Christian Spirituality and Scriptures

Fausto Gomez OP

The development of Christian spirituality is grounded on the sources of Revelation, that is, Sacred Scriptures and Christian Tradition. Christian spirituality has developed exuberantly through the centuries from the teachings of the Sacred Scriptures, through the Fathers of the Church, theologians, mystics, and saints, and the evolving magisterium of the Church. 

The Old Testament (OT) and the New Testament (NT) are the necessary foundation of doctrinal and experiential teachings on spirituality (cf. Vatican II, DV 15). In OT we see how Abraham, Moses, and the prophets experienced the presence of God.  

God created man and woman to his image and likeness (Gen 1:27). He created them with a longing for happiness, for transcendence – for God himself:  “As a deer yearns for running streams, so I yearn for you, my God” (Ps 42:1); “Let your face shine on us and we shall be saved” (Ps 80: 3, 7, 19).  This natural yearning of the human person is implicitly or explicitly a search for God: “If you search for God honestly and sincerely, you will find him” (Deut 4:29). 

The Old Testament presents to believers the close covenantal relationship between God and his people of Israel: “You will be my people, and I shall be your God” (Jer 30:22). The people of Israel are God’s people, “the flock of his sheepfold” (Ps 100:3). They are a people consecrated to God, chosen by him (Deut 7:5), and called to be holy: “I am the Lord, your God; therefore, be holy, for I am holy” (Lev 11:44-45; Hos 11:9). 

Through the Old Testament, primarily in the prophets, we see the interconnectedness of spiritual life (worship of God) and social ethical life (justice towards all, particularly the poor and needy). God is just and merciful and asks his creatures and children both – to worship him and be just: “Faithful love is what pleases me, not sacrifice; knowledge of God, not burnt offerings” (Hos 6:6; cf. Isa 1:15-19; Amos 5:14-15; Jer 7:4-7). Paradigmatic Text: “This is what the Lord asks of you, only this: That you act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with the Lord” (Mic 6:8).  

The Old Testament prepares for the New, and the patriarchs and prophets, for Christ, in whom the spiritual, mystical and moral life is centered. Jesus has “the fullness of divinity” (Col 2:9) and through him, by the power of the Holy Spirit – of his divine grace – men and women become brothers and sisters, all children of the same Father: God the Father. 

Spiritual life implies an encounter between God and the human person. In this encounter, God and the human person are essential, but God is primordial. The objective of any spiritual and mystical life is to experience progressive divinization: a growing loving union with God, which stands for the progressive journey or path to become divine, sharers in a limited but real way of the divinity of God:  only the divine – God – can make woman or man partake of his divinity, and turn her/him mysteriously and somehow in “another He” (St. Catherine of Siena). 

For Christians, God’s experience in life is progressive Christification: to-be-one-with-Christ: “The New Testament is not, above all, doctrine on Jesus Christ but an initiation into the experience of Jesus Christ and, through him, the experience of God” (Anselm Grun). 

The focus of spiritual/moral theology is Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). Thus, the center of evangelization is Jesus Christ, “who was crucified, died and is risen” – and lives (RM 44), and who is Good News to all. For Jesus, the Kingdom, prayer, compassion, detachment, joy, the cross are essential elements of the life of the Disciples of Christ. The Beatitudes, moreover (cf. Matt 5:2-10) are the magna carta of the spiritual, moral and mystical life of his followers. 

Like the prophets of the Old Testament, Jesus  the prophet links spirituality and social-ethical life, love of God and love of neighbor, prayer and compassion (cf. Matt 9:13; Jas 1:27). We may say that the two main characteristics of the spirituality of Jesus are: “his tender and intimate relationship with God,” and “his compassion for the poor, oppressed and suffering” (Richard Woods; cf. Matt 25:31-46). 

God the Father is holy (John 17:11). Christ the Son of God is, like the Father (John 17:10), the Holy One (Luke 4:34; 1:35; Acts 3:14); The Spirit, the love of the Father and the Son, is the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:22, 4:1, and 10:21). Divine grace is the grace of the Spirit, who dwells with the Father and the Son in the graced soul (cf. 1 Cor 3:16-17).  

Christians are “called to be holy (I Pet 1:15; Rev 22:11). For them and others, God’s experience in personal life is progressive identification with Jesus Christ, who lives and shows the incredible experience of God as Father together with the experience of God as unconditional and universal love, principally of the poor and wounded neighbor (cf. Luke 4:18-19). 

The experience of the resurrection of Christ is an experience of the presence of Jesus. Like Mary Magdalene, like Peter and the other apostles, the saints and many other believers in Jesus, the true Christians are able to say:  “I have seen the Lord.” The apostles, especially Peter, Paul and John show believers the path towards union with God in Christ, guided by the Spirit. Peter speaks of the divine grace that makes us “share the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4). Paul talks of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in us and also of the identification with Christ (Rom 5:5; 1 Cor 2:1-2). John the Evangelist underlines repeatedly the unbreakable unity there is between love of God and love of neighbor (cf. 1 John 4:20), and of the impossibility of this love to be present in merciless persons (1 John 3:17-18; cf. Jas 5:1-6).   

With Jesus’ love in our hearts we can truly say: “we love because He first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19).