Stages of spiritual development
Man begins his way with God from the time of his existence, from the begining of his existence. The sacrament of baptism makes God dwell in us. We see this in a sacramental way. The Holy Spirit lives in man and works in man. Upbringing parents, understanding, growing to greater responsibility, for example preparation for the First Holy Communion, makes this grace of God grow in us. So we begin to understand what is happening in us. Indeed, Christianity is initiation. Reading the word of God, catechesis, reading books, experiences make a person understand who he is. In fact, he is beginning to understand slowly that the Holy Spirit is working in him, that God is in him. Especially when we take Holy Communion – that is, accepting God into our own heart – we enter into communion with God as we can, if our heart is pure, and especially when in the third of the sacraments of initiation, namely confirmation, we receive the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Then we receive this basic “equipment”, so to speak, from the side of God, His presence in our life, His action becomes something more tangible to us. Of course, if we cooperate with this grace. “Gnotise auton” – so was written on the ancient temple in Delphi, about which all the great philosophers and historians of antiquity write – “know yourself”. And in fact, you can also give or apply this saying to Christians, this adage – “know yourself” – not only by allowing a person to get to know his abilities, his weaknesses, get to know himself, his reaction, his personality, but know yourself also from the side that God is working in you. And it is especially important for each of us. People today, often without understanding what the means of recognizing God’s action in us, do not see this action. But that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t work in man. It is enough for someone to take such steps, such measures, to recognize God’s action in himself. And this action, this cooperation between man and God is often called the path. The spiritual path. This spiritual path is simply a development that we experience as part of our lives, in the history of our lives, spiritual development. The entire liturgy of the Church, if we participate in it, is designed in such a way that through the word of God, through the sacrament, through teaching, through catechesis, through participation in various rituals, services, it guides people and enables them to benefit from God’s light, God’s presence let God guide him in his life. It is very important to discover that man does not shape his life alone. That man is not the master of his fate. You can see it in those moments when we lose control over what we want to do in life or how our lives are going. It can be a disease, it can be, I don’t know, even love, where we give another person the right to decide together with us how our life will develop. But it is precisely this right to shape life that we should give to God. Because God is the one who knows best what we are made to do. Hence, as we said at the very beginning of our meetings, the role of the word of God is so important. It is God who is the author of our spiritual life. It’s not us. We can only use the resources that the Church, which God himself sends, provides us so that we may really live our lives with Him. It is very important not to argue or think or act as if we are the masters of our own life. It is good to entrust ourselves to God, what’s more, to constantly ask God to make Him the main spiritual director of our life, to entrust our whole life to Him. As I mentioned, this path with God is a process. Nothing happens instantly. Nothing happens just like clapping your hands. Nothing happens automatically. Often times people think that when they say a prayer, something will happen automatically. No. We have to mature for it. We must want it. Indeed, God gives grace gratuitously, so we would say. Grace is freely given to man. But it is very important that we use this grace when making specific deeds and choices. The guide through human life is precisely the Bible, and especially the Gospel. The Gospel is just such a vademecum, that is, such “follow me”, such an instruction, such a manual on how to live with God in your own life. When we apply the Gospel to our lives, we begin to feel that the God is working. Then we start walking with God. Then we give more and more to God, we open our lives more and more to God, so that He may really become the guide – what’s more – the Lord of our lives. It is very important. Of course, prayer is important here. Prayer is precisely the intense moments in which we are alone with God. We will still talk about prayer. But where we are alone with God, where we open our lives consciously in order to commune with God, so that our relationship with God is the most important. I will come back to baptism for a while. Our faith, our religion – Christianity – that is to walk with God. In fact, we do not pursue God, as if God was somewhere remote from us and we would like to go up the mountain where God is. No. We are already starting with God. Because we were created by God, because we were baptized in the name of the triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit accompanies us from the moment of our existence, and especially from our baptism, we nourish ourselves by His presence in the Eucharist in confirmation. The Holy Spirit gives us all His gifts so that we may go through our whole life with God. And that is why we, compared to other religions, start where they often want to go, namely: we begin our path immediately with God. This path is there, it is happening in us. But as much as we open ourselves to His action. So our path is more opening up for God to work in us. It is a very important element of this path. Often times people do not realize and feel that they have to come to God. While it is not really so – although you can of course say that – it is God who wants to enter our heart. And our way is, first of all, that we open our hearts to God. It is very important to give God the initiative and, of course, not to remain idle on our part. But to commit ourselves through those means that the Church – because this is the Church’s task – provides us, prompts us to make it possible for us to openly and for God to act in our hearts. We said that the spiritual life is the way. The path with God in which He is the guide. This path has its stages. Usually, spiritual experts talk about three stages. On the first stage, the beginner stage, which is called the purification stage, then the intermediate or advanced stage, which is called the enlightenment stage, and finally the stage of union with God. Of course, we usually start with this stage one. However, it is important to remember that these stages are not just as if someone goes to the first stage, then moves to the second and