A new spiritualityBy Carmelita Roxas Natividad
Philippine Daily Inquirer
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience– Teilhard de Chardin
There was a time when being worldly ruined one’s reputation. The implication covered various levels of the social structure—persons of ill repute, social butterflies, bohemians, fun lovers, even whores. They were all sinners for the world was evil and to denounce it was to be a good Christian.
“Pleasure” was a bad word, so Christians were admonished to make sacrifices, to practice self-denial, so as to strengthen their resolve against the world’s corrupt and evil elements. Suffering translated into an imitation of Christ’s agony and the saints’ immolation that led to their sanctification. Life on earth was a prelude to a life after death where pure joy awaited the faithful in heaven, our real home.
In my youth, I took these teachings very seriously because I believed they were a mandate from God through the authority of the Church. I was determined not to die in a state where I could end up in an infernal hole along with the dregs of humanity. Thus fearful, I became a model Roman Catholic, attentive to the rules and regulations imposed by my religion, and obeyed most of God’s 10 commandments as well as the Church’s five commandments.
Because I believed that availing oneself of all the sacraments of the Church earned for one an abundance of grace, I wanted to incorporate all seven into my spiritual life. But I wasn’t ready then for matrimony, wasn’t eligible for holy orders, and had to be dying for extreme unction. So I added to my sufferings and self-denials.
Lent was the best time to suffer—a gesture of sympathy and compassion for the crucified Christ. I abstained from fun activities like reading, socializing and listening to the radio, unless it was tuned in to the Seven Last Words. The priests who delivered the message of Christ’s passion and death had the skill of drama for a performance that would bring the faithful to tears of compassion and repentance. I was among the weepers.
“Fasting and abstinence on the days appointed” was a golden rule, penance and communion were etched on my calendar, and even matrimony, had my parents allowed it, at the age of 12. I would walk on my knees from the main entrance of a huge church down the middle aisle to the altar, relishing the discomfort for suffering reduced the possibility of hell.
I went through many inanities in the practice of my religion for I totally believed in the Church, fully trusting that whatever it declared as truth was a mandate from the Holy Spirit. It was unthinkable that ecclesiastical pronouncements could be fabricated by God’s representatives.
We were born with a huge debt to pay, an original sin inherited from Eve who, to our misfortune, chose to eat the apple. This is the fall/redemption doctrine where a redeemer became a prerequisite for souls to be accepted in heaven.
Today when many humans have evolved beyond the mundane and inane, there is a glaring need for a new kind of spirituality. And a number of visionaries with distinctive credentials have visualized new forms of spiritualism like the “Cosmic Christ,” “original blessings,” and “creation spirituality,” from which we can draw precepts to suit our own needs.
Chardin spoke of an integration of nature and science for Christ is “as big as the universe and we are all living cells in this huge organism—the Cosmic Christ. Our species occupies a special place in the spiritual Universe and is evolving towards an omega point—the goal of humankind.”
Mathew Fox, a theologian and a member of the Dominican order for 34 years, graduated summa cum laude from the Institut Catholique de Pari with a PhD in spirituality. He is considered heir to Chardin because of a similarity in their doctrines. But his “creation spirituality” is focused on deep ecumenism—an acceptance of other spiritual traditions like Buddhism, Sufism, Judaism and Native American spirituality.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI, expelled Fox from the Dominican order for his unorthodox Catholic theology—for example, his original blessings (life is a blessing, begins with goodness, compassion and creativity in the heart of the universe) vis à vis the Church’s fall/redemption teaching. Fox is now a member of the Episcopal Church.
What does this new spirituality tell us? How do we integrate it into our spiritual life, inured as we are in the practice of rituals and conventional prayers that we recite automatically?
I have translated my religion into a way of life in lieu of a ceremonial form of worship. Accepting people the way they are, without bias as to religion, race, sexual inclination, imperfections, etc. is the real meaning of Christianity.
Love, compassion and generosity should take precedence in our relationship with our neighbors. Substituting rituals, prayers and novenas for moral obligations has been a way of life for Christians for centuries. My neighbor, who gathers her family every night to pray the rosary, will terrorize the neighborhood with her crabbiness the morning after, while her children engage in crime.
Our prayers can be an intimate relationship with God, our own composition that gives meaning to our lives. For me, silence is a prayer, as are dancing and singing or gazing up at the stars and wondering at the immensity of the universe, realizing that we are all one with God in a cosmic experience that never fails to blow the mind.
Carmelita Roxas Natividad describes herself as a retired mother and active grandmother who likes to write, garden, and bake, in that order.
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