The word ‘spirituality’ is a relatively recent word used to describe prayerful piety; it probably gained prominence in the 17th and 18th centuries among English Protestant and French Catholic theologians. It is obviously derived from the word ‘spirit’, and probably from the Latin spiritus to highlight the renewing touch of the Holy Spirit but there is no direct Greek equivalent in the New Testament. Paul insists that the Holy Spirit assists us in our prayers and in our Christian living. He may not use the word ‘spirituality’ but he does speak of believers as ‘spiritual’ (pneumatikos, 1 Cor 2:15, 3:1). So what does it mean?
I like to think of it as the practice of a spiritual life, but then what does that mean?
I visited the new Anglican Rector at St Paul’s, Ben Edwards, and our conversation turned to Contemplative Prayer and Spirituality. He mentioned a woman writer Evelyn Underhill, an English Anglo-Catholic writer and pacifist, of the first half of the twentieth century who apparently was at that time one of the most widely read writers on such matters. I purchased one of her books and I must say it is a delightful read. And at the beginning chapter she addresses the question ‘What is the Spiritual Life’ and says openly that it is a ‘dangerously ambiguous term’ commonly thought of as ‘the life of (ones) inside’ or ‘something very holy’. But she says we shouldn’t partition a spiritual life – or life for that matter – into that which is inner and outer or that which holy or profane or material and spiritual: ‘the soul’s house is not built on such a convenient plan – there are few sound proof partitions. God is all. All takes place within (God).’ So says Underhill, ‘the Spiritual Life is simply a life in which all we do comes from the centre, where we are anchored in God; a life soaked through and through by a sense of (the sacred) reality and claim, and self-given to the great movement of (God’s) will.’
This Sunday as part of the series we are thinking about putting our faith into action and words, reflective of our third church goal. I encourage you to ask: ‘how would I define or describe ‘Spirituality’?’ I wonder whether thinking of your life anchored in God, where everything comes from the centre – the deep place of our being – is a helpful start? And may it start or continue as
Underwell writes ‘bit by bit, as the soul responds, until a moment comes when the landscape becomes transformed and is seen in a new proportion and lit by a new light’.
In our spirituality, dare I say, we are all simply invited to adore and to serve that which is already there because our world is penetrated by the Living God, the abiding Source and Sum of Reality. Jesus is our model, the Spirit our constant presence, the Father the architect of all that is.