Christian life is a spiritual and moral life. For St. Thomas Aquinas theology and spiritual theology is “one and the same thing.” Similar is the stand of St. Bonaventure. For both doctors of the Church and the traditions they represent theology is one, not yet divided in their time between dogmatic and moral theology. Spiritual theology permeated the different theological treatises such as the Trinity, Creation, Christology, grace and the sacraments, prayer, etc. It was – and is – more closely connected with moral theology or Christian ethics.


Christian life is a spiritual and moral journey to complete happiness with God. It is, centrally, a journey by steps of love and the other virtues that love – as the form of all virtues – vivifies. Virtues are rooted in grace and make people flourishing human beings and Christians: the theological virtues connect us directly to God and the moral human virtues, with other human beings and creation. How may one separate really moral and spiritual theology in Christian life which is one, moral and spiritual at the same time?

Historically, spirituality is centered on prayer, ascetic life and personal devotions. It refers traditionally to the “interior life,” to “one’s self-awareness of presence-to-God.” Let us reflect briefly on spirituality, in general, and on Christian Spirituality, in particular.

Currently, spirituality is understood as the whole life of a person, a life that integrates personal and social life, faith and good deeds, prayer and work, love of God and love of neighbor, contemplation and work for justice and peace. Spiritual life includes both a religious experience and an ethical praxis. Spirituality leads to transcendence, to interior life and to others. It is an inner and outer journey of the person.

Spirituality without adjectives can be understood as the inherent natural longing or desire for self-transcendence, for God. Spirituality is often described as a personal quest for meaning or as an inner journey. This natural quest, this interior journey may or not be directed to God or the Spirit. This spirituality without God is described in various ways: within a bio-centric, or an anthropocentric, or a cosmic horizon as connectedness respectively with other living beings, or human beings, or with all, including inanimate beings.

Spirituality may be described in various complementary ways. It is being and living in God’s presence, walking according to the Spirit, witnessing holistic harmony. The human person, the center of spirituality, is body-soul, interiority and relationship, open to God and to others – in, what Leonardo Boff calls, “altruistic service.” Thus, in a religious context we may define the spirituality of the human person as “the affirmation of life in a harmonious relationship with God, self, community and environment that nurtures and celebrates wholeness” (National Interfaith Coalition for Aging).

A radical dimension of all kinds of spirituality is its anthropological grounding. Spirituality is a journey to transcendence, to the Absolute, to God. It is the journey of every human person longing for happiness, for union with divinity. For Christian anthropology, the human person is created to the image of God One and Triune, recreated in Jesus, Son of God and Man-for-Others, and renewed constantly in the Holy Spirit.

All religions and religious movements have a kind of spirituality, or a way of life according to the spirit, to reason, to faith, to God’s commandments, to the fundamental option or basic choice of life. Thus, we may speak of different kinds of spirituality: Hindu spirituality, Buddhist spirituality, Islamic spirituality, New Age spirituality, etc. Within the Christian tradition, we talk of mainline Protestant Spirituality, Evangelical Spirituality, Orthodox Spirituality and Catholic Spirituality.


Christian spirituality combines two intertwined elements: transcendent and immanent, personal and communitarian, natural and supernatural, contemplative and active, temporal and eschatological. In his book Spiritual Theology, A Systematic Study of Christian Life, Simon Chan develops well the main criteria – formal and material – of a true Christian spirituality for our age.

One may talk today of various models of the Christian ideal of life – of spiritual and mystical life: the models of holiness, perfection, loving union with God, following Christ, doing God’s will, contemplative and unitive prayer, and the flame of love. The fundamental truth for all models is this: all believers are called to holiness, that is, to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity as love of God and neighbor, to the union with God, to doing his will, that is, the salvation of the world.

In the Catholic tradition there are three basic forms of Christian spirituality according to the three paths of living out the specific personal vocation, namely, priestly life, consecrated life and lay faithful life. Moreover, and within the various religious orders congregations and priestly and lay movements and associations, there are different specific spiritualties, for instance, Benedictine or Franciscan spirituality, Opus Dei spirituality, Ascending Life spirituality, etc. Radically, Christian spirituality is one: the experience of God through Jesus Christ in the Spirit. Hence, as Simon Chan writes, “no single type of spirituality satisfies everyone.”

Christian spirituality is the spirituality – or the life – of the believers in Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Mary, Brother and Savior. It is the spirituality of the followers of Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (cf. Jn 14:5-7).

A well-known expert, Fr. Thomas Green, SJ, defines Christian spirituality as “the whole way of life, which is our response to the loving initiative of God revealed in Christ Jesus.” (Come Down Zacchaeus: Spirituality in the Laity). Underlining its social dimension, Daniel G. Groody describes Christian spirituality thus: “Christian spirituality is about following Jesus, living out the values of the kingdom of God, and generating a community transformed by the love of God and others.” He adds: “Lived out in its personal and public dimension, Christian spirituality is the way in which the invisible heart of God is made visible to the world”(Globalization, Spirituality, and Justice).