Spiritual maturity

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Spiritual maturity

Postby mpempa » July 16th, 2009, 5:10 am

It’s a paradox. Those who progress in the spiritual life attain a great maturity on the one hand while on the other hand they retain a childlike quality. I have encountered this phenomenon enough times among people I have met that I can no longer doubt it, even though I do not fully understand it.

Let’s see if we can sort it out.

The first thing we notice is that in their maturity and their childlike quality they do not resemble the adults or children we happen to meet in everyday life.

It’s a sad fact that many adults are not very mature, while many children believe they are entitled to all the rights and privileges of adults. Over the course of the twentieth century—and particularly in the last half of that tumultuous era—we have seen the concept of adulthood erode. Maturity and a sense of responsibility have come to be considered less important than before, while at the same time people began to regard adulthood as primarily an opportunity to do what they want, when they want, and as they want. What were once taken for granted as marks of adulthood and maturity—virtues such as honor, trustworthiness, and emotional stability—gave way to spontaneity and absence of inhibition. We see this not merely in role models of popular culture such as athletes, entertainers, politicians, and the men and women of the business world, but also in real life. We don’t admire the person who does the right thing when no one is looking, but the one who does the wrong thing in front of everyone and gets away with it. Think about it—don’t you have friends, co-workers, or even managers at work (no matter what their age may be) whose behavior seems much more typical of teenagers than full-grown adults? And as younger people have emulated this behavior and these attitudes, we have seen the model of the rebellious teenager extend downward in years to the so-called “tween” years (that is, the period between childhood and the teenage years, conventionally regarded as extending from eight to twelve years of age). As a the result, those who are still too young to know life already think they know everything there is to know, especially the seamier aspect of the world, and are as bad as the adults they copy.

This is not what we mean when we say that men and women who have progressed in the spiritual life demonstrate both maturity and a childlike quality.

I have come across a handy summary of the characteristics of maturity on a little card (undated, with no indication of place of publication) which reprints a list from a publication “Moral and Spiritual Values in Education” used by the Los Angeles City Schools. These suggested characteristics are as follows:

    He accepts criticism gratefully, being honestly glad for an opportunity to improve.
    He does not indulge in self-pity. He has begun to feel the laws of compensation operating in all life.
    He does not expect special consideration from anyone.
    He controls his temper.
    He meets emergencies with poise.
    His feelings are not easily hurt.
    He accepts the responsibility of his own acts without trying to “alibi.”
    He has outgrown the “all or nothing” stage. He recognizes that no person or situation is wholly good or wholly bad, and he begins to appreciate the Golden Mean.
    He is not impatient at reasonable delays. He has learned that he is not the arbiter of the universe and that he must often adjust himself to other people and their convenience.
    He is a good loser. He can endure defeat and disappointment without whining or complaining.
    He does not worry unduly about things he cannot help.
    He is not given to boasting or “showing off” in socially unacceptable ways.
    He is honestly glad when others enjoy success or good fortune. He has outgrown envy or jealousy.
    He is open-minded enough to listen thoughtfully to the opinions of others.
    He is not a chronic “fault-finder.”
    He plans things in advance rather than trusting to the inspiration of the moment.


This list represents a “classic” view of maturity, a view which may seem very distant from our contemporary secular outlook. In fact, if we compare this list with what we see in popular culture—movies, for example—what immediately strikes us is that immaturity has become today’s ideal rather than maturity.

The “classic” view of childhood also differs from today’s conventional ideals for children, tweens, or teens. No, the standards of this world will not provide us any clues as to what Jesus meant when He said that “…unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4). On the contrary, this passage mentions humility as the main point. We could probably add joy, acceptance of others, playfulness, and other such elements of childhood as it used to be. These childlike qualities are perfectly in keeping with maturity. When St. Paul said that we should “put away childish ways” (1 Corinthians 13:11) he did not mean the childlike humility that would allow us to enter the kingdom of heaven, but the immature behavior and thinking which today’s world endorses with such gusto.

These, then, seem to be characteristics of those who have progressed in the spiritual life—maturity and childlike humility, not in a worldly sense, but the real thing.

