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On the Spirit and Spirituality

Our exponentially-growing awareness of cosmological realism has demonstrated that we are but a tiny speck of dust in a cosmic ocean

Reflection for the 6th Sunday of Easter (Cycle A)

Consider this thought experiment: in echoing Karl Rahner’s anthropological speculations on the human thirst for transcendent reckoning, we may sensibly conclude that believers and non-believers can at the very least, agree that there will always be a ‘mystery-out-there’.  

There is something – or what many of us would recognize as ‘someone’ – outside ourselves that we may never fully grasp, yet has ultimate control upon the workings of the cosmos.  There is something outside ourselves which eventually determines who we are and what we become, yet also something which obviously the world cannot accept nor receive as truth, because it is unseen and does not easily submit itself to rational analysis. It is something clearly not of our material substance, yet also something whose immateriality allows it to be with and to flow right into our materiality.  It almost always appears to be an immateriality in support of the fullness of our materiality, leading it to an understanding of goodness as well as to performing acts of goodness, protecting and defending it, and most importantly, giving it hope for whatever purpose or end it perceives for itself.

Our exponentially-growing awareness of cosmological realism has demonstrated that we are but a tiny speck of dust in a cosmic ocean.  How then can such a puny particle of homo sapiens be in governance over the dynamics of its energies?  There is much more to speculate than to simply accept in uncritical doctrinal fashion, that “humanity has dominion over creation.”  It is a foregone view, now understood to have been written in an ancient context when anthropocentric domination was still in vogue. 

To thus attribute everything in the universe to orchestrated and unified human interventions, rather than simply acknowledging the evolving process of acting and reacting forces, manifesting itself in the drama of random appearance and disappearance of material bodies, will be ridiculously ‘pelagian’ in the cosmic sense.  There are realities in that dark abyss beyond our comprehension, and much more beyond our influence.  This is not the ‘divine’ in the strictest sense of the word, and we may choose to disregard the essence of transcendence altogether just for the sake of this discourse, but it cannot be denied that there are occurrences and events happening around us emanating from forces that are ‘not human’.

So, even a steadfast non-believer has to admit that there is always a perennial mystery in the cosmos, a force that animates it and that impels everything to become what it is meant to be, an agent of the history of the heavens.  A non-believer will at the very least be compelled to agree that such a force is ‘impersonal’ and intrinsic within the cosmic bowels; and that believers are only different because we have decided to call this force as ‘Spirit’ or ‘God’. 

If there is now such a ‘Spirit’ or ‘mystery’ enabled and occupied in interplay with human volition – which may aptly be described as within the realm of ‘divinity’ – then spirituality, if defined as the transformative dialogue between humanity, its real world and transcendent realities, can exist.  And if we find ourselves in conversation with this God or with this force, whether in a simple contemplation of the unfathomable heavens, or in the rhythm of recited prayer, for as long as that conversation leads to an inner transformation, guiding and directing us to become what we were meant to be, then spirituality does and must exist.

- Newsletter -

Brother Jess Matias is a professed brother of the Secular Franciscan Order. He serves as minister of the St. Pio of Pietrelcina Fraternity at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mandaluyong City, coordinator of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups of the Capuchins in the Philippines and prison counselor and catechist for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.

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