Monday, August 13, 2012

José Pereira and Robert Fastiggi on Augustinian Spirituality during the Catholic Reformation, Part 2 of 2

Baroque Augustinian Fray. Luis de León
The last post concerned the writings of José Pereira and Robert Fastiggi on Augustinian spirituality during the Catholic Reformation. This post concerns a part of their writings where St. Augustine posits the degrees of the spiritual life, which is numbered at seven grades of progress, and are closely linked to the Beatitudes (which are eight though apparently two are grouped together to make seven main points). I am cautious about what is contained in this reading of St. Augustine's work since I've not yet read St. Augustine's sermons on the Sermon on the Mount, nor am I too familiar with St. Augustine's writings on spiritual progress. All the less however, I will post this forward in an attempt to bring a scholarly (and costly) work to the public. The work again is The Mystical Theology of the Catholic Reformation. Which is about $48 on Amazon.

"2. Degrees of Spiritual Life

As we have seen, the Augustinians understand spiritual progress as the perfection of charity, understood as the fullness of justice. Complementary to this understanding is the model of spiritual progress based on the beatitudes of Christ's Sermon on the Mount (Mat. 5-7). For [St.] Augustine, the seven degrees into which the spiritual life is  divisible corresponding to the seven beatitudes: those of the poor in spirit, the meek, the sorrowful, those yearning for justice, the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers are understood as representations of seven degrees or stages of the spiritual life.Each beatitude has a corresponding quality with which it is associated. These qualities resemble, but do not exactly match, the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are: the fear of God, docility [piety], knowledge, strength [fortitude], compassion [counsel/right judgment], understanding, and wisdom.

The poor in spirit represent the first stage of the spiritual life; it is associated with the Spirit's gift of the fear of God. They point to the need to repent, renounce pride, and to be clothed in humility, which is true poverty of spirit.

The meek express the second stage of the spiritual life; it is associated with the gift of docility [piety]. Obedience to the divine precepts manifests docility to the teaching of Holy Scripture. True docility is characterized by the quality of sweetness.

The sorrowful embody the third stage of the spiritual life; it is associated with the gift of knowledge. By studying the word of God, one attains the true knowledge of one's own misery. At this stage, one is still in conflict with one's barely extinguished passions. by recognizing the imperfection of one's love for things that are truly good, there is the experience of holy sadness. Thus, this stage of the spiritual ascent includes those who are sorrowful.

The fourth stage of the spiritual life, of those who yearn for justice [and are persecuted for the sake of righteousness] is associated with the gift of strength [fortitude]. Supported by divine assistance, such people are able to resist the world and experience a pure love for eternal goods. Through purification and attention to God, they are oriented towards contemplation.

The fifth stage, exemplified by the merciful, is associated with the gift of compassion [counsel], where one begins to be prepared directly for contemplation by purifying oneself from acts of negligence and light faults. The endless need for God's pardon inspires one to be merciful to obtain mercy for oneself. This desire for purification leads to an increase of love for one's neighbor and even to a love for one's enemies.

The sixth stage is manifested by the pure of heart; it is associated with the gift of understanding. Purity is achieved when one confidently directs one's sight to God alone. With all affection and attachments to false goods removed, one's heart becomes pure and one is prepared to see God.

The seventh and highest stage of the spiritual life, that of the peacemakers, is associated with the gift of wisdom. When their human intelligence now purified, they are able to possess the true Good, contemplate the divine perfections and to enjoy the fruit of contemplation that is peace."

I'm not too aware of this schema in St. Augustine's writings, but then again I have not read his sermons on Christ's Sermon on the Mount, though it certainly sounds like a plausible Baroque Augustinian synthesis or at least a plausible synthesis of St. Augustine's thought. Certainly the restlessness and disquiet of the heart is a theme in St. Augustine's writings, and the manner in which that disquiet can only be filled by God.

1. "Usually, the beatitudes are numbered as eight rather than seven. In regard to the degrees of the spiritual life, however, those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness are included with those who yearn for justice. The relevant texts of [St.] Augustine are De quantitate animae and De sermone Domini in monte."

1 comment:

  1. "If you haven't any charity in your heart you have the worst kind of heart trouble" to cure it help people, let's unite for one good cause, be a volunteer"save lives"!mawaddainternationalaid