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.

There is today a perceptible growing interest in spirituality in general, and Christian spirituality in particular. Theologians speak today of a post-Vatican II spirituality and a spirituality for the third millennium.

As an autonomous theological science, essentially connected with moral theology, spirituality could be placed also, as some authors already do, on the side of pneumatology. Spirituality or the theology of the Spirit connects deeply with the treatise of grace and of the virtues. Grace implies the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity appropriated to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of grace. Divine grace is an entitative habit that grounds the operative habits of the infused virtues. The supernatural habits of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit perfect the infused virtues, namely the theological and moral virtues.

The greatest challenge of spirituality in the third millennium – I submit – is, undoubtedly, correct practice, orthopraxis. The study of spiritual theology – of Christian life – today is not just to know, but to practice: “To know and not to do is not yet to know” (Buddhist Proverb). One studies spirituality to search for God – for interior space -, to be transfigured, to preach the Good News of Jesus: charitable justice, merciful love and courageous faith and hope.

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 homogeneous evolution of the magisterium of or teachings of the Church.

The concept of Christian spirituality is complex and rich. Hereafter, we point out and explain briefly some of its basic dimensions.

Christian spirituality is a Trinitarian spirituality. Our God is One and Triune, intimate union and communion. Holiness or perfection – the goal of spirituality – is loving union with the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit, a union that issues compassion with all, principally with the needy and the poor. Christians and others may experience the Trinitarian presence of God in the harmonious soul: “My Father and I will love him, and we will come to him and abide in him” (Jn 17:20-24). Today there is a clear return to Trinitarian theology, in particular Trinitarian spirituality, to the point that some theologians speak of a possible “over-trinitarianizing” God at the expense of “the equally true monotheistic conception” (Simon Chan). Like Christian life, spiritual life is a Trinitarian life: the life of a son/daughter of God the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit. God is our Father: Filiation is a key word in Christian life. Jesus is the Son of God and the brother: Fraternity is the second key word. The believers live in the Spirit: grace, or charism, is the third key word in our Christian moral and spiritual life.

Christian spirituality is creational spirituality: Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the principle of all things. God the Father is the creator. God is the Creator of heaven and earth (Is 45:18) to whom all creatures love and adore (Ps 95:6) and whose presence human beings contemplate in creation (Ps 92:4-7). Indeed, as Pope Francis put it, the deepest meaning of ecological ethics is transcendence (Laudato Si’). God is the Creator of all that exists and also the Father of his children. From the Old Testament, and more so in the New Testament, God the Father – the Lord of heaven and earth (Mt 11:25) – is the merciful Father, who through his Son Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit heals and forgives (cf. Lk 15:12-32).

Christian spirituality is Christological spirituality. God anointed Christ with the Holy Spirit (Ac 10:38). The central focus of moral theology and spiritual theology is Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn 14:6) as unveiled by revelation. Christian spirituality focuses on the experience of God through Jesus Christ. St. Thomas Aquinas asserts that Jesus is the model of human and Christian conduct, and the exemplar of the human person who is the “image” of God after Christ, who is “the image of God” (Col 1:15). By reason of his humanity, Jesus leads human beings to God (Summa Theologiae, I).  St.  Alphonsus Liguori writes: “All holiness and perfection consist in loving Jesus our God” (cf. Marciano Vidal). Christ is “the heart” of catechesis and evangelization: Christ the Crucified and Risen Lord.  Christian spirituality then is the spirituality of following Jesus, which includes essentially the way of the Cross: “The cross is at the core of any Christian spirituality, so much so that it is often referred in tradition as our only hope” (Daniel G. Groody). Christians are called to be transfigured on the mountain of contemplation. This transfiguration, like the Transfiguration of Christ (Mt 17:1-9) gives them strength to go down from the mountain and walk patiently, compassionately and even joyfully their own way of the Cross.

Christian spirituality is Pneumatological spirituality. There are various ways of describing Christian spirituality today. There is one, however, that is always there, its reference to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Blessed Trinity, is the sanctifier of all. Spirituality is walking according to the Spirit (cf. Rom 8:4), that is biblically speaking encountering Christ who is the Way, journeying to the Father who is the goal (Jn 14:6), and living in the Spirit. Christian spirituality “is guided or influenced by the Holy Spirit, who is given by the Father and the risen Christ in order to make human beings sisters and brothers of Christ and children of the Father, as well as to fashion both women and men into images of Christ (Rom 8:29, 16-17)” (Walter J. Principe, CSB, “Spirituality, Christian,” The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality ).