Piety in body and soul

Posted by watchmen
September 4, 2020
Posted in OPINION

We have to make sure that our piety and our devotion to God and everything related to him has to involve both the body and soul. It has to involve our whole person. It just cannot be purely spiritual or purely material. It just cannot be only a matter of knowing the doctrine, quite cerebral in approach, without some external manifestations, or of practicing all sorts of devotional exercises, without knowing the doctrine of faith. 

If piety has to be authentic and consistent in all circumstances, then it has to be lived both in our spiritual soul whose main faculties are our intellect and will, and in our material body whose link to our soul, the principle of life, are the emotions and passions, the memory and the imagination, our temperament and psychological state, etc.

When piety is limited to one or the other essential element of our being, to either our spiritual soul or the material body, then it cannot be consistent. It cannot hold out against that anomaly for long. It sooner or later will fall into the tricks of hypocrisy and self-deception.

Thus, we can have people who can be described as solid in their doctrinal knowledge and theological training but suffering from persistent sinfulness that is usually hidden. Or people who do a lot of devotional practices, active in parochial activities, but committing big sins due to ignorance or confusion with respect to doctrinal and moral principles.

The challenge is how to put these two essential elements of our body and soul together in the service of authentic piety. We know that due to our wounded nature, these two are many times in some kind of life-long conflict. St. Paul articulated this well when he said: “I see another law at work in my body, warring against the law of my mind and holding me captive to the law of sin that dwells within me.” (Rom 7, 23)

Of course, to tackle this predicament we should first of all ask for the grace of God in whom nothing is impossible. But we also have to do our part, which is to struggle and to train our body to conform itself to the truth captured by our intellect that is enlightened by faith.

This will require spending a lot of time meditating on the word of God, on the life and example of Christ and all the saints, most especially Our Lady, so that we can develop the appropriate feelings, emotions and passions that serve as the link between our spiritual soul and our material body. Hopefully, this will lead us to have a strong and indestructible attachment to God, one that no human problem can take away.

In this regard, it would be good to appeal to the Holy Spirit, our sanctifier, so that we can receive his gifts and fruits. As our Catechism would put it, the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit help us to be docile to the workings of grace (gifts) and to show the effects of such grace (fruits).

It’s very interesting to know the fruits of the Holy Spirit because they show us what great blessing we can have when we finally receive them. According to the Catechism, they are: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity. (cfr. 1852)

Imagine what we would enjoy if our piety is genuine, if it truly involves both the body and the soul, if it comes as a consequence of being with God in the Holy Spirit!

I would suggest that we should really spend time meditating on our faith and training our body by developing our emotions and passions, conforming them to the truths of our faith rather than to the impulses of the sensible world alone.

In an authentic piety, we materialize the spiritual and spiritualize the material./WDJ

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