Rey Garía Paredes, CMF*
Spirituality: Soul of the Mission
a French writer, said that “the worst thing was not to have
a perverse soul, but rather an accustomed soul.” We could
also say that in the mission, “the worst thing is not to
have a perverse soul, but an accustomed one.” We who have
received the gift of the mission, from Jesus and the Spirit, can
easily lose the initial mystic passion and transform the mission
into a mere routine task, without mystic and passion!
our charismatic gifts become routine, so will our mission! After
the initial passion, the routine, the custom, the mechanical repetition
take place. If we are not attentive and alert, our inner apostle
gradually becomes just a worker, a manager, one who keeps on repeating
formulas, topics and ideas without a soul.
clairvoyant and prophet of the Book of Revelation expressed this
situation so well in the following words:
know your works: you are neither cold not hot. Would that you were
cold or hot! You are lukewarm, neither hot not cold, so I will
spit you out of my mouth. You think you are rich and have piled
up so much that you need nothing, but you do not realize that you
are wretched and to be pitied, poor, blind and naked. I advise
you to buy from me gold that has been tested by fire, so that you
may be rich, and white cloths to wear so that your nakedness may
not shame you, and ointment for your eyes that you may see. I reprimand
and correct all those I love. Be earnest and change your ways (Rev.
missionary passion of the evangelizers is threatened. The Evil
One is very much interested in extinguishing their missionary fire.
For this reason, it is necessary to find out the bonfire which
will allow to keep alive the fire of the missionary passion. This
bonfire is found in the apocalyptic spirituality. The one who is
close to the apocalyptic Jesus, is close to the fire!
order to unfold properly this subject I am going to ask two questions: 1) What
is apocalyptic spirituality? 2) Why an apocalyptic spirituality
in the mission “today”?
is Apocalyptic Spirituality?
assumes many forms and shapes. When spirituality is inspired by
the apocalyptic texts of the Old and New Testaments, then, it becomes
Book of the Apocalypse is the final and definitive Revelation of
God. It is the final Word which corresponds to the First Word of
the Book of Genesis. It is the final Word, the Omega.
one who listens to the words of the Book of Revelation receives
a blessing and is proclaimed blessed:
is the one who reads aloud these prophetic words, and happy those
who hear them and treasure everything written here, for the Time
is near” (Rev 1:3).
the angel said to me, “These words are sure and true; the
Lord God who inspires the prophets has sent his angel to show
his servants what must happen soon”. Look, I am coming
soon! Happy are those who keep the prophetic words of this Book” (Rev
apocalyptic spirituality transforms us into happy and blessed persons.
It enkindles in us the fire of God, which energizes everything.
This last Book of the Holy Scriptures constantly asks the Christian
faithful to listen and to keep the words written there. In that
way they will be blessed especially in difficult times.
becomes apocalyptic when the missionary allows the Word of Revelation
to shape one’s life and projects, and to energize one’s
self when going through dark moments.
into consideration the characteristics of the Book of Revelation,
I am going to present the fundamental traits of the missionary
spirituality emanating from this Book: Dominical-Eucharistic spirituality,
combative and fighting spirituality, spirituality of hope.
clairvoyant of Patmos receives the revelation on the “dies
dominicus”, on Sunday, the Day of the Lord. It is the
day on which the Christian Community gathers together and celebrates
the death and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. On that day the
clairvoyant was caught up in an ecstasy, was taken by the Spirit.
He is allowed to enter the threshold of heaven. And from this perspective
he contemplates and reads human history. The apocalyptic clairvoyant
is graced with a very strong experience which:
him at times;
him burst in praises;
him into part of the family of God’s angels;
him a citizen of heaven;
him suggestions and perspectives to fight here on earth in the
army of the Lamb of God and to utilize his peaceful weapons.
dominica” or Sunday could and should be in the Church
the core of the permanent spiritual renewal of the Christian
Community and of each one of us. We could contemplate the Liturgical
Year, in its complete itinerary, as an extension of Sunday. In
this liturgical year it is given to us the revelation and the
power we need to live and act in history.