Genuine spirituality does not constitute a separate category of life. On the contrary, all of life is spiritual when we live in communion with God and with one another. The way we treat one another, our expectations of ourselves and others, our ability to remain calm in the face of difficulties, our emotional stability—these factors constitute a major part of our spiritual life.

What this really means, then, is that spiritual maturity is not something esoteric or out-of-reach. It is something we can attain through God’s help on the one hand and our own patient efforts on the other. It just means growing up and becoming adult men and women as God intended us to be while keeping a childlike humility.

-- By Monk Cosmas, July 15, 2009. Retrieved from OCC. You can learn more at http://www.monasteryofstjohn.org/

Cosmas (formerly Cyril) was born at the mid-point of the twentieth century, in 1950. He was raised Methodist and was the son of a minister. Soon after entering college he drifted away from Christianity, seduced by the allurements of secularism and decadence, and spent many years in the spiritual far country of depravity, degeneracy, defiance, and bad attitudinality. He entered the Greek Orthodox Church in 1996 the old-fashioned way as a repentant sinner. Anything that might be construed as a journey to Orthodoxy was confided to his spiritual father in life confession and sealed with the prayers for absolution. He is a tonsured reader / chanter. In 1997 he joined the translation team to complete the Orthodox Study Bible by producing a version of the Old Testament with commentary which conformed to the Septuagint Greek text and was made chairman of the translation committee. His work on that project continued until 2004, when he joined the brotherhood of the Monastery of St. John. He was tonsured to the small schema on March 20, 2008 with the name Cosmas. His patron saint is Cosmas of Aetolia. Among the obediences and other activities at the monastery of Fr. Cosmas are copy editing, proofreading, translating, and some writing for Divine Ascent Press, hauling trash to the dump, dipping and chopping candles, and making coffee.
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Re: Spiritual maturity

Postby Hedgewitch » July 16th, 2009, 8:45 am

Pempy

What a great thread! I like it a lot.

As a pagan I'll hold back on my thoughts as an ex-Christian, though they would hardly be derogatory as I have taken most of my attitudes with me from those times. However, what I would say is that, in the broadest sense, I fear for future generations.

I know I'm 50 next birthday and may be inclined to look back with rose-coloured glasses a tad too often, but I do feel society is crumbling for want of a few basic approaches as you've listed. In earlier life my parents would have both drummed into me the adult ways of doing things and led by their example. Latterly, I picked up other virtues by my associations in various groupings. The main failing I see in my kids, and they're good, well-rounded kids, are their impetuous natures. Sure, I've schooled them to be passionate about things, but they have a great job controlling themselves at times.

For all my angst at modern society, mind, I do plan to be skateboarding or somesuch when I'm 80, if I can manage it!

Cheers

Bruce
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Re: Spiritual maturity

Postby mpempa » July 16th, 2009, 9:19 am

Hello Hedgewitch ... it is a fantastic topic!

Thank you for explaining that you are a pagan .. as such, we can approach "spiritual maturity" even as a general theme as opposed to religious specifics, if you like ... I was very inspired with what Monk Cosmas wrote and I very much wanted to share it as I felt many truths in what he wrote.

For one thing .. I have also noticed that same childlike quality in people I perceive to be also spiritual and wise ...

I dont think you over-react with your post ... I am 33 and agree .. I look back only on the last 5 years and consider a drastic change and atmosphere in the world around me ... I shall be quite controversial with what I think but I believe the world changed when 9/11 hit us ... that is my gutt feeling.

Since then .. nothing has been the same.

What are your thoughts dont hold back.

How could we address our spiritual maturity?

