Most of us experience life as a struggle – a struggle to stay healthy and stable, to stay normal and not to fall apart under the pressures of life.
Spiritual Growth: the different stages
In the gospels we are constantly reminded to take up our cross and follow Jesus. This could be interpreted that we ought to seek out crosses to bear. But most of us experience life as a struggle – a struggle to stay healthy and stable, to stay normal and not to fall apart under the pressures of life. We struggle to maintain ourselves, struggle to grow and to keep depression and illness at bay. We call this stage spiritual maintenance and many may never move beyond it. We don’t need to seek out any extra crosses. They are already part of life. The grinding routine and chores of life are more than enough.
When we succeed in maintaining our balance in life we are invited to ascend to a higher level of living – to grow beyond our immaturities, our laziness, our smugness and the perennial hedonism and shallowness of our culture. Here the person tries to reach upwards, beyond, towards all that is more noble, compassionate, loving, admirable and saintly. Much of Jesus’ preaching challenges to undertake this up-ward journey but the limitations imposed by the day-to-day struggles of life often result in our failure to take on the ascent ladder. It is the saints and the mystics who have succeeded in scaling this ladder. Pope John Paul II used this very effectively when challenging young people not to settle for compromise or second-best but to aim for the stars – something more noble to give their lives to than the attractions of the world.
There is the third element of spiritual growth which we might call descent. It does not matter how high we climb the ascent ladder there is always awaiting us that frightening world of transformation, chaos, diminishment, darkness and death. We often encounter people who, having lived good and noble lives, find it difficult to make this ultimate transition. They become very frightened and agitated when they perceive their end to be in sight. For some people this transition begins when they step down or retire from a high profile job, and continues into old age, immobility and infirmity. This journey of descent is painful and can be frightening and challenging even for the most spiritual of people. We call this living the Paschal Mystery. We are reminded in the Creed that Jesus first descended into hell or the underworld before ascending into heaven. Life reveals itself above us, below us and on the flat plains of ordinariness.
– Ossory Newsletter