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Christian Spirituality 4: Faces, Places, and Spaces: Visualization and Spatialization in Christian Spirituality

PDF and .doc files of the overheads used for this presentation are available from the Christian Spirituality Home Page or from the download page

 

Topics

The headings are derived from Chapter 6 in Christian Spirituality. An Introduction)

1. Introduction

2. The Visualization of the Divine

2.1. Should We Try To Visualize the Divine?

2.1.1. Introduction

2.1.2. We Should Not Try to Visualize the Divine, Lest the Image Become an Idol

2.1.3. We Are Meant to Visualize the Divine

2.2. Visualizing God: The Incarnation

2.3. Visualizing God: The Symbol of the Cross

2.4. Visualizing God: The Creation

2.5. Visualizing God: The Sacraments

 

3. Becoming Part of the Christian Story

3.1. Introduction

3.2. Types of Stories That Are An Important Part of the Christian Spiritual Literature

3.2.1. Introduction

3.2.2. The Story of Jesus

3.2.3. Stories of Biblical Figures

3.2.4. Stories of the Saints (Hagiography)

 

4. The Rhythm of Faith: Structuring Time

4.1. Introduction

4.2. The Christian Week

4.3. The Christian Year

4.3.1. Church Year of Western Christianity

4.3.1.1. Advent

4.3.1.2. Christmas

4.3.1.3. Lent

4.3.1.4. Holy Week

4.3.1.4.1. Palm Sunday

4.3.1.4.2. Maundy Thursday, Holy Thursday

4.3.1.4.3. Good Friday 

4.3.1.4.4. Holy Saturday

4.3.1.5. Easter

4.3.1.6. Pentecost (Whitsunday)

4.3.1.7. Sundays after Pentecost, or Ordinary Time

4.3.1.8. The Secondary Calendar of Daily Commemorations and Celebrations of the Lives of Saints

4.3.2. Church Year of Eastern Christianity

4.3.2.1. Introduction

4.3.2.2. Primary Calendar Centered Upon the "Feast of Feasts" (Easter)

4.3.2.2.1. Season of Pre-Lent

4.3.2.2.2. Great Lent

4.3.2.2.3. Holy Pascha (Easter Sunday)

4.3.2.2.4. Pentecost

4.3.2.2. Parallel Calendar of Commemorations of the Lives of Saints and Other Major Feast Days

4.4. The Monastic Day

 

References

 

1. Introduction

What is Christian Spirituality? Our working definition for this series:

 

Christianity Spirituality is the quest for a fulfilled and authentic life, that involves

  • taking the beliefs and values of Christianity

  • and weaving them into the fabric of our lives

  • so that they "animate," provide the "breath" and "spirit" and "fire" for our lives

 

Today, we will look at:

 

 

2. The Visualization of the Divine

2.1. Should We Try To Visualize the Divine?

2.1.1. Introduction

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:

  • Question 96: What does God require in the next commandment?

    • Answer: That we should not portray God in any way, nor worship him in any other manner than he has commanded in his Word

  • Question 97: So should we not make use of images?

    • Answer: God cannot and should not be depicted in any way. As for creatures, although they may indeed be depicted, God forbids making use of or having any likeness of them, in order to worship them or to use them to serve him

 

 

2.1.3. We Are Meant to Visualize the Divine

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

  • Use of icons generated fierce controversy and violence in Eastern Christianity because of the concern they could become idols. The veneration of icons was officially sanctioned at the Synod of 843, now celebrated on the Second Sunday of (Great) Lent as the Feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy

 

Some important justifications as well as "stepping-stones" for visualizing the divine:

  • the Incarnation

  • God is the creator

  • The sacraments

 

 

2.2. Visualizing God: The Incarnation

Jesus is the “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) and the “exact representation” of God (Hebrews 1:4)

Significance:

  • Jesus is the “authorized” image of God

  • Focusing our thoughts on Jesus opens a window to the Living God

 

 

2.3. Visualizing God: The Symbol of the Cross

The symbol of the faith since at least the late second century has been the cross, a reminder of:

  • death of God made Jesus is the foundation of human redemption

  • the resurrection of God made Jesus has defeated death

 

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)

 

 

2.4. Visualizing God: The Creation

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”

 

Significance:

Learning about and appreciating the natural world – the handiwork of God – is a spiritual activity

 

 

2.5. Visualizing God: The Sacraments

The sacraments, such as

  • the Eucharist, with its "matter" of bread and wine

  • Baptism, with its "matter" of water

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:

  • offer ways of discerning God, although the discernment is "bare shadows" rather than the full reality the sacrament points to

  • focus the mind and heart on God

  • remind us of our redemption through Christ's death

  • encourage us to imagine the future vision of the face of God in heaven

 

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.

