Very busy around here lately. Among other things, we welcomed our first grandson to the world! Everyone is doing very well, and it's great fun to see all of the new aunts and uncles jumping feet-first into the roles.
This month's formation session is an introduction to spirituality. On deck is liturgy, followed by Foundations (two months), which I assume is an intro to theology proper. The syllabus for this year winds up with Old Testament (another two months), and this looks to conclude the Aspirant year material. I've looked at the next couple of years' worth of classes, and they look to go into considerably more detail.
The books: Christian Spirituality: Themes from the Tradition, The Pastoral Rule of St. Gregory the Great, and Into the Silent Land. There are times that I feel like I'm threading two needles at once. First - how can I better understand (and develop) my own spirituality? The readings (and required reflections) prompt some interesting interrogations of my own practices and routines, especially around spirituality in terms of community. It is interesting to see that I've scratched my way towards some of these things already.
Secondly, how will I communicate these things to others? I imagine the first thing will be to extricate notions of spirituality, meditation, and the like from the culture and recast them in terms of the Christian life. For one, these are methods that are not ends in themselves. If love for neighbor has not increased, the time and effort have been wasted. The Desert Fathers knew this and preached extensively on the subject. Regarding fasting, for example, we read in the Institutes. Cassian asks why the monks they were visiting have dispensed with their fasting during their visit. An elder replies:
"Fasting is ever with me, but since I am soon going to send you on your way I shall not always be able to keep you with me. And fasting, as beneficial and necessary as it may be, is nonetheless a gift that is voluntarily offered, whereas the requirements of the commandment demand that the work love be carried out. And so I welcome Christ in you and must refresh him. But when show you on your way I shall be able to make up for the hospitality extended on his behalf by a stricter fast of my own. For 'the children of the bridegroom cannot fast as long as the bridegroom is with them,' but when the bridegroom departs, then they will rightly fast."
(John Cassian, The Institutes, 5.XXIV, trans. Ramsey, 132)