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The Sacred Word



 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 love. 


Spirituality is not merely an aspect of Christian life – it is the Christian life in response to the Spirit


Different responses to the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit give rise to different or diverse spiritualities


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 divine life. 


   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), 979-982. 


Photo credit: Intellimon Ltd.


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