A Continuing Discernment About the Definition of Christian Spirituality

Until recently, spirituality to me was mostly about prayer. I suppose this is the result of my Carmelite studies. Their spirituality is mainly focused on prayer.  Plus, if spirituality is about my relationship with God, then prayer is the way that relationship is cultivated.  

Historically, the word spirituality came from the Greek word for “to breathe.” To our knowledge, Paul was the first to use the word for the Holy Spirit, and he was basing his word choice on the ancient Hebrew word for Spirit, which also had to do with breath / breathing.   I see two reasons for this. One reason has to do with God breathing his breath into us at creation.  The other has to do with the little nudges of the Spirit when he is prompting us to do something.  In some ways, it is like a breath pushing us, but not overwhelming our freedom of choice. 

Eventually, the Greek word was translated into Latin (spiritualis), which is the basis of the English word – spiritual.  In effect, Paul’s usage of the word was intended to express the work of the Holy Spirit in and around the Christian community. 

Over time, the word has taken on a lot of different connotations, including some that have nothing to do with the Spirit. For instance, many people use the word to express their desires to find more meaning in life. Some use it to talk about transcendence. The two latter definitions do not have to be based on a religious ideology.  

So, what is my current definition of spirituality?  In short, I think Christian spirituality is the lived experience of a Christian in his or her faith walk. It includes prayer, apostolic works, and the moral code by which we live. In addition, I think it has to include the original concept of living in the spirit. In effect, everything I think, do, and say should reflect my spirituality, my practice of living out my faith. 

This gives me pause. Do my acts, thoughts and words reflect my Christian spirituality? No, but that is ok. Life is a spiritual journey, which consists of being purified in the Spirit.  So, one day, likely at the end of my time on this earth, my spirituality will be perfected. Until then, I will journey on. 

Spend some time today reflecting on your understanding of spirituality. How do your life decisions and behaviors reflect your beliefs?  We are sinners, so don’t expect perfection. Still, spend some time in prayer to see how you can better live in the Spirit, and more direct your life towards a more fulfilling journey.

In Him,


Author: dweldon8

I am a middle-aged, retired real estate lawyer seeking more out of life. It is my heart-felt belief that it is only in knowing God, and loving him more deeply that humanity can truly find happiness. This blog reflects my thoughts on what this knowing and loving should be, and how to cultivate this relationship.

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