He who learns must suffer, and, even in our sleep, pain that we cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God. - Aeschylus

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Benefit of Supererogatory Spirituality

I have a drive to go above and beyond the call of duty.  I work when I really shouldn't, and I've done so for years.  I work out far more strenuously than the maintenance of my health obliges me to.  I go to church, both my own and others, far more often than I am required.  I engage in intellectual pursuits and writing to such an extent that people often compare me to academics.  I pay more in taxes than is strictly required.  I have been told that my generosity to those who have small wages is excessive.

But I didn't always act in this way.  Ten years ago, I was not so generous and far more selfish.  My intellectual pursuits were mediocre by comparison to what they are now.  My exercise regimen was sloppy and inconsistent.  My church attendance met my Sunday obligation and nothing more.  My personal prayer was minimal, whereas now it fills my day.  My work ethic was merely adequate.  So what changed?

I did.  I decided that it was not enough to survive in the mediocrity of a life spent seeking comfort.  I began to pour myself into physical growth, intellectual growth, and spiritual growth; the return on my investment has been beyond anything I could have imagined while content with a life in the ruts of mere existence.  I am far from the person I was ten years ago or even five years ago because of my choice to become an ascetic and a mystic, my choice to dive into the deep waters and make my way to Christ through the storm.

It all started when I made a habit of going beyond what was asked of me, far beyond what was expected by society.  This act of going beyond what is asked is called supererogation.  The prototypical example is from the teaching of Christ that if we are conscripted to travel a mile, then we should travel another mile with him who conscripted us.  This supererogatory dimension to Christian morality is what kept me from becoming a Buddhist, though there are certainly many good things about Buddhism.

The wonderful thing about going far above and beyond what is required is that it is deeply transformative in a way that nothing else is; it reshapes us into a new creation.  We cannot remain as we are if we venture far beyond what is expected of us, far beyond what we believe that we are capable of accomplishing with our lives.  It is the supererogatory spirituality, that soaring upon the wings of love, which carries us far beyond what the small love within our heart can accomplish and unites us ever more with the bottomless well of divine love.

It is only by diving into the deep ocean of love that we learn to swim in the depths of love.  It is only by entering the depths before we are ready that we can become ready to enter the depths of the sufferings of others with the love and compassion necessary to draw them into the depths of love.  It is only by turning to Love Himself, Christ who loved us unto death, that we can love to death our reliance on the air of pleasure and breathe ever more of the waters of love.

A mandatory spirituality will keep us afloat when our emotions are not inclining us to love, an arbitrary spirituality will push us a bit beyond what we can currently accomplish by the strength of our love, and a supererogatory spirituality calls us completely out of our comfort zone and into the depths of love where we feel completely at a loss.  And it is in that loss of our comforts that we are free to gain yet more of love's infinite bounty.

This is the benefit of supererogatory spirituality.

Mandatory Spirituality - Arbitrary Spirituality - Supererogatory Spirituality

By Turgis - Turgis, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45719762

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