With this 6th diagram (see below) our presentation of the Spiritual Journey has a turning point. We are not anymore addressing just “Jesus’ Journey in us”, and “His Action in us”, we start to consider our own journey, as a direct result of Jesus’ Action in us.
As you will recall, this series of diagrams is meant to present and explain the total shape (topography) of our “spiritual journey”. We had first to see Jesus’ Journey, Jesus’ action in us, because it shapes our future Journey. His journey is inseparable from ours.
Now that we clarified Jesus’ journey, we start to focus on ours (our “spiritual journey” is rooted in Jesus-our-Way). This is why the diagram has an ascending curve. We are climbing the Mountain of Perfection that leads to the Union with Jesus-God. We are going upward.
- The Goal of Spiritual Life
You may notice at first that the goal of the ascent is not God himself (the Divine Nature). This would mean that the top of the mountain goes directly to the Trinity. Here, you have a slight difference. But in fact it is not a small difference, it is a very important and big difference. We aim to reach Jesus, the One who is “perfect God” and “perfect Man”. Our ideal is to be united with Him, to be like Him, so our life on earth becomes an extension of His Life. He is our ideal, because He is not God only, but Man as well (“Son of Man” says the Gospel). Our ideal is not to reach something beyond Him. In Him we find the fullness of Divinity and we get ready to our journey of greater service, with Him and in Him.
- Note: many authors did make the mistake of putting that in spiritual life we aim to reach the “Union with God” and then after we die. But “God” here, understood as the goal of our life (union with God) is not precise, and can mislead. We cannot have as an ideal a Being that is not incarnated. We cannot put an end to our spiritual life right after the “union with God”, this is not what Jesus wants from us: the perfect disciple follows the example of His Master. All the Apostles did die like their Master. This “deviation”, or incomplete initial vision of the journey of spiritual life did happen because of many factors: one of them is the influence of Greek philosophy during the first centuries of Christianity. Their ideal was the “theoria”, or “Theology”, which is to reach the One, God, and contemplate Him. This is not at all wrong (this is why it was widely accepted as a christian position) but it is incomplete.
In fact, we want to reach Jesus, the fulness of Jesus, the fulness of his height, as saint Paul put it. And “reaching Jesus” is not the final stage of our spiritual life. We want to be “in Jesus” and “Jesus in us”, alive and acting, in order to continue His mission on earth and reach the “fullness of love”. This is the real final goal.
In the Journey of our spiritual life, we have then like two poles/goals:
- to reach the top of the Mountain: the union with Jesus: “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Ga 2:20)
- to reach the bottom of the Mountain: the fullness of love: “I complete in my flesh whatever remains of the Christ’s sufferings on behalf of his body, which is the church.” (Col 1:24) All this, especially the second part of our spiritual journey, will appear in the coming diagrams.
This is why, already in this diagram, the arrows that symbolise Christ’s Journey and our spiritual journey, not only do unite in the end (Christ starts to live and act in us), but the tip of the arrows does point downward (and not upward). It is anticipating the journey of descent, at the image of Christ who, being fully man, did choose for our sake and for the sake of our salvation, to descent more: Christ “who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; “Christ Jesus: rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death even death on a Cross!” (Phil 2:5-8) We can say that reaching the “Union with Jesus”, we do not consider our union with Jesus-God something to be used to our own advantage… we humble ourselves, by becoming obedient to Jesus’ command, imitating Him, to death, a death on a Cross.
For now, let us focus on the ascent, and how it happens in us, how it follows Jesus’ life as it is presented in the Gospels, as we saw it in the previous diagrams.
|6- Jesus’ influences along the Spiritual Journey
As we can see, for now, we have at least 6 stages in our spiritual life, that coincide with Jesus’ Journey in the Gospels. Remember: the journey of Peter and the Journey of Jesus are matching: in each stage, Christ has a more specific action on the apostles and his followers. On the Diagram above, you can notice the two lines of ascension: Christ one (in darker colours) and ours (in clearer colours). You can see the little arrows that rise from Christ’s line to ours, they symbolise the mystical transformative Action of Jesus in us, in each phase.
- Note: Of Course, Christ is free to act in the order He wants, according to our need seen by His Wisdom. Normally though, He acts this way: from the most exterior part of us to the deepest. Purifying us, step by step, going deeper, changing the way He acts (from the “milk” to the “solid food”), the intensity of His Action grows, since the purer we are the less obstacles we oppose to His Action in us
Here are the 6 stages of the journey that we can discern for now (we will explore more stages later), and they follow the description of the majority of the Spiritual Masters who mentioned the steps of our spiritual journey (saint John of the Cross and saint Theresa of Avila):
- First part of Jesus ministry: “Purification of the Sense”
- Second part of Jesus ministry: Turning point, Peter’s Declaration, Jesus predicts his passion and death, Jesus heads towards Jerusalem: “Purification of the Soul” (emotions)
- Third part: Jesus enters in His Passion: “Purification of the Spirit”
- Fourth part: Jesus dies: ends of the purification, “Spiritual Betrothal”
- Fifth part: Jesus Rises, Appears for 40 days, Ascends into heaven at the Right hand of the Father: “Spiritual Marriage”
- Sixth part: Pentecost: the Coming of the Holy Spirit: the Living Flame starts to Sparkle. Acquisition of the Holy Spirit.
If Jesus’ action in the first 3 stages is of “purification”, the 4th is more of illumination, and the 5th of Union. This is according to the classical division of the journey inherited from Greek Philosophy.