Friday, July 21, 2006

Affective Spirituality

Reading Chapter 17 of Julian's Showings is not easy for a contemporary reader like me. The graphic depiction of the suffering of Christ and His Passion is hard on the soul. Julian regretted praying to receive Christ's pain. Some of the images she depicted are below. Be forewarned. It is graphic.

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To begin with, while the flesh was still fresh and bleeding, the continual pressure of the thorns made the wounds open wide. And then I began to see that the sweet skin and tender flesh, mixed with the hair and blood, was raised and had become loosened from the bones by the thorns, for they cut through and jagged it into many pieces. (C.17 Julian's Showings)

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The deepest and greatest pain is to see your love suffer.

I learnt that such affective spirituality is a common practice during the time of Julian in the 13th-14th Century. This visualization of the suffering of Christ actually spur one to share in the Passion and spiritual depth of despair. In the midst of this image, I learn that not only do I see Christ coming from the heights of heaven, I saw the depths of sin in me and that Christ's love is death unto life. Spirituality is not only being able to see the highest forms of holiness in God, it is also to utterly detest the sins and temptation that lurks to stumble many of God's chosen people. Holiness is not only about pursuing God. It is about resisting and hating sin utterly. This resonates with John Owen's insightful treatise on Triumph over Temptation. He wrote:

"To gain spiritual strength, we must weaken sin, disentangle our hearts from false ambitions, and cleanse our thoughts. We must also mortify our affections so that we become more engaged in the worship of God than in the worship of our own idols. Mortification prunes indwelling sin and allows the graces of God to grow with vigour in our life." (John Owen)

Another affective spirituality prayer is below:
"O Jesus, most profound abyss of mercy: I beseech you by the depth of your wounds, which pierced your flesh to the heart and very marrow of your bones, draw me from the depths of sin into which I have sunk, and hide me deep in the holes of your wounds from the face of your anger, Lord, until judgment is past." (Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars, pp 248-56)


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