Wednesday, January 09, 2013

the decline of christian spirituality in the roman catholic religious organization



digilander | Tracking the history of the decline of authentic spirituality in the Roman Catholic Religious Organization [RCRO] has many key events or points that cannot be all listed here in a single post. The best thing is to enter this topic gradually. There is method behind how topics are introduced.

Even the RCRO was at first highly critical of what was called "devotio moderna" during the late medieval and early modern period. But since its own authentically spiritual tradition was effectively dying (murdered by the RCRO itself), there was a void that could not withstand the flood of modern devotionalism. Modern devotionalism is the kind of emotionalism that the older Spiritual Directors warned against. It was called enthusiasmos, mania, and hysteria. It is a selfish, self-preoccupied, and auto-erotic narcissistic concern for being right and correct, often in the eyes of others and oneself.

The very basic difference between spirituality and the pseudo-spirituality of this emotionalism (that has deep ramifications to brought out later when we discuss the differences between nous, dianoia, ethical and intellectual virtues, and so on) is to be find in some of the older catechism "talks" some exceptional Fathers had with adult converts who were recently Baptized/Chrismated (originally, the instruction was the night after chrismation when the newly chrismated stayed in the church with the Bishop or Father). In the talks that have been recorded, there is a consistency from the 5th century to the 19th century that reveals the catholicity of these instructions. So, I summarize them.

The niptic Fathers teach that the type of emotionalism that characterizes the western forms of modern devotion are to be avoided. It is true, for example, that one is to try to pray with all one's thought, feeling, and attention focussed on the prayer even at the stage of verbal prayer. But such as we contra-naturally are, we do not have the power to attend fully and faithfully (its a lost natural capacity that needs to be regained as a skilled habit), nor the right attitude or feeling and any attempt on our part to emotionally try to feel the right feeling is imagination. We must work solely with focussing our thought (by stilling) and attention, and then, the prayer will teach us what to feel, how to worship, and elicit the appropriate response from us if and only if we are participating seriously in the ethical askesis and liturgical life of the Church as prior and contextual conditioning, so to speak. Without these other two, our soul's are not the previously furrowed or prepared "raw material" that can be appropriately worked on towards transformation.

This is why the Church gives us formal prayers to "recite" and the Psalms. We do not know what to feel or how to pray and need to be taught. In modern times, even the praiseworthy attempt to be deeply attentive is misguided. The attempt to attend takes the form as a concern with what to think, what to feel, and what to imagine during prayers and Divine Services. This is precisely to be as consumed, as distracted, and as dissipated in one's own self-preoccupied fantasies of being a good worshipper as the fellow thinking about his meal, and perhaps, football game and nap after the Liturgy.

Such a state of mind and its concerns is the exact opposite of the sober wakefulness needed. Lets call it "self-meddling preoccupation with one's attitude." One is just to attend to the prayers and Divine Services with a certain fullness of presence. In the beginning, one may feel cold. One has no feeling for these things. One is impatient. One's feet or back hurts. One's kids are an irritating embarrassment and you hope others didn't notice. That puts you in a bad mood of which you feel ashamed, and so, you do not try to make the effort attend because you feel unworthy, and thus, don't FEEL like it. Again, one falls into making it an issue of emotion. One is always catching oneself distracted, irritated, and inattentive. One notices how this insight may also lead one to forget again to try to just attend. To notice this is a first moment of discrimination (diakrisis).

Fantasy begins when I try to search for a way to give myself or make myself have the appropriate attitudes and feelings. Make no attempt to feel what one thinks one should feel. That is the role of the Holy Spirit through the Services, Psalms, Prayers, and Hymnography of the Church. Instead, noting one's distraction, irritability, pain, (pseudo-spiritual) passional concern over what to feel, and inattention, try again to just attend. Listen. This is the first baby step in dispassion (apatheia).

By contrast, the emotionalism of modern devotionalism is passional quicksand. Intensified, it can become refined into many fine shades of erotomania (eroticism and mania - manic).