The headings are derived from Chapter 6 in Christian Spirituality. An Introduction)
What is Christian Spirituality? Our working definition for this series:
Christianity Spirituality is the quest for a fulfilled and authentic life, that involves
Today, we will look at:
2. The Visualization of the Divine
God cannot be seen
Can we visualize God, and satisfy the human longing to know God, to see and touch the face of God – without compromising the transcendence of God?
Should we even try?
2.1.2. We Should Not Try to Visualize the Divine, Lest the Image Become an Idol
One answer: No, we should not try. Any image of God we create might become an idol.
The Second Commandment (Exodus 20:4-5): You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them. (NRSV)
Reformed tradition in Christianity takes this point of view and discourages all religious art
We find in the Heidelberg Catechism:
Most Christian traditions hold we worship not the image, but the reality pictured in the image.
A major example of using images to visualize the divine is the use of icons in the Orthodox Church.
Icons are an integral part of Orthodox church. An iconostasis – a screen of icons – separates the altar from the nave
Some important justifications as well as "stepping-stones" for visualizing the divine:
Jesus is the “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) and the “exact representation” of God (Hebrews 1:4)
The symbol of the faith since at least the late second century has been the cross, a reminder of:
We are baptized under the sign of the cross
Churches include a cross, and are often made in the shape of a cross
This "Sign of The Cross," a form of Christian spirituality, is often used in times of danger, anxiety
The term "message of the cross" is a shorthand summary of the gospel (1 Cor. 1:18-25)
God created the universe: therefore, something of the character of God is present in creation
Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179): “all creatures are an indication of God”
Hugh of St Victor (d. 1142): “For the whole sensible world is like a kind of book written by the finger of God. . . and each particular creature is somewhat like a figure, not invented by human decision, but instituted by the divine will to manifest the invisible things of the wisdom of God”
Learning about and appreciating the natural world – the handiwork of God – is a spiritual activity
The sacraments, such as
are visible, concrete signs that point to a divine reality (the "res")
In the poem Adore te devote (Thomas Aquinas): the sacraments are said to:
Adore te devote (Thomas Aquinas)
Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more;
See, Lord, at they service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art
O thou our reminder of Christ crucified.
Living bread the life of us for whom he died,
Lend this life to me then: feed and feast my mind,
There be thou the sweetness man was meant to find.
Jesus whom I look at shrouded here below,
I beseech thee send me, what I thirst for so;
Some day to gaze on thee, face to face in light
And be blessed forever, with they glory’s sight.
Narratives and stories of:
help us discover our identity, who we are
The Old and New Testament contain a rich and grand set of narratives of our history that we are part of. For example:
An important part of Christianity Spirituality is:
3.2. Types of Stories That Are An Important Part of the Christian Spiritual Literature
Types of stories that are an important part of Christian spiritual literature include:
3.2.2. The Story of Jesus
3.2.3. Stories of Biblical Figures
3.2.4. Stories of the Saints (Hagiography)
Biographies and stories of those the faithful from the past can provide encouragement and inspiration to those on still on their journey of faith
4. The Rhythm of Faith: Structuring Time
Ways in which Christianity has “structured time” to provide a spiritual “rhythm” of faith for our lives
4.2. The Christian Week
Wednesday and Friday:
Sunday as a "space to be set aside" is stressed in writings of Susanna Wesley (1669-1742), mother of John and Charles Wesley:
This is the Day that the Lord hath made; I will rejoice and be glad therein
Glory be to Thee, Eternal Father of spirits, for so kindly and mercifully indulging one Day in seven to the souls Thou hast made.
Wherein it is their duty as well as happiness, to retire from the business and hurry of a tumultuous and vexatious world, and are permitted to enjoy a more immediate and uninterrupted attendance on Divine Majesty.
Oh Blessed Indulgence! Oh most Happy Day!
4.3. The Christian Year
Celebrated December 25. Origin of the date debated:
188.8.131.52. Holy Week
184.108.40.206.1. Palm Sunday
220.127.116.11.2. Maundy Thursday, Holy Thursday
18.104.22.168.3. Good Friday
22.214.171.124.4. Holy Saturday
126.96.36.199. Pentecost (Whitsunday)
188.8.131.52. Sundays after Pentecost, or “Ordinary Time”
Pentecost is then followed by the Sundays after Pentecost or Ordinary Time, which continue until the new church year begins in Advent
184.108.40.206. The Secondary Calendar of Daily Commemorations and Celebrations of the Lives of Saints
Parallel to the calendar of seasons of the Church Year (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost), is a secondary calendar of daily commemorations / celebrations of the lives of the Saints
Also has two “parallel” calendars:
220.127.116.11. Primary Calendar Centered Upon the "Feast of Feasts" (Easter)
18.104.22.168.1. Season of Pre-Lent
There are four Sundays before “Great Lent”
22.214.171.124.2. Great Lent
126.96.36.199.3. Holy Pascha (Easter Sunday)
In the Orthodox Church, the week following Easter is called Bright Week. On each day of this week, services are celebrated with Easter splendor
The post festival celebration of Holy Pascha (Easter) continues for 50 days after Easter, until Pentecost
Each Sunday in the Weeks after Easter has a particular theme:
Each day of the week after Pentecost has a special dedication:
188.8.131.52. Parallel Calendar of Commemorations of the Lives of Saints and Other Major Feast Days
Parallel to the primary calendar centered around the “Feast of Feasts” (Holy Pascha = Easter), is a second calendar of daily commemorations of the lives of Saints and other feast days through the year, including
Each of these other feast days is:
The Feast of the Nativity has a 4 week lent (corresponding to the Western season of “Advent”)
4.4. The Monastic Day
Reaction to the secularization of the church in the Christian Roman Empire lead to formation of monasteries
The Monastic Day
Various terms have been applied for Prayer books with daily office readings:
First Book of Common Prayer tried to make prayer part of daily life with two “offices” of prayer: morning and evening
The 1979 Prayer Book has short (< 5 minutes) prayers for four times during the day:
Daily offices readings are available on the Internet.
A contemporary Series of Daily Office Prayer Books:
by Phyllis Tickle (Editor), Doubleday, 2000 – 2001
Christian Spirituality. An Introduction. Alister E. McGrath. Blackwell Publishers, 1999. ISBN: 0631212817 (Chapter 6: Faces, Places, and Spaces: Visualization and Spatialization in Christian Spirituality)