AUTHENTIC CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY
All authentic Christian
spirituality is by its nature Trinitarian. The doctrine of the Trinity, with its far-reaching
practical implications, constitutes the heart and soul of Christian spirituality.
Spirituality considered from a Trinitarian perspective is not anything other than Christian life in the Spirit: being
conformed to the person of Christ, and being united in communion with God and with others.
The teaching of the Trinity
functions as the summary of Christian faith – it expresses the essential truth that the God who
saves through Christ by the power of the Spirit lives eternally in the communion of persons in
Spirituality is not merely an aspect of Christian life – it is the Christian life in response to the
Different responses to the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit give rise to different or
The various elements of
spirituality, such as prayer, meditation, contemplation, and ascesis, are properly understood as
means of response to the Spirit, that is, means of bringing about ever fuller participation in God’s saving
acts in God’s providential plan for creation.
Principles of Contemporary Trinitarian Spirituality
1. God comes to be known and loved in the course of a saving history. God’s initiative toward all creation
establishes the basis for any relationship between human beings and God. Consequently, prayer, religious
discipline, celebration in word and sacrament, spiritual growth and maturation all rest on the prior
initiative of God for us.
2. Christian spirituality, to be Christian, must be firmly rooted in the Christian economy of
salvation where God is revealed to be
the God of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. The symbols, images, and concepts
appropriate to a Christian spirituality emerge from the record of this saving history and ordinarily will be
drawn from the Scriptures and from other spiritual writers.
3. Christian spirituality concerns the invitation to participate in the very life of God through communion with the
incarnate Word by the power of the Holy Spirit who is love. Such participation brings the believer into the
heart of the mystery of God’s triune life. The call to ever-deeper communion with God is at the same time the
call to ever-deeper communion with others.
4. Christian spirituality develops through the life of prayer, which is the ongoing cultivation of relationship with God rooted
in the divine initiative.
5. Christian holiness involves growth in conformity to our true natures as human beings created for union with the
triune God. Deification, or being made divine, according to the Greek Fathers, arises out of conformity to
our true humanity.
6. Spirituality rooted in a renewed understanding of the triune God involves attention to the many
dimensions of the human person and of the God-world relation, not just the “interior” dimension or the “inner
life” of the human person. It is inclusive of the social, political, and economic realms; in a word, every dimension of personal and communal
life is altogether involved in a Trinitarian Christian spirituality.
7. Because the mystery of the triune God grounds the communion among all persons, the spirituality
to which it gives rise is singularly attentive to the quality of relationship between and among human
persons, as well as their relationship to various other creatures and goods of the earth. Everything that
exists originates from a relational God, and exists in relation to the whole and its various parts, so that
relational interdependence is
a hallmark of this spirituality.
8. The triune God is the
paradigm of all human relationships. The divine Persons exist in a relationship of diversity,
equality, mutuality, uniqueness, and interdependence. Theological reflection on the mystery of the triune
God, in the form of the doctrine of the Trinity, is critical of modes of relationship built on
domination/submission, power/powerlessness, or activity/passivity. Since the relational pattern of divine
life is the norm of human life, relationships that respect difference, nurture reciprocity, and cultivate
authentic complementarity are iconic of divine life. By virtue of their participation in the very life of
God, human persons are theonomous, that is, each every person possesses a dignity that goes beyond
social standing or function.
9. Trinitarian spirituality is one of solidarity between and among persons. It is a way of living the gospel attentive
to the requirements of justice, understood as rightly ordered relationships between and among persons.
This entails working to overcome obstacles to full human flourishing posed by evil and sin. Sin may be
understood as the failure to discern and build a community of rightly ordered relationships, the inability or
unwillingness to respect the interdependence of all human and nonhuman life, and as the divisiveness that
ruptures the harmony between God and human beings.
10. A Christian spirituality informed by a proper understanding of the Trinity is wholly oriented to
the God who is its source and end. It is a way of living through participation in the very life of God by communion with
the Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit, and communion with all creatures. Prayer, ascetical
discipline, study, apostolic activity, the rigors of marriage and family life, the works of mercy, and
especially the celebration of the paschal mystery in word and sacrament – all increase participation in
11. The traditional contrast between active and contemplative forms of spirituality can no longer be
sustained. Contemplation of God should
lead to loving action on the behalf of others, and Christian action should be rooted in the
insights of contemplative life.
12. The God who “dwells in light inaccessible” is, strictly speaking, unknowable and
incomprehensible. Apophasis and the via
negative are important means of recognizing the ineffability of divine mystery. Even so, the God of salvation history is a self-revealing
God who desires communion with all creatures. Thus, even though the mystery of God is in some
sense unspoken and unspeakable, what we do know or say of God rests on how God exists for us, how God
manifests and shares divine life in human history, personality, and society.
13. The mystery of God cannot
be controlled or dissected by Christian theology nor fully grasped within a Christian
spirituality. The mystery of God is the magnet for a contemplative gaze and the prayer of quiet repose rather
than the object of analysis, systematic scrutiny, or theological assertion.
14. Similarly, the mystery of
God cannot be controlled or thoroughly analysed within any one religious tradition. Hence the
importance of recognizing the insights of various religious traditions in order to come to a fuller
understanding of the mystery of God. Although the doctrine of the Trinity is the specifically Christian way
of speaking of God, it is looked upon by many as the most fertile domain for ecumenical, interfaith, and
interreligious dialogue, precisely because it is an attempt to speak the truth about the ultimate mystery of
God. In the interfaith and interreligious dialogues, consideration needs to be given to the question of
whether doctrinal differences among religious traditions can be or ought to be reconciled by finding
convergences in mystical experiences.
15. A Trinitarian theology of God applied to the order of creation
gives rise to a lively sense of stewardship for the goods of creation. A
Trinitarian Christian spirituality provides fertile ground for exploring the relationship between human and
nonhuman life in such a way as to throw light on current ecological themes such as the interdependence of
various forms of life.
Source: Adapted from Catherine Mowry
LaCugna and Michael Downey, “Trinitarian Spirituality”, in The New Dictionary of Catholic
Spirituality, ed. Michael Downey (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1993),
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