finally the third – no. These stages sometimes overlap. These are just, let’s say, periods where some details can be seen that show us that we are more in the stage of, say, purification than in the stage of enlightenment or union with God. The first stage – purification – begins with such a deep encounter with God, with such a deep impulse in which man discovers the reality of God’s presence. And then we begin to consciously strive for God. So it is not because of our parents’ upbringing, not because there is such a tradition that we are used to it, that we learned this way – no. Man must discover God personally. And this stage, this moment is very important. We start to notice that it is not so much our personal development that consists in fulfilling or realizing our possibilities, as it is often emphasized today that you have to realize yourself, you have to fulfill yourself, you have to fulfill all your possibilities … This is not true. Man realizes himself and, I would say, fulfills, fulfills all his possibilities, develops these possibilities when he is not looking at himself. When she starts looking at God. These filling, fulfilling potencies of various kinds take place in a secondary sense. If not, then the person is insanely focused on himself. And in essence, we fall into a magic wheel, a spooky wheel in which we spin around each other like a merry-go-round. A man wants to realize himself, and therefore he subordinates everything, even his own family, even his own children, even his own husband, often for this reason marriages break up – because who says: “no, I have the right to fulfill myself, you become an obstacle for me, raising children becomes an obstacle, no, because I want to be, I want to realize my potentials and my abilities more and more ”. And this is then something extremely dangerous that so many people fall into today. So, in order to realize yourself, to develop your own abilities, to go on this path, you need to know God. He guides us. And the first stage is the discovery of His presence, when a person simply experiences something extraordinary in his heart. It is simply this reality of encountering the living God that makes them flow from our hearts, as St. John says, streams of living water. We would like to give ourselves to the world. Something starts to appear that it is not me who wants for myself, it is not me who is around, but I want to give something to the world. Then comes this enthusiasm, such energy, it usually happens through the so-called a second conversion when we pass from inherited faith to our personal faith. And then man begins to pray, man begins to be cleansed of his own sins, to repair his own life, to confess his mistakes, of the sins he has committed.
Personal faith is faith in God, it is our relationship with God. Hence, it is so important to survive this stage well. Of course, this is an easy stage to live through, because we are then carried, so to speak, by this discovery of God’s presence, by this personal relationship with God. It often happens that a person then, how to say this, is not able to pray enough. Often, if it is a transition from, say, a very cold faith to an enthusiastic faith, to such a dynamic faith, then this meeting is sometimes accompanied by tears, sometimes let’s say a desire to undo everything that we have done wrong in life, to rebuild our life, to stick to God, we want to pray as much as possible, we feel how much we need the God, that we need Him, like a cracked earth needs rain, for the dryness we experienced. Only then we discover our heart. And this period is an important period because, of course, one has to rely not only on enthusiasm and dynamism, but also to make us engage, but calmly and calmly, in the life of the Church, in the pastoral life, in the life of the parish community, into the life of a movement … Then formation is also very necessary. But this period is characterized by the fact that we do a lot, that we are the ones who act a lot. Of course, inspired by the Lord God, as we trust. But slowly this period re-tunes itself, turns into a calmer period, and sometimes difficulties also arise. This is the period in which we have to purify, settle accounts with our lives, we have to finish a certain stage and start another. But we are also beginning to understand that it is God who takes the initiative. And God takes the initiative by the fact that we stop at a certain stage, after some time feel this enthusiasm, we start to feel the hardship of this path, the weight of our choices, that it is not so easy to live for God, to live so simply with others, that we are not the ones who shape our lives, but that we have to give others a chance, in community with others, so then we have to be in the community, only then do we really mature, but we are slowly starting to be accompanied by difficulties and troubles – that this enthusiasm is not immediately possible so great as in the beginning that we begin to feel that trouble is coming, obstacles that we see … We see them not only on the outside, but also within ourselves. Because it turns out that our sinfulness is a fact that has occurred and these sins sometimes weigh us down, not everything can be cleaned immediately, we get to know ourselves more and more from the inside and in any case we see that there are a lot of troubles on our way. But these troubles are to come, this is how they are to arise, because it is only when we slowly begin to doubt our strength that we actually hand over the power over our lives to God. And it takes a long time. It’s not like it happens, I don’t know, after a few months or something – no, it lasts sometimes for years, sometimes for the rest of our lives … The more we let God act by agreeing to what is happening in our lives beyond our control. Sometimes it is, for example, the death of a loved one, troubles, difficulties that come, sometimes even doubts that accompany us – they are all so that God can take the initiative, that we give him this initiative, give our right to our life completely. And then this stage of enlightenment begins. Because then we only begin to understand that God works in our lives and we begin to understand the innermost laws of His wisdom, and then we will talk less about it. Today the point is to start this stage of union with God later. In fact, God unites us from the very beginning, from the very existence of our existence, everything is to unite with God and God weaves this thread of our life in this way. But of course we come to these higher stages when we really want to dedicate ourselves to God. Then we need spiritual masters, we need saints, we need a spiritual director, we also need this inner struggle, without which our spiritual life cannot take place. Internal struggle is something that allows us to live our spiritual path well with God. Let us remember, however, that he is the spiritual director of our lives.