Apocalypse is a revelation given to the Community, not just to
an individual person. When it is proclaimed and listened to:
assists in the opening of the seven seals: in them
it is revealed the deepest meaning of history;
assists in the blowing of the seven trumpets announcing:
a) the defeat of the Dragon and its Beasts, b) the apparition of
the Ark of the Covenant, c) the victory of God over evil, d) the
coming of the Kingdom;
believers are able to see how the seven cups of God’s
wrath, a) defend all the innocent victims of human history, b)
make justice in front of the great injustices, starting with the
great injustice of the passion and death of His Son Jesus;
Christian Community is moved by what the Spirit is telling the
Churches who discovers the root cause of her illness and the promises
for her healing and salvation in the middle of a threatening context.
is neither in the Church, nor among the men and women missionaries,
a strong apocalyptic sensibility. We have excessively privatized
our spirituality. We have transformed it into an intimate relation
with the mystery of God: “I love Him and he loves me”; “I
look at him and he looks at me”, as written by many spiritual
writers. Without apocalyptic sensibility, spirituality loses its
fundamental reference to history, to the permanent struggle between
the Good of the Reign of God and the Evil of the bestial empire
of the Dragon, of Satan. Without apocalyptic sensibility, mission
becomes a mere pastoral activity, with short and poor objectives
such as: to prepare celebrations and catechetical programs, to
follow the formative courses, to open new centers, etc. The mission
does not have as a challenge the threatening perspective of the
Enemy, the Evil One, nor the high moral ground of the eschatological
victory. In such a situation we are only able to perceive the difficulties
inherent to our life and to human activity, as well as the small
joys coming from a work well done.
soul of mission is spirituality. More concretely, the soul of mission
is spirituality infused by the Spirit in persons who allow themselves
to be enveloped by the Revelation and the apocalyptic experience.
The one who listens and puts into practice the prophetic words
of the Book of Revelation receives the vision and the energy required
to share in the mission of the Spirit and the Lamb. For this reason,
it is necessary that we make Sundays in the Liturgical year the
key of all our missionary activity and the fire that enkindles
our missionary spirituality.
great center for contemplation of a missionary is not just the
solitude, the isolated meditation but rather, the communitarian
liturgical-Eucharistic Assembly in which the Word of God is listened
to, and the redemptive action of God in the world is celebrated
and praised. The great source of missionary spirituality emanates
from the encounter of the Bride — the New Jerusalem — and
the Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus. “The one who is thirsty,
come and drink”.
Book of Revelation is the narrative of a great battle which embraces
the whole history of the world, from its transcendent origin in
heaven, in the celestial Court, up to its consummation with the
coming of the New Jerusalem.
Book of Revelation narrates a war of God against His enemies. In
this war, the protagonist is God Himself. It is his powerful arm
which commands, acts and conquers his adversaries. God counts the
earth and the natural phenomena as his allies. Human beings, those
who follow the Lamb, act as “an army of praise singing a
new song”, proclaiming the marvelous deeds of God. But they
are not the protagonists. For sure, in not so few occasions, they
are the victims of the Evil One, the martyrs, those who washed
their clothes in the blood of the Lamb.
this perspective, the mission is understood as the “war of
God” against the forces of the Anti-reign. The protagonism
of the mission totally falls under the Lamb who has been sacrificed,
or the one riding on the white Horse, or the Lion of Juda, and
in the Spirit who acts everywhere. We could express all this in
a traditional way: What really matters is the “missio
Dei”, the “missio Christi”, the “missio
Spiritus”. To the Church it is granted the possibility
of participating in the “missio Dei”. The Church
tries to be a pure transparency of the powerful arm of God; she
allows herself to be carried by the impulse of the Spirit; she
sacramentalizes the action of the Lord Jesus in the world. For
this reason, during the mission, the Church knows that she has
to discover the mysterious action of God in history and, from there,
to exercise the ministry of proclamation, of praise and adoration.
enemies of the mission, “missio Dei”, are the
Dragon and the two Beasts, together with the prostituted City,
symbol of the sinful and oppressive Babylon. They are three symbols
which we should know how to interpret at different times. They
are the symbols of the empire of the Evil One.
Dragon, the old serpent of the Book of Genesis, is Satan. Today
we are not accustomed to attribute the evil of the world to Satan.
