Religion Verses Spirituality
The term “spirituality” is copiously pregnant with different meanings. Any religion without spirituality is like tea without sugar and there is no religion without spirituality. Mental religion has reduced spirituality to zero level. Without core spirituality the finished work of Christ in Christianity would be made a bugaboo.
I believe in spirituality even though it has been misunderstood by many. Many Christians complain that they do not find “spirituality” in their religion. Some people say that they are very spiritual but do not go to church. They find satisfaction in Zen practices, Yoga, Eastern mysticism, meditation and other esoteric practices which an ordinary Christian should abhor.
The church in seeking for social relevance has ignorantly embarked on the crucifixion of spirituality due to over emphasis on materialism. Religion is a pointer to spirituality as the term ‘spirituality’ does not belong to one religion. We have Hindu spirituality, Jewish spirituality, and Muslim spirituality and so on. When we talk of Christian spirituality, we are talking about our life with that of the spirit, the ways and manner we appear before the Most Holy. Yes, spirituality is our response to God revealed moment by moment in line with our voyage to advance hence it is our life with the spirit.
However, spirituality is a term that has confused many in Christendom. From the New Testament perspective, the word refers to the “Life force” which comes from God and illuminates the spiritually committed child of God. “For the Christians, spirituality was a direct experience with God in life and action. Today, the term spirituality can be applied to any living religious system or “religion in action”. It is also the expression of man’s response and the interpretation of his experience in relation to God. Thus, spirituality is man’s religious experience”.
Let me at this point etymologically x-ray the term ‘spirituality’. The term spirituality is of the Latin word “spiritualitas” which means the state or nature of being spiritual. To be spiritual therefore, means to be related to the human spirit or the soul which is intangible to God who is spirit incarnate. In his book “An Introduction to Christian Spirituality” Fr F. Antonisamy states, “Spirituality can be explained as the nature of the spirit or the soul or the spirit of God or the nature of God…spirituality can also refer to the attitudes of the mind one has towards the ethical or moral codes or standards or values or the norms observed in society for the sake of common good”.
It is of note therefore to state here that a careful look at spirituality justifies any belief in human spirit or the soul, God or the Holy Spirit, and the ethical or moral values. Anyone who believes in any of the above is said to be ‘spiritual’. As J. Aumann O. P infers “In its widest sense, spirituality refers to any religious or ethical value that is concretized as an attitude or spirit from which one’s actions flow. This concept of spirituality is not restricted to any particular religion, it applies to any person who has a belief in the divine or transcendent, and fashions a lifestyle according to one’s religious convictions...”
The above brings us to proper Christian spirituality. In the words of St. Anselm, “I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand.” In understanding Christian spirituality, Soren Kierkegaard in his book- “Fear and Trembling and the Book on Adler” states that “The ethical is the universal, and as such it is again the divine”.
As stated earlier that belief in the soul, Holy Spirit or God and ethical values are steps to spiritual life; one is tempted to see how belief in the soul could justify such. Before discussing Christian spirituality proper, it is imperative at this point to briefly and bravely x-ray in synopsis what the soul is all about. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The philosophy of six thousand years has not searched the chambers and magazines of the soul”. Yes, to fathom the unfathomable, we hitherto plunge into mystery, the supreme abode of the soul.
According to the Greek philosophy Diogenes, it was Xenophanes who first equated breath with soul, using the word psyche with its colorful association of coolness, bellows, and butterfly. After about twenty three centuries that is, in 1828, Charles Nodier wrote in Paris, “The different names for the soul, among nearly all people are just so many breath variations and onomatopoeic expression for breathing”.
It follows that psyche, anima savira, semangat, nephesh, otachuk, loakal tuniz prana, duck and geist are scared words used by primal peoples the world over for the surge of life, linguistic cousins of what was called sawal in Old English, sawal by the Angelo-Saxons, sala by the Icelandic folk, and eventually, as if stone-polished by the ages, what we now call soul. A persistent presence not conjured up as a mystical hoax or priestly dogma, but keenly recognized as the influence of
breath upon birth and death” in these soul moments are the flash point of eternity.
Don’t worry dear reader, “There is no understanding of soul” anyway, as Thomas Moore reminds us, only cultivation, contemplation or care. Because soul defies definition like Soren Kierkegaard would say, “if you define me you negate me” it is revealed here quality by quality. The soul is the point of mystery in the order of learning of the great life. At the meeting point of destiny lies the language of the soul and at the parting point of destiny the chambers of sublime glory the soul submits to the supreme super soul. Here is mystery of the great life. Back to Christian spirituality
In discussing Christian spirituality, what comes into one’s mind is the Pauline theology. In Pauline theology spirit (pneuma) is opposed to ‘flesh’ (Greek Sarx; Latin caro), and spiritual (pnuematikos) is set over against either ‘fleshly’ (Greek Sarkikos, Latin carnalis- Gal. 3:3, 5: 13; 1cor 3: 1-3; Rom 7:14) or “animal” (Greek psychikos, Latin animalis 1 cor 2: 14-15), but significantly for later development, they are contrasted neither with “body” (Greek-soma; Latin corpus) or ‘bodily’ (Greek somatikos; Latin corporalis) nor with “matter” (Greek hyle; Latin materia).
For Paul the ‘pneumatic’ or spiritual person is one whose whole being and life are ordered, led and influenced by the spirit of God according to W.H Principe C.S.B in the New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality. Christian spirituality is also the response of the Christian to the divine call of the church- the body of Christ. Here we are talking of the life of the spirit of Christ which transcends the chaotic propensity of the carnal mind.
Christian spirituality extends from the Medieval period through the Reformation period to the present day. Thus, apart from the Medieval and Reformation spiritualities, other spiritualities have developed in Christianity in Nigeria; different kinds of Christian spiritualities have emerged in the country. In his article, “Varieties of Christians Spirituality in Nigeria, Dr. E. A Offiong gives the variety of spirituality to include “….Christian Missionary Spirituality, Orthodox Mission Spirituality, Aludura Spirituality as well as the Pentecostal Spirituality.
Without going too deep into the above, it is imperative to assert here that misunderstanding of the term ‘spirituality’ has made many to disregard it in there voyage to materialism. Even most modern priests are caught in the web of sensuality and materialism. Modern spiritual seekers must take over the office of priesthood and must therefore visit the paradigm sites of spirituality with ultra sensitive spirituals measuring apparatus in order to rediscover the unity of spirituality in Christianity.