"There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him. The task of the shepherd, the task of the fisher of men, can often seem wearisome. But it is beautiful and wonderful, because it is truly a service to joy, to God’s joy which longs to break into the world." - Benedict XVI - Homily at the Mass for the Inauguration of his Pontificate - 24 April 2005

Saturday, July 02, 2011

"Spiritual" friendship or Spiritual friendship?

The topic for this post is something that has recently been very close to my heart. As I've watched many of my past criteria fall to the ground, as the scales fell from the eyes of St. Paul, I've discovered a new beauty which is a shadow of Beauty himself. I find myself so impotent before the greatness of it yet humbled by its simplicity and I realize that divine love is the one and only source of human love.

I look back to my teenage years, on the many "spiritual" friendships in my life. These friendships were a gift from God, and I bless him for them and I don't undermine them in the least, but I've come to understand that a truly spiritual relationship does not mean adding rosaries, masses, adoration hours, novenas, vigils to the regular list of movies, mall, arcade, Denny's, Walmart at 2am.

First of all, it would seem that our understanding of "spiritual" needs to be slightly re-defined. Ordinarily we think of it as havina a lot to do with the first numbers of the dictionary definition:

 Webster's 1828 American Dictionary
1: [Adjective] Consisting of spirit; not material; incorporeal; as a spiritual substance or being. The soul of man is spiritual.
2: [Adjective] Mental; intellectual; as spiritual armor.
Etc. ...

But then we come to number 6, and find out that Mr. Webster had more insight than we might have immagined:

6: [Adjective] Pertaining to the renewed nature of man; as spiritual life.

So what is this renewed nature of man? St. Paul sums it up with cutting precision, "For me to live is Christ..." and again Ireneus, "The glory of God is the living man". It all points to the Incarnation, not as something distant from us, but something that takes place in us, something that we seek out daily and pray fervently for its realization in us, moment by moment.

So as spirituality is not something disjoined from life in all its circumstances, neither is a spiritual friendship something disjoined from our humanity, from our affections and desires. Still, it is more than just affection and desire. It is more than just pleasure in the company of another. It is more than just human love. It is the love of God transforming these and bringing them into the dimension of the sacred. Affection for the divine, meets affection for the human, sanctifying it without taking from its integrity and humanity.

How liberating it is to recognize the objective goodness in human nature, and see that our journey to holiness does not exclude who we are, but exalts who we are in Christ.

Thus it is revealed how rituality can be penetrated and transfigured to reveal its true meaning. It is revealed how the humility of the sacred incorporates itself into the ordinariness of the secular or even into the tragedy of the sinful. The ordinary is sanctified and the memory of the sinful is redeemed so that Christ may be All in all.

It is possible "to search for Our Lord in everything, for example conversing with someone, coming and going, tasting, listening, thinking and in all our actions, because it is true that the Divine Majesty is found in all things through his presence, power and essence" (Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Escersizes, III, 506, 513).

Our humanity is, in itself (but not by itself!) our path to the Eternal One. Human love as a participation in Divine Love is our most sublime capacity after that of recieving and returning directly Divine Love. Friendship is a gift from God for his glory. Grace and affinity, Love and love give birth to a blossom that is a reflection of the Incarnation: divinity meeting and redeeming humanity.