 

 

3. Becoming Part of the Christian Story

3.1. Introduction

Narratives and stories of:

  • our history

  • how we came to be who we are

  • the great historical figures and leaders of our past

  • lives of others who have tried to walk a path similar to our own

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:

  • Israel’s exodus from Egypt

  • God’s acts of deliverance and providence celebrated in the Psalms

  • the Gospel story of Jesus, his ministry, his death and resurrection

  • the story of the expansion of the church in Acts and the Letters

 

An important part of Christianity Spirituality is:

  • learning the Christianity “story”

  • personally “entering” into it and accepting it

 

 

3.2. Types of Stories That Are An Important Part of the Christian Spiritual Literature

3.2.1. Introduction

Types of stories that are an important part of Christian spiritual literature include:

  • 1. The Story of Jesus

  • 2. Stories of Biblical Figures

  • 3. Stories of the Saints (Hagiography)

 

 

3.2.2. The Story of Jesus

  • liturgy of the Eucharist recalls the Last Supper and how the death of Jesus relates to the life of the church

  • Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis (1380-1471). Emphasizes the cross of Christ. Followers of Christ must take up their own cross and follow “the royal road the cross.”

 

 

3.2.3. Stories of Biblical Figures

  • Hebrews 11: Old Testament figures of faith should be models for Christians

  • for example: the faith of Abraham setting out from Ur

 

 

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

  • For example, biographies of St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) have inspired and offered guidance for many

 

 

4. The Rhythm of Faith: Structuring Time

4.1. Introduction

Ways in which Christianity has “structured time” to provide a spiritual “rhythm” of faith for our lives

  • 1. The Christian Week

  • 2. The Christian Year

  • 3. The Monastic Day

 

 

4.2. The Christian Week

Sunday:

  • in early the Church became the day to celebrate the Resurrection

  • took the place of the Sabbath as the day of physical rest and spiritual refreshment

 

Wednesday and Friday:

  • wereset aside in early Christian communities for fasting

    • Wednesday: day Christ was betrayed

    • Friday: day Christ was crucified

 

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

4.3.1. Church Year of Western Christianity

4.3.1.1. Advent

  • marks the start of the church year, four weeks before Christmas

  • adventus = “coming” or “arrival”

  • intended to focus on the two “advents” of Jesus

    • coming in humility as a human being at Christmas (the Incarnation)

    • coming in glory as judge at the end of time

  • traditions: “Advent Wreath” or “Advent Crown”

 

 

4.3.1.2. Christmas

Celebrated December 25. Origin of the date debated:

  • an old, popular theory is that the date was chosen to substitute for a pagan winter festival

  • recent scholarship: early Church fathers (Tertullian ~200 and Augustine ~400) wrote that Jesus was conceived (Annunciation) and suffered on the same date -- March 25. December 25 is 9 months from March 25. (Bible Review, December)

  • Central theme: birth of Jesus, the Incarnation

  • Service of Nine Carols and Lessons” originated at King’s College Cambridge

 

 

4.3.1.3. Lent

  • begins on Ash Wednesday, 7 weeks before Easter

  • In the Old Testament, ashes on the face / clothing was a sign of repentance and remorse (Esther 4:1, Jeremiah 6:26)

  • duration based on Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the wilderness after his baptism, before beginning his public ministry

 

 

4.3.1.4. Holy Week

4.3.1.4.1. Palm Sunday

  • commemorates Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem

 

 

4.3.1.4.2. Maundy Thursday, Holy Thursday

  • focuses on the Last Supper, final acts of Jesus before his death

  • “Maundy” = corruption of Latin word mandatum (command). In the middle ages, services began in Latin with verse (John 13:34): “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” = mandatum novum do vobis...

 

4.3.1.4.3. Good Friday

  • Focuses on the crucifixion, suffering, and death of Jesus, and the costliness of human redemption

  • Most solemn day in the Christian year

  • Observing the “Three hours of the Cross” from 12-3 pm began in the 18th century

 

 

4.3.1.4.4. Holy Saturday

  • often celebrated with a late evening vigil service with imagery of light and darkness

 

 

4.3.1.5. Easter

  • The most important festival of the church year

  • Marks the Resurrection of Jesus. Affirms:

    • identity of Jesus as risen Savior and Lord

    • the Christian hope of a personal resurrection

 

 

4.3.1.6. Pentecost (Whitsunday)

  • Recalls the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles

 

 

4.3.1.7. 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

 

4.3.1.8. 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

 

 

