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Papal preacher: Western Christians should learn from Eastern spirituality

March 27, 2015

In his 4th Lenten Sermon of the year, on Friday, March 27, Father Raniero Cantalamessa concluded a series of talks that compared Eastern and Western Christian approaches to spirituality.

Preaching in the Redemptoris Mater chapel to Pope Francis and members of the Roman Curia, the preacher to the pontifical household observed: “The goal of life for Greek Christians is divinization, and for Christians in the West, the attainment of holiness.” Putting the matter differently, he said that “the East has assimilated the positive aspect of salvation: the deification of man and the restoration of the image of God. The West has assimilated the negative aspect: freedom from sin.”

Christians in the West could profit from reflection on the Eastern understanding, the papal preacher said. He remarked that in the West, “if one asks an average Christian what it means to be ‘in the grace of God’ or to live ‘in grace,’ the answer is almost certainly ‘to live without mortal sin on one’s conscience.’” In the East, the answer would more likely involve a reference to new life in Christ.

The problem is complicated, Father Cantalamessa said, by the tendency in the West to separate theology from spirituality and mysticism. Fortunately, he said, in the past century the charismatic renewal has challenged that separation. The papal preacher said that this renewal is one of the gifts of the Holy spirit. “It is not a question of belonging to this movement, or to any movement,” he said, “but of opening oneself to the action of the Holy Spirit in whatever state one finds oneself.”

 


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