I think the monk reminds us of maturity through those bullet points listed. Some good reminders of what it means to be mature.
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Re: Spiritual maturity

Postby Pondero » August 19th, 2009, 12:40 am

As I look back on the reasons for becoming a Catholic at the age of twenty, and the enthusiasm I had for my new found religion at that time, I wonder if now, after the passage of many years I have let God down. Have I let Father Woodhouse down,I wonder? . He instructed me once a week in the faith, and gave me a book of questions and answers from Australia - of all places- this was in Yorkshire, England. I remember reading a little bit about Spinoza' s views on religion, which were criticized in that book. A little about the basics of philosophy was given me by Father Woodhouse. He was a former math professor at Ushaw College,Durham, where priests were trained for the ministry.He is probably dead now, he went to Halifax from Morley and I never saw him again.
In many ways I have not progressed in my faith since that time, that is why I think I have let Fr. Woodhouse down. I feel like the man who said, everything I needed to know I learned in kindergarten. Of course that is not true, there is much more to learn, and I have learned lots since that time but few of the things were of a spiritual nature.
I share the idea of Fr. Ulf Jonsson. SJ, (a Swedish priest) that if God is real then the most important thing is devoting one's life to God. Unfortunately, I have failed in that respect, but I keep trying to overcome what to me are conspicuous weaknesses. That is enough for now.
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Re: Spiritual maturity

Postby mpempa » August 19th, 2009, 4:23 am

Thank you Pondero for sharing ...

I would like to share a quote, that a close friend of mine posted (coincidently and not connected to this topic) today! It hit my heart ... pray for her, please, she is pregnant and having problems ...

"Spurious knowledge, or 'knowledge falsely so called' (1Tim.6:20), is that which a man possesses when he thinks he knows what he has never known. It is worse than complete ignorance, says St. John Chrysostom, in that its victim will not accept correction from any teacher because he thinks that this worst kind of ignorance is in fact something excellent. For this reason the fathers say that we ought to search the Scriptures assiduously, in humility and with the counsel of experienced men, learning not merely theoretically but by putting into practice what we read; and that we ought not to inquire at all into what is passed over in silence by Holy Scripture."

St. Peter of Damaskos
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Re: Spiritual maturity

Postby Pondero » August 19th, 2009, 9:19 am

Thank you mpempa for that quote - and I will pray for your friend today at mass.
According to one study, the average adult has a shorter attention span (eight seconds) than a goldfish (nine seconds).
This is not surprising in today's wired , or wified world.
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Re: Spiritual maturity

Postby mpempa » August 21st, 2009, 12:47 am

Thank you for your prayers ... she is very dear to me (and from what I know she is also a friend of Theophilus) so your prayers are gracious and appreciated. I found out last night that she is now in hospital so I fear the matter is serious ... the baby is due in January so it is a concern that she is having complications at this point ...

To return the thread to its purpose:

Spiritual maturity - the ability to Pray for those you do love, those you dont love and those you dont even know.

:amen:
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Re: Spiritual maturity

Postby Pondero » August 21st, 2009, 12:53 am

Thanks mpempa,for the spiritual maturity definition .


( I will pray tomorrow at mass for your friend.)
According to one study, the average adult has a shorter attention span (eight seconds) than a goldfish (nine seconds).
This is not surprising in today's wired , or wified world.
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Re: Spiritual maturity

Postby mpempa » August 21st, 2009, 1:03 am

Oh nagh .. I dont have a definition for spiritual maturity ... I was just putting down a possible idea of what one outcome of spiritual maturity might be ... such as prayer that is not inward but outward.


thoughts ... always out loud!
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Re: Spiritual maturity

Postby Pondero » August 22nd, 2009, 10:31 pm

I think spiritual maturity is not able to be properly defined in a short paragraph. However, I found an old booklet I have on the shelves this morning called "The Gospel Uncommented." subtitled "christian experiences of ordinary people in today's 'secularised ' society." (The editor is Claude Miner,and it was published in 1966 by New City Press).
I read one story about a marriage that had problems in which the problems were resolved when the woman acted as Christ would have done and her marriage was saved. To explain further would need a page or more of explanation, but she did accept her cross, and listen to her husband instead of arguing with him. The story could have been the other way around, a suffering husband with a 'fallen' wife who brought her back to Christianity - but, it wasn't.
According to one study, the average adult has a shorter attention span (eight seconds) than a goldfish (nine seconds).
This is not surprising in today's wired , or wified world.
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