4.3.2. Church Year of Eastern Christianity

4.3.2.1. Introduction

Also has two “parallel” calendars:

  • A primary calendar is centered upon the “Feast of Feasts” – Pascha (Easter)

  • A second, parallel calendar of other Major Feast Days and commemorations of the lives of Saints

 

 

4.3.2.2. Primary Calendar Centered Upon the "Feast of Feasts" (Easter)

4.3.2.2.1. Season of Pre-Lent

There are four Sundays before “Great Lent”

  • 1. Sunday of the Tax Collector and the Pharisee

  • 2. Sunday of the Prodigal Son

  • 3. Meatfare Sunday (the Final Judgment)

  • 4. Cheesefare Sunday or Forgiveness Sunday (Adam’s expulsion from Paradise)

 

 

4.3.2.2.2. Great Lent

  • there is no Ash Wednesday. Lent begins the Monday after Cheesefare Sunday

  • First Sunday (Sunday of Orthodoxy)

  • Second Sunday (St. Gregory Palamas)

  • Third Sunday (Adoration of the Cross)

  • Fourth Sunday (St. John of the Ladder)

  • Fifth Sunday (St. Mary of Egypt)

  • Lazarus Saturday (Saturday before Palm Sunday)

  • Sixth Sunday (Palm Sunday, start of Holy Week)

 

 

4.3.2.2.3. 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:

  • Second Sunday of Easter: St. Thomas Sunday, the Antipascha

  • Third Sunday of Easter: Sunday of the Myrrhbearing Women

  • Fourth Sunday of Easter: Sunday of the Healing of the Paralytic (John 5)

  • Feast of Mid-Pentecost

  • Fifth Sunday of Easter: Sunday of the Samaritan Woman (John 4)

  • Sixth Sunday of Easter: Sunday of the Healing of the Man Blind from Birth (John 9)

  • Ascension

 

 

4.3.2.2.4. Pentecost

Each day of the week after Pentecost has a special dedication:

  • Sunday: Resurrection of Jesus

  • Monday: bodiless powers, the angels

  • Tuesday: John the Baptist

  • Wednesday and Friday: Christ’s Suffering and Crucifixion

  • Thursday: apostles and St. Nicholas

  • Saturday: the Theotokos (from the Greek for “mother of God”) and memory of the departed

 

 

4.3.2.2. 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

  • Sep 14: Exaltation of the Cross

  • Nov 21: Presentation of the Theotokos to the Temple

  • Dec 25: the Nativity of Christ

  • Jan 6: the Epiphany and Baptism of Jesus

  • Feb 2: the Presentation or Meeting of Christ in the Temple

  • Mar 25: the Annunciation

  • Aug 6: The Transfiguration of Christ

  • Aug 15: The Dormition (Death) of Mary

 

Each of these other feast days is:

  • preceded by some days of pre-festal preparation (a lent)

  • followed by days of post-festal celebration

 

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

  • seen as the ideal way of life, with a goal of continuous prayer (impossible in outside world)

  • pattern emerged of prayer 7 times during the day, once a night

    • Psalm 119:164: commends prayer at 7 points during the day; many psalms refer to prayer at night

  • the times of prayers became known as “offices”

    • Latin officium = “an obligation”

 

The Monastic Day

  • 1. Prime: early morning prayer

  • 2. Mattins: morning prayer

  • 3. Terce: 9 am

  • 4. Sext: 12 noon

  • 5. None: 3 pm

  • 6. Vespers: evening prayer

  • 7. Compline: before retiring to bed

 

  • Night Office: time varied

 

Various terms have been applied for Prayer books with daily office readings:

  • Daily Office

  • Daily Hours

  • Liturgy of the Hours (common in Roman Catholicism)

  • Horologion = Book of the Hours (Orthodoxy)

 

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:

  • morning

  • noonday

  • early evening

  • evening

 

Daily offices readings are available on the Internet.

 

A contemporary Series of Daily Office Prayer Books:

  • The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime

  • The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime

  • The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime

by Phyllis Tickle (Editor), Doubleday, 2000 – 2001

 

 

References

Christian Spirituality. An Introduction. Alister E. McGrath. Blackwell Publishers, 1999. ISBN: 0631212817 (Chapter 6: Faces, Places, and Spaces: Visualization and Spatialization in Christian Spirituality)

 

 

 

 

Christian Spirituality

 

1. What is Christian Spirituality? Types of Christian Spirituality

2. Theological Foundations for Spirituality

3. Biblical Images and Christian Spirituality

4. Faces, Places, and Spaces: Visualization and Spatialization in Christian Spirituality

5. Introduction to Anglican Spirituality