Friday, August 14, 2015
The ordinary Christian in our modern world is not interested in ascetical and mystical theology, it all sounds strange: a pre-enlightened era of our history. We are more interested in love of God and neighbor, and this is the standard.
However, Catholicism has a tradition that goes back to many of the theologians of the past who have done much to introduce us to spirituality. We are familiar with the purgative, illuminative and unitive paths-- the ascetical would be the purgative, and the mystical the illuminative way. Another way of saying this: ascetical theology treats the ordinary way to growth in perfection while mystical theology treats the extraordinary way.
A seminary spirituality professor in the Peace Weekly gives the readers an idea of what is involved in teaching about spirituality, its development, and in its importance.
In the early church, we had persons with a desire to be faithful to the teachings they had received, zealously living the spiritual life, praying and meditating but a little change in their thinking in the beginning led gradually to big problems, and separation from the community of faith to which they belonged, and falling into what we called heresy.
In the 17th century, many mystical movements in society moved the church in the following centuries in two directions. One way was to emphasize the ascetical over those who were trying to catch the clouds. The other approach was to write books about the correct methods of spirituality in an academic manner.
One of the well-known books on spirituality was written by Scaramelli, (1687-1752) on systems of spirituality. He wrote many books on spirituality, which were academically written and expressed the danger of the emotions in the striving for spirituality.
A.Poulain, (1836-1919), one of his well-known books was: The Graces of Interior Prayer--A treatise on mystical theology. In the introduction, he stressed he wrote the book for those who were interested in mystical theology and those who were teachers in spirituality. He tried to stay away from the subjective and to establish the theory and analyze what was happening, and contributed a great deal to the study of mystical theology.
The authorities in the church seeing what was going on entered the picture. In 1919, Pope Benedict 15th, and in 1931 Pope Pio 11th, both wanted the distinction between ascetical and mystical to me made, and to teach it in the colleges of the church.
In conclusion, he says this way of thinking with the ascetical and mystical spirituality gave rise to many problems not easily resolved, and gave birth to movements away from the church. Efforts were made to systematize the teaching on spirituality, which is the movement that is presently going on in the church. It is an intellectual understanding of the systems of spirituality within theology that is being developed.