The concept of Christian spirituality is complex and rich. In our third column, we point out and explain briefly some of its basic dimensions. After we spoke earlier of the basic dimensions, namely, Trinitarian spirituality, Christological spirituality. Pneumatological spirituality and creational spirituality, we continue with other important dimensions of Christian spirituality.

Christian spirituality is also Marian spirituality: Mary is the Mother of Jesus, Mother of the Church, Mother of the followers of Jesus, and the disciple of disciples. As one reads in the Vatican II Constitution, Lumen Gentium: The place of Mary in the Church is “the highest after Christ and yet very close to us.” Hence, as the Vatican II Decree Apotolicam Actuositatem affirms, “all (Christians) should devoutly venerate her and commend their life and apostolate to her motherly concern.” Mary is the closest to Jesus, her Son, and to his work of redemption. In his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, Pope John Paul II invites believers in Jesus to go to the school of Mary. The goal of the Christian devotion to Mary – to her Rosary – is not just learning what Jesus taught his followers, but “learning him,” “learning from her to ‘read’ Christ,” to discover his secrets and to understand his message.”

Christian spirituality is ecclesial spirituality. The Church is a mystery of communion, koinonia. Christians are members of the community of faith, hope and love, of the Mystical Body of Christ. Ecclesial communion is essential to spirituality, the spirituality of the apostolic community, which was – and is – a prayerful and sharing community (cf. Ac 2:42-47, and 4:32-35). From Vatican II on, the magisterium of the Church has promoted a more leading teaching role of the local churches as underlined initially by Paul VI regarding the social doctrine of the Church.Theologian R. Gula writes: “Christian spirituality requires a stable, enduring relationship with a community of faith that shares common practices and stable convictions about who we are and who God is in Jesus and through the Spirit.”

Christian spirituality is liturgical spirituality. The liturgy is the source of spiritual life and its devout celebration a constant fountain of growth in the spiritual life and experience of God. Salvatori Marsili points out and explains well the characteristics of a liturgical spirituality, namely: Christocentric, easterly, biblical, sacramental, and cyclical. It focuses on the Eucharist (cf. Jn 6:53), which is according to Vatican II “the fount and apex of the whole Christian life,” and “source and apex of the whole work of preaching the Gospel” (“Principios de espiritualidad litúrgica,” Cuadernos Phase).

Christian spirituality is evangelical spirituality. The mission of Christians is to inflame the world with Jesus’ love, to be in this world as “living sources of water from which others can drink” (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium). Christian spirituality cannot be individualistic. It is a communion of life among all the members of the Church. It is charity that leads believers going out of themselves, of practicing un-selfing and decentralization. Max Seckler put it well: amans simpliciter exit extra se (simply he who loves goes out of himself ). Thus, Christian spirituality is a spirituality of charity: “the spiritual life comes from charity” (Thomas Aquinas).

Christian spirituality is evangelizing and missionary spirituality: the Christian lives the mystery of Christ as “one sent” by him in the Church (Mt 28:19-20). The spirituality of the Christian is a missionary spirituality: “As the Father sent me, I also send you” (Jn 20:21). As Christ was sent by the Father in the Spirit to preach the Good News, his disciples are also sent to the world. It is a “life in mission”: a spirituality “to live the mystery of Christ as sent” (Pope Francis, EG).

Christian spirituality is mystical spirituality for all Christians. No first and second-class Christians: all are called to the mystical life, equally including the ordinary people whose strong popular spirituality Pope Francis calls “people’s mysticism.” The author remembers the often-repeated words of theologian Karl Rahner: “The Christian of the future will be either a ‘mystic’, that is to say, a person that has ‘experienced’ something or ‘someone’, or he will not be a Christian” (The Theology of the Spiritual Life).

Christian spirituality is eschatological spirituality. As pilgrims, Christians never lose sight of the end – of heaven. The ultimate goal of Christian spirituality – as of moral theology – is “the contemplation of the first truth in our homeland” (Thomas Aquinas).  

Christian spirituality is eschatological and temporal spirituality, that is, historical and social. As temporal spirituality is a way of being a follower of Christ in a given kairos and time.  After Vatican II, in particular, spirituality considers as inextricably linked love of God and love of neighbor, eternal life and transformation of the world, union with God and social – and eco-justice. Therefore, this spirituality is also social – the human person is a social being. It urges not the old contemptus mundi (contempt of the world) or fuga mundi (flight from the world), as understood then, but Christian spirituality as a dialogue with the world (being in the world but not of the world), and the commitment of Christians to contribute to make it a just and fraternal community. 

The medullar focus of Christian life, of spiritual/moral life 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 (John Paul II, RM), 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 life of his followers, who are called to holiness:

The Lord Jesus, the divine Teacher and Model of all perfection… preached holiness of life to each and every one of His disciples, regardless of their situation… All the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity (Vatican II, LG).