However, Satan symbolizes a mysterious force always inducing to
evil, seducing and perverting the people. Paul used to call this
mysterious force “hamartía” or sin, in
singular. No one knows from where it emerges and how it acts. However,
it is present where evil takes place. Evil is manifested in the
two Beasts. One of them is the political, economic power guiding
the destiny of the nations according to the postulates of the Evil
One. This is the first Beast, which in New Testament times, was
identified with the assassin imperial power of Rome. Today, this
power is more sophisticated. It is the power of war, of injustices,
of terror, of corruption, of pornography. The second Beast is the
propaganda used by the first Beast to impose herself. There is
a system of cult to the first Beast enveloping everything everywhere.
The propaganda wants to bring the empire of evil deep into the
human hearts; it has an extraordinary contaminating force. The
result of the power of the Beasts is a perverse civilization, a
prostituted city, which is leading to its total perdition, according
to the Book of Revelation.
apocalyptic spirituality confronts the believer with the Powers
of the Evil One. It is a call to a certain “fuga mundi”,
or to escape from the prostituted city and from the sphere of the
power of the Dragon. The apocalyptic spirituality is a combative
one directed towards inside and outside of ourselves. The seven letters to
the Churches show in what measures Christians must take to fight
and eliminate from within ourselves the presence of the Evil One
such as: conversion, purification, not making any alliances with
the Evil One, recovering the first love, etc. The apocalyptic spirituality
is also combative towards the outside world. The believer is invited
not to carry the sign of the Beast even if this implies social
marginalization. He is also invited never to be in solidarity with
evil persons, nor to adore the idols constantly proposed in every
moment of our human history. The believer has to give witness,
even to the risk of shedding one’s blood for the sake of
the mission. For this reason, the apocalyptic spirituality is a
spirituality of martyrdom.
apocalyptic person is not a defeated, depressed, desperate human
being. All the horrors of history are in front of his eyes, but
he is graced with an ampler panoramic vision in which he can perceive
the end of all evil and the final victory of goodness.
apocalyptic spirituality is, therefore, a promise that brings consolation,
a horizon that overcomes anguish, and a victorious path towards
utopia. Nobody can impede the fulfillment of the promises of God.
Nothing can oppose his salvific coming. Thus, the apocalyptic spirituality
is a spirituality of praise and adoration, and it is wholly permeated
by blessings and beatitudes.
trust in God illumines the life of the apocalyptic seer; he knows
that the New Jerusalem is coming down; that God will wipe away
the tears from his eyes; that Christ is coming to establish his
Reign, and that he has — he and his angels — all the
power to tie and annul the powers of evil.
is no place in the apocalyptic spirituality for mistrust in the
future or in God. For this reason, the apocalyptic person does
not put his/her trust in human forces. His/her convictions lead
him/her to exclaim: Your Kingdom come! Your will be done! Come,
Lord Jesus! Come Holy Spirit! He/she knows that the help comes
from the Lord.
an Apocalyptic Spirituality in the Mission “today”?
is happening today is not alien to the reality symbolized in the
book of Revelation. The “seven letters” to the churches
reflect not only the situation of the ancient churches but of our
present churches as well. We are living, somehow, in a time of
ecclesial sunset, in a kind stagnation that prevents us to go forward
in history as we should. The official Church holds a considerable
political power, but not the strength of a great moral authority
able to illumine the world. Our bishops do not know how to transmit
the beauty of faith. Their almost constant utterances are “we
oppose to…” or “we are not in accordance with…”.
Few times are they saying: “we propose this…” or “we
are in agreement with…”. The faith, such as it is
officially presented, seems not to offer any alternative, any new
dreams; it does not rekindle new projects for humankind. We appear,
rather, as prophets of doom, of misfortunes and condemnations.
