The Spiritual Life: What is it?
– A Summation –
Fr. Wade L. J. Menezes, CPM
Fathers of Mercy
The spiritual life, which can also be referred to as an aspiration to the supernatural life, consists of a constant striving in one’s life to live the three infused theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, and the four cardinal (or moral) virtues of prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude. The spiritual life also regards or concerns the endowment of God’s sanctifying grace in one’s life – a grace that makes us participators in God’s own divine life and which we not only want to possess, but which we also want to grow in.
While possessing sanctifying grace, the human person also possesses the seven gifts and twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit, even if they still need to be “worked” in order to grow in the person’s life. These seven gifts and twelve fruits the person first receives at Baptism, in order that he or she may develop and use them until they are filled to all the fullness of God. As Ephesians 3:19 states: “…and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Yet, throughout life, because we live with the “effects” of the Original Sin of our first parents, this growth will be opposed by hostile factors; namely, the world, the flesh and the devil, whose influence tends to impede the spiritual life or destroy it.
The spiritual life must not be conceived as a thing apart from and necessarily in opposition to one’s ordinary daily life. No. In fact, the two are ideally meant to coexist: the “spiritual” informing the “temporal” for example. Only sin and error are incompatible with the spiritual life – not the temporal life. In fact, to separate the “spiritual” and the “temporal” in thought leads to a separation of them in practice; for example, the notion that faith or religion is “A thing only for Sundays.”
The Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) pointed out that the Church gives us many helps to maintain an intimate union with Christ, and it added: “The laity should not separate this union with Christ from their ordinary lives” (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, Apostolicam Actuositatem, 4). For example, our spiritual exercises like daily Lectio Divina, weekly Eucharist, monthly Confession, the daily Rosary and daily Divine Mercy Chaplet, going on an annual spiritual retreat, etc., should lead us to live better personal, social, familial and professional lives.
In short, our daily, ordinary lives should show forth kindness to all, charity to the poor, solicitude for the sick, a pursuance of the truth and conviction to always stand up for it, and honesty in all our dealings. Christ’s life manifested these traits, and so if we do not reflect them in our lives, there seems to be little point to our union with Him.
Yet, because the effects of the Original Sin remain in the world, human nature is imperfect and the impulses of nature and the impulses of the spirit are at war with one another. As Galatians 5:16-17 says, “Live in accord with the spirit and you will not yield to the cravings of the flesh. The flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh; the two are directly opposed. That is why you do not do what your will intends.” Yet, the supernatural life is ordered precisely toward the removal of the things that work against the growth in holiness of the human person (that is, of things of the “flesh”). Indeed, the supernatural life is ordered to the elevation to and the preservation in the life of God’s sanctifying grace working in and through the whole human person, body and soul (that is, of things of the “spirit”). This is our calling to become beacons of Christian holiness living in the midst of the modern world.
The Three Theological Virtues: Faith, Hope and Charity. They are gifts infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as His children and of meriting eternal life. (1 Corinthians 13:13) (CCC 1812-1829; 1840-1844)
The Four Cardinal Virtues: Four pivotal human virtues (from the Latin cardo, meaning “hinge” or “pivot”): Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance. In other words, the whole of the moral life “hinges” or “pivots” on these four important moral virtues. The human virtues are stable dispositions of the intellect and will that govern our acts, order our passions, and guide our conduct in accordance with reason and faith. (Wisdom 8:7) (CCC 1805-1809; 1833-1839)
Sanctifying Grace: “The grace which heals our human nature wounded by sin by giving us a share in the Divine Life of the Most Holy Trinity. It is a habitual, supernatural gift which continues the work of sanctifying us – of making us ‘perfect,’ holy, and Christ-like.” (Cf., John 4:14; 7:38-39; 2 Corinthians 5:17-18) (CCC 1999-2000)
The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord. These Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit are found in the Book of Isaiah 11:1-2, wherein the Biblical passage refers to the characteristics of a Messianic figure understood by Christians to be Jesus Christ empowered by the “Spirit of the Lord.” (Isaiah 11:1-2) (CCC 1830-1832; 1845)
The Twelve Fruits of the Holy Spirit: Charity, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Generosity, Gentleness, Faithfulness, Modesty, Self-Control, Chastity.” (Galatians 5:22-23) (CCC 1830-1832)