After Douglas Christie visited La Perla, a site in Argentina infamous for its role as a place of torture and death during that country’s “Dirty War”, he turned to the writings of Jan van Ruusbroec and Michel de Certeau to help him reflect about his experience. His essay is an exploration about the deep sense of darkness, loss, and absence he encountered there. Instead of reacting with despair and hopelessness, Christie found the experience “unexpectedly fruitful.” Here’s a paragraph from the essay’s concluding section:
I began these reflections at La Perla, standing before the black door, among los desaparecidos. A more abysmal absence it would be difficult to imagine. Nor can anything be said to account for all that has been lost here or give it meaning. Silence here is a gesture of respect. Still, in this particular context, absence and silence have proven unexpectedly fruitful—”compassion and a common shared suffering with all” seeding deep practices of social and political solidarity. Voices arising from the silence to bear witness. I was not alone that day at La Perla. There were others present with me in this place—colleagues, students, and many others unknown to me. All standing vigil together in the darkness. This, it seems to me, is part of what it means to respond to the absence and loss that afflicts us: to descend into the abyss, to inhabit with one another “the dark silence in which all the loving are lost,” and to bear witness from that place of darkness and silence.
Here is the article’s citation:
Christie, Douglas E. “Reading Ruusbroec in Argentina: Darkness, Loss and the Common Life.” Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality 18, no. 2 (2018): 131-151.
Co-edited by SSCS Past President Pieter G. R. de Villiers (who is also a contributor), this essay collection explores how Christian mysticism drew on late Hebrew and Aramaic texts and the Greek philosophical tradition for its early development. Here is the book’s “aim and scope”:
The nature and origin of Jewish mysticism is a controversial subject. This volume explores the subject by examining both the Hebrew and Aramaic tradition (Dead Sea Scrolls, 1 Enoch) and the Greek philosophical tradition (Philo) and also examines the Christian transformation of Jewish mysticism in Paul and Revelation. It provides for a nuanced treatment that differentiates different strands of thought that may be considered mystical. The Hebrew tradition is mythical in nature and concerned with various ways of being in the presence of God. The Greek tradition allows for a greater degree of unification and participation in the divine. The New Testament texts are generally closer to the Greek tradition, although Greek philosophy would have a huge effect on later Christian mysticism. The book is intended for scholars and advanced students of ancient Judaism and early Christianity.
Here is the book’s citation information:
Collins, John J, Pieter G. R Villiers, and Adela Yarbro Collins, eds. Apocalypticism and Mysticism in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity. Ekstasis: Religious Experience from Antiquity to the Middle Ages, 7. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2018.
In this open access article, Diana Villegas, author of The Christian Path in a Pluralistic World and the Study of Spirituality, argues for the importance of theological reflection in a time when multiple spiritual paths are available within and outside traditional religions. Here is the article’s abstract:
The aim of this article is to show the inherent connection between spirituality and belief and the significance of this for the study and practice of Christian spirituality. John Hick, a scholar of religion, argues that religions arose in human culture in order to offer beliefs and practices that respond to the human quest for meaning and transcendence. Assuming spirituality refers to consciously living life in terms of such beliefs and rituals, then religion’s function in culture is to provide a spirituality. Based on the latter theory, I argue for the importance of theological or confessional reflection regarding contemporary belief, given that theology reflects on the beliefs of a religion and at its best helps persons understand and integrate their beliefs into the living of life at a particular historical-cultural moment. In our contemporary globalised, pluralistic culture the influence on spiritual practice of multiple sources of wisdom is common, as shown by sociological studies discussed in this study. This cultural context calls for identification, understanding and interpretation of the beliefs of Christians, as well as study regarding how these beliefs fulfil the purpose of religion in human culture, namely offering ways of living with suffering, evil and questions about the meaning of life. I argue such study fulfils both practical and theoretical functions.
The article is freely available. Here is its citation:
Villegas, Diana. “Spirituality and belief: Implications for study and practice of Christian spirituality” HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies [Online], Volume 74 Number 3 (27 August 2018).
In an article which provides two historical examples of how the Christian practice of charity is rooted in the rich theological tradition of the early church, Kimberly Baker emphasizes the importance of understanding the relationship between giver and receiver. Here is the article’s abstract:
In their preaching on care for the poor, Basil and Augustine call for a transformation of one’s relationships. While the Roman patronage system rested on relationships of privilege and dependency, Basil and Augustine cultivate a different type of relationship between the giver and receiver of charity, a relationship based not on status and need but on a shared life and identity. For Basil, that relationship is rooted in the common humanity of all people, regardless of economic or social status. Giving is natural in Basil’s worldview because humanity shares in a common human nature and thus holds all goods in common. Those who fail to share with others risk cutting themselves off from their human nature. Basil’s call to care for the poor is a call to recognize that to be human is to share in what is κοινός, held in common. And for Augustine, the relationship of giver and receiver is grounded in Christ. In loving others, Christians come to discover Christ not only present in them, by virtue of their baptism, but also present in those they serve, wherever there is human need, as promised in Matthew 25. Augustine draws the attention of Christians to those in need, including those outside the usual ties of kinship and citizenship, and even church membership, and teaches them to see in the poor, people of dignity, defined not by dependency but by Christ’s loving solidarity. In laying claim to a common bond between giver and receiver, Basil and Augustine offer a counter-cultural social vision in which giver and receiver are defined not by power or need, but by mutuality and love.
The article’s citation:
“Basil and Augustine: Preaching on Care for the Poor.” In Studia Patristica XCV: Papers Presented at the Seventeenth International Conference on Patristic Studies held in Oxford 2015, vol. 21, edited by Markus Vinzent, 251-259. Leuven: Peeters, 2017.
For the past several months, I’ve been experimenting with another blog which may be of interest to followers of this one. I’m calling it Ecozoic Cafe, and I’ve copied its About page below. All feedback is welcome!
Christian Spirituality Studies blog moderator
Why the title Ecozoic Cafe?
Ecozoic is a term proposed by Thomas Berry (1914-2009), C.P, Ph.D., a Catholic priest of the Passionist Order and a scholar of cultural history and world religions. Berry intended Ecozoic to indicate a new era where humanity can choose to live in greater harmony with the earth than it has in recent centuries. Ecozoic is less a scientific term identifying a past geological age (e.g., Cenozoic) than one offering a hopeful vision for our current and future time. According to Berry and his co-author Brian Swimme in their book The Universe Story, the Ecozoic is “a new mode of human-Earth relations, one where the well-being of the entire Earth community is the primary concern.” (The Universe Story, p. 15)
More information can be found on the web about what might be meant by the Ecozoic Era (see Ecozoic Times for example). Discussions on this blog will explore various threads in contemporary Christian and other spiritualities which can contribute toward realizing the kind of earth community envisioned by Berry and others. Humanity needs to understand and experience itself to be in deep spiritual relationship with the earth before it can address the challenge of climate change in any meaningful way, and there are many signs suggesting that such an understanding is beginning to emerge.
As for the Cafe part of the title, there are few better ways to stimulate creative thinking and conversation than a good cup coffee (or the beverage of your choice). Please feel free to leave a comment by clicking on the “Leave a comment” link at the end of each post.
(See also the first blog post.)