We talk about hope, but we don’t know how to give concrete
hope to the people.
in spite of all these, we are witnessing today the emergence of
new messianic movements within the church and the religious life,
whose importance cannot be dismissed: a) movements of a
spiritual radicalism — normally attacked as fundamentalist
and involutionist — that emphasize the intensification of
a life of prayer, of penitence and of a practical opposition to
the consumerism, hedonism and the libertarian ways of our society; b) movements
of liberating radicalism that are leading many religious to adopt
an alternative life-style, characterized by a compromise till death,
with the poor, their cause and their fight for liberation; c) movements
of “creative” and “dialoguing” protest
that are discovering in this world the seed of the new Jerusalem;
movements that value dialogue, togetherness and the power of love
and truth; that understand spirituality as an encounter that heals
and empowers; and that are joining the movement of other people
towards the Reign of God.
Church should let herself be empowered by these movements. She
is and must be the great messianic and apocalyptic movement within
history. A church without a messianic and apocalyptic strength
is not the Church of Christ.
present political situation is a truly apocalyptic one: there is
a widespread terror, insecurity, explosion of violence, be it religious,
gender or domestic violence. This situation has become more patent
since September 11 and all the consequences unleashed by it.
apocalyptic spirituality will bolster the fire of a significant
mission for the world. It will be a spirituality that will help
us to understand the historical events and to perceive correctly
that which is happening and that which is to come.
apocalyptic spirituality will help us to proclaim the Word of God,
adapting it to the events that, day after day, are shocking and
surprising us. Thus understood and accepted, the Word of God will
make “our heart burn” as it happened to the disciples
on the way to Emmaus.
apocalyptic spirituality will make us understand the value of the
prayer of intercession, of praise and thanksgiving.
apocalyptic spirituality will bring a new élan to
our mission; will discern the ways through which the new Jerusalem
is already taking possession of our earth.
is quite easy to get accustomed to the rhythm of our pastoral and
missionary work. But, when it becomes a daily routine, our endeavor
loses its charm, its mystic, and prophetic capability. And when
this happens, the “mission” also loses its temporal,
apocalyptic impatience. Then, one year is the same as ten years,
or one city the same as one region. Many Christians and religious
have lost their missionary zeal and apostolic urgency because,
as a matter of fact, they have renounced the “mission” by
converting it into a job, an occupation. It is the most frequent
bourgeois lifestyle of many religious has less to do with an indulgent
attitude to a society centered in self-comfort and pleasure, than
to the loss of the apostolic and messianic instinct.
quite a number of religious dedicate their time to a mission that
seems more professional than prophetic. A mission, deprived of
spirituality, does not excite nor convey emotion. It has no dreams
and does not transmit hope. In short, it is not a “Christian
a conclusion, I would like to recommend to all religious communities
and to each one of us, to recover the last book of the Holy Scripture,
the book of Revelation, if we have ever lost it; or to find it,
if we have never discovered it. I would like to ask the Religious
of the XXI century:
read frequently and in all its integrity the Book of Revelation;
read and proclaim the Book of Revelation in community, not only
interpret it in community, knowing that the Holy Spirit will act;
configure our personal history in accordance with the “day
of the Lord”;
to hesitate in discovering the present events in the light of the
Book of Revelation;
convert the rediscovered revelation into permanent spirituality.
also want to predict that when the apocalyptic spirituality will
catch fire in the heart of Religious Life, it:
find its proper place in the “Mission of the Spirit”;
let itself be guided by the creativity of charity;
find itself placed in the frontier of the four cardinal points
of the earth;
acquire the “angelical” style of the great messengers
of God, who were entrusted with the task of rooting the history
of humankind in its proper place; as a history of salvation and
not as an evil one;
be witnessing the real Hope, without fear of death.
apocalyptic spirituality is “today” the soul of the
Mission of the Church.
Fr José Cristo Rey García Paredes, CMF, is a Claretian
Missionary, a renowned theologian, a Mariologist and an expert
in Consecrated Life. He is presently the Director of the Theological
Institute of Religious Life in Madrid, Spain.
has authored a series of books on Religious Life as a Parable of
the Kingdom, on Mary and the Reign of God, and on the Theology
of Religious Life in a Post-Modern Era.
is a celebrated speaker of Consecrated Life Week here in the Philippines.
He is an acclaimed theologian in the Union of Superiors General.
Cristo Rey is a seasoned professor and an authority in his field.
He inspires his students and gently guides them, as consecrated
men and women, in the ways of the Lord.
Life Asia, Vol. 6, n. 3, 2004.