Spirituality in the Profane – True Christian Spirituality

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The most troubling aspect of people’s spiritual lives is how disconnected they make it from everyday living.  Spiritual practices, disciplines, and all things Godly are made to feel important because they seem to belong somewhere other than in our present worldly condition.  We pray for a world “out there” to come to a world “right here” or we seek a lifestyle next to impossible to live given our present circumstances.  Spirituality becomes something foreign to our current condition and only developed by men and women dedicating their lives to non-worldly lifestyles.

The separation of what’s spiritual from what’s “profane” (i.e. lived everyday) is a late development in the history of Christian spirituality.  Because Christianity is an “incarnational” faith; one that uses bread, wine, oil, people, touch, etc. to convey spiritual things, the profane and natural have always been inseparably connected to the holy and supernatural.  Benedict of Nursia always made this connection clear to his monks and that type of spirituality is deeply ingrained in his his rule of monastic living.  For example, his directives regarding the cellarer in chapter 31 states the following:

As cellarer of the monastery, there should be chosen from the community someone who is wise, mature in conduct, temperate, not an excessive eater, not proud, excitable, offensive, dilatory or wasteful, but God-fearing, and like a father to the whole community. He will take care of everything, but will do nothing without an order from the abbot. Let him keep to his orders. He should not annoy the brothers. If any brother happens to make an unreasonable demand of him, he should not reject him with disdain and cause him distress, but reasonably and humbly deny the improper request. Let him keep watch over his own soul, ever mindful of that saying of the Apostle: He who serves well secures a good standing for himself (1 Tim 3:13). He must show every care and concern for the sick, children, guests and the poor, knowing for certain that he will be held accountable for all of them on the day of judgment. He will regard all utensils and goods of the monastery as sacred vessels of the altar, aware that nothing is to be neglected. He should not be prone to greed, nor be wasteful and extravagant with the goods of the monastery, but should do everything with moderation and according to the abbot’s orders.”

In the words above we find a very down to earth description of a very practical job in a monastery, but this very everydayness is infused with a spiritual significance.  In particular, this chapter of the rule states the cellarer must “regard all utensils and goods of the monastery as sacred vessels of the altar”!  This sacredness found in the everydayness of life is an essential aspect of Christian spirituality.  It keeps Christianity from becoming a faith that disdains the ordinary and natural, in particular the corporeal, and reminds us Christ lived and breathed in a human body making all that is created a means of experiencing a supernatural grace.

It’s my hope those of us seeking to live Christian lives will do so as people embodied and living in the world.  We need not fear that by engaging in everyday activities such as cooking, playing games, laughing with one another, falling in love, and caring for the lawn that somehow we’re kept from our spiritual lives and caught up in the secular. We shouldn’t worry that by making love, cleaning the bathroom, or completing the most everyday jobs we’re somehow “unholy” and in need of purification.  We can do all things with heavenly intentions.  All of creation is ours to use in a redeemed manner and in a grace filled way.  When the Christian engages in the everydayness of life, the everydayness becomes part of the eternal and what is good, holy, and true becomes part of our immediate experience, not something we wait for to drop from heaven.

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