say that natural creation shares in God's extrinsic glory by existing and man through grace shares in His intrinsic glory.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to emphasize again, as I mentioned in class, the importance the Sacraments and the liturgical life have upon spiritual theology. I think the notes sum it up well in describing the early Church,
"The community waiting for his coming and in liturgical prayer was vital to this imitation of Christ, it enabled it because it provided the dynamism of His presence."
The imitation of Christ is a dimension of our faith deeply needed in today's culture and we sometimes struggle too much trying to find ways to do this, or in finding ways to communicate it to our flock. We have the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church to guide us on this journey.

Anthony Lilles said...

Matt -- It depends what we mean by access and participation. By the inaccessibility of the glory of God, I mean that there is something that belongs to God which evokes homage even from creatures in the state of glory by which they recognize he is something other than they, the Holy One and source of all holiness. We do access God's glory in himself enough to recognize this, even by faith, before the light of glory. We do participate in God's glory so as to actually magnify it and evoke praise from the whole cosmos. But we distinguish extrinsic from intrinsic glory to identify what properly inheres in us as creatures and what inheres in God as God. The Holiness of God, the Glory of God, inheres in God instrinsically, and in creatures extrinsically.

The distinction in glory is not reducible to a distinction of nature and grace, both nature and grace proceed from the same divine operation. The extrinsic glory of God consists of both nature (in terms of traces and images) and grace (in terms of likeness) because both proceed from the same and indivisible divine operation. Not only creation but grace by which we share in his nature is part of this very work (see ST I-II, q110, a1 and a2, reply.3). God's grace by which our nature is perfected to participate in his Life and Glory is a special manifestation of God's extrinsic glory.

As I indicated in class, a correct understanding of participation is key to understanding this. Somehow we participate in God's glory without be absorbed or annihilated by it. Although you could say in a certain sense that by grace we possess the glory that is inherent to the inner life of the Trinity, we must also assert that this intrinsic glory does not "inhere" in creatures, even those in the state of glory. His work of grace which culminates in the state of glory is inherent in the creature always as a work outside himself, the creature is always an extrinsic manifestation of his glory however much the creature participates in, shares in, possesses, or sees God's intrinsic glory.

In the order of being, intrinsic glory of the divine nature is not distinguishable from the divine nature, God's Glory and God's Nature are the same - intellectually we distngish these ideas to understand the incomprehensibility of the same reality, but in reality, they are not distinct. So whatever our relation with God's nature, so too our relation with his Glory. Just as we share in his nature without the destruction of our own, so too we share in his glory without losing the glory inherent to us.

Consider this from the greatest union between created and uncreated being -- the hypostatic union. Just as human and divine natures are united but distinct in the hypostatic union of the Eternal Son, so too does human nature remain united but distinct from divine nature by the grace of divine adoption, even in the state of glory. Accordingly, God's instrinsic glory inheres in God and his extrinsic glory inheres in man so that in God's love for us there can be a perfect unity of glory, created and uncreated without one being absorbed into the other.

hector chiapa-villarreal said...

With regard to Matt's question, it seems to me that if we consider the concept of περιχορεςισ as the unique reality of the inner life of the Trinity, we could see how the particular relation between the Divine persons is exclusive to them because only their nature is Divine and the quality of their relationship is determined in a very unique by the same reason. The human person is invited to participate in the inner life of the Trinity thruough grace, participation which will be fullfiled in the beatific vision, even then, the person will always be a creature and because of this condition, the participation in Divine life will be according to the way of being of the participant, and in this way it seems appropriate to affirm that it is a participation in the extrinsec glory of God, because even though it is a real participation in the Divine life, the intrinsic glory is the reality of περιχορεςισ itself, as the life of relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Anonymous said...

Reckless is an often used adjective in this group of notes. If the self-gift of Christ is reckless, how is this to be understood in light of grace never doing violence and working in accord with the principles of nature?

Anthony Lilles said...

Why speak of Christ's love as reckless? Reckless in the sense that Christ loves without concern to violence to himself, that from eternity God has loved us even though he foreknew this love would be the source of a divine 'regret', the pain of which is expressed on the cross. Reckless not against nature (sin is that) but for persons (that is why it is a kenosis). If kenosis somehow truly expresses perichoresis - then Christ's self-emptying reveals a certain kind of reckless love in the Trinity itself, a love of which there are traces in spousal love and parental love, a love unto death - there is no greater, a love stronger than death. Our relation or participation in the intrinsic glory of God is therefore by analogy - we reveal the 'reckless' perichoresis, the inner life of the Trinity, insofar as we imitate by grace the 'reckless' kenosis of Christ. By this analogy, it could be said that we participate in the inner life, insofar as the self emptying love of Christ participates by imitation (and therefore radiates to all creation, but first of all to man) in the perfect love of the Divine Persons, but creaturely participation in divine glory is always extrinsic, by created grace (or divine energies or through the divine splendors) - the more extrinsic glory in creatures conforms to the intrinsic glory of God, the greater its perfection or the more the heart is configured to the heart of Christ the more the glory of human love participates in and reveals the glory of divine love.