Sunday, January 04, 2015

Spiritual Direction Brings Freedom from Automatic Responses

Spiritual direction is different from counseling and advice-giving. Thomas Merton writes:

"Spiritual direction is not merely the cumulative effect of encouragements and admonitions which we all need in order to live up to our state in life. It is spiritual." (Merton, Spiritual Direction & Meditation, 14)

Spiritual direction concerns the whole person. "The spiritual man (pneumatikos) is one whose whole life, in all its aspects and all its activities, has been spiritualized by the action of the Holy Spirit." (Ib.) 

A spiritual director views the directee as a whole person, as a son or daughter of God, who is "seeking to recover the perfect likeness to God in Christ, and by the Spirit of Christ." (Ib., 15) A spiritual director discerns and champions formation into greater and greater Christlikeness (Galatians 4:19). This happens as the connection (abiding in Christ) happens and gets strengthened. 

The result is greater and greater freedom, which is essentially a condition of the heart. This "means that in all [the spiritual person's] actions he is free from the superficial automatism of conventional routine. It means that in all that he does he acts freely, simply, spontaneously , from the depths of his heart, moved by love" (Ib.)

Spiritual direction moves in the deep waters of the heart (Proverbs 20:5). Merton writes:

"The whole purpose of spiritual direction is to penetrate beneath the surface of a man's life, to get behind the facade of conventional gestures and attitudes which he presents to the world, and to bring out his inner spiritual freedom, his inmost truth, which is what we call the likeness of Christ in his soul. This is entirely a supernatural thing, for the work of rescuing the inner man from automatism belongs first of all to the Holy Spirit. The spiritual director cannot do such a work himself. His function is to verify and encourage what is truly spiritual in the soul. He must teach others to "discern" between good and evil tendencies, to distinguish the inspirations of evil from those of the Holy Spirit." (Ib., 17)

The spiritual director discerns the movements of grace in the directee's life.