Posts Tagged ‘Temperament’

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Spiritual Temperaments- Traditionalism (3 of 9)

April 15, 2010

He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." Luke 22:19

In his helpful book on nine different kinds of spiritual temperament – Sacred Pathways, Christian author Gary Thomas describes a third category of people whom he calls: Traditionalists. He writes: 

‘Traditionalists are fed by…the historic dimensions of faith: rituals, symbols, sacraments, and sacrifice. These people tend to have a disciplined life of faith. Some may be seen by others as legalists, defining their faith largely by matters of conduct…Traditionalists have a need for ritual and structure. The contemplative’s unstructured “prayer of the quiet” would be confusing and fairly un-fulfilling to them.’ (Page 24) 

Thomas identifies 3 distinct aspects to the traditionalist way of life: 

  1. Ritual (or liturgical pattern)
  2. Symbol (or significant image)
  3. Sacrifice

The three different facets of the traditionalist approach are physical ways of representing spiritual realities. (Page 73) 

A resurgence of interest in traditionalist spirituality can be found in the recent popularity of Celtic spirituality, New Monasticism and the Rule of Benedict. The Northumbria Community are one example of a contemporary community that practices and encourages associate members to regularly pray the Office during the day. They divide each day by stopping, recollecting and praying at specific times – morning (matins), noon, evening and Compline. These prayer times are practised together at their community house in Northumbria, but associates also follow this rule, wherever they may be in the world by using the Northumbria Community’s Prayer Book and guided readings – Celtic Daily Prayer. 

The Rule of Benedict , is a  medieval book written by Saint Benedict of thoughts and guidance on the monastic life that has influenced most religious orders in Western Europe. It has received popular interest due to the 2005 television programme The Monastery, which followed three nonreligious men in their thirties and one older retired man experiencing a month long retreat at the Benedictine monastery Worth Abbey in England. 

A helpful book inspired by the Abbot of Worth Abbey’s experiences with guiding nonreligious people through retreat at the monastery is Finding Sanctuary – Monastic Steps for Everyday Life. Abbot Christopher Jamison refers to many modern peoples’ frustration and disasitisfaction at their lives being so busy. He then sets out seven monastic steps based on the Rule of Benedict which he believes can help the modern person remedy the busy distraction of their contemporary lives. They are: 

  1. Silence
  2. Contemplation
  3. Obedience
  4. Humility
  5. Community
  6. Spirituality
  7. Hope 

  

Thomas in his book provides helpful questions to discern whether you are a traditionalist. Giving yourself a grade between 5 and 1 for each question – five being very true and one being not true at all.

  1. I sense God most intimately when I take part in a style of worship that returns me to childhood memories. Traditions and rituals touch my soul more than anything else.
  2. I believe that an emphasis on individual self-expression within the church can be detrimental to peoples’ spiritual well-being. Christianity is about being part of a community and therefore our faith should be expressed as corporate worship.
  3. Tradition and history are both words that appeal to me.
  4. I would enjoy taking part in a formal liturgy or prayer-book service. I like to remind myself of my beliefs and spiritual loyalties by placing symbols in my car, house and workplace. I also feel that the religious calendar is important for me and my family. I like to follow the different seasons and celebrations of my faith throughout the year.
  5. A book such as Celtic Daily Prayer would interest me.
  6. I enjoy developing my own personal daily rituals for prayer, meditation, study, and spending time alone or with friends.

  

Once again the higher the score the more your temperament fits the traditionalist description.  

(Sacred Pathways, page 92-3) 

http://www.cloistersonline.com 

http://www.northumbriacommunity.org/ 

http://www.findingsanctuary.org/index.htm 

http://www.worthabbey.net/bbc/

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Spiritual Temperaments – Experiencing the Divine through the Senses (2 of 9)

April 14, 2010
 
 
‘Sensate(s)…want to be lost in the awe, beauty, and splendour of God. They are drawn particularly to the liturgical, the majestic, the grand. When sensate people worship, they want to be filled with sights, sounds, and smells that overwhelm them. Incense, intricate architecture, classical music, and formal language send their hearts soaring.’
 Sacred Pathways – Gary Thomas, P.23
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A Mosaic of Christ the Pantocrator (Creator of All) from the Hagia Sopia Constantinople

 

 Thomas’ second group of people  are ‘sensates’.  These people find it first and foremost easiest to relate to the transcendent through the five senses – sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. Religious Traditions across the world have used practices which communicate through all of the senses, a vivid example being Hindu worship of Indian deities, which often involves fire, water, food, flowers, pictures and incense. Western culture, however, especially in Northern Europe has over the centuries  turned its back on sensuous practices for a more austere and bland kind of religion.  This development was firstly influenced by the Protestant Reformation’s rejection of Roman Catholic rituals and iconography in the sixteenth century, in favour of a religion based solely on the ‘Word of God’, i.e.  the preaching and singing of the Bible. Furthermore, it was also shaped by the industrial revolution and a modernistic emphasis on proving the rightness of ideas purely through rational argument. Even today many non-Conformist church buildings and services are very minimalistic and with little decoration. 

Yet, a very sensuous kind of worship in European culture has always been evident in the Eastern Orthodox church,where ornate architecture and vivid, stylised icons, combine with ritualistic liturgies and practices such as the burning of incense, lighting of candles, kissing of icons and annointing with oil.

 

Lighting a candle can be a special form of prayer

 

The above photograph depicts a scene from a Bulgarian Orthodox church, but it reminds me of my years spent liiving, studying and working in Romania. In every Orthodox church I visited in Romania there is a place to remember friends, family and hurting people by lighting a candle. When I was far away from home it felt to me like a powerful and touching way of praying for my distant relatives and friends. Sometimes when it was difficult to pray in long sentences, the gesture of lighting a candle in the darkness seemed to speak much more clearly and profoundly to God and to my soul than I could with mere words.

 

Thomas writes in his book Sacred Pathways (pages 51-61) that he percieves Dutch Roman Catholic priest, Henri Nouwen to be a sensate Christian. He is struck by Nouwen’s description of his encounter with Rembrandt’s painting – The Return of the Prodigal Son – described in his book by the same title. Nouwen writes how he was visiting a friend after a busy and exhausting lecture tour. While sitting in his friend’s office he was taken aback by a poster of  Rembrandt’s painting on the wall. Nouwen describes how at that point in time the painting communicated to him deeply exactly what he felt that he needed. Simply, to kneel in front of a Father God and be embraced. Moved by the encounter with the picture, Nouwen then set about trying to arrange a visit to Moscow, where The Return of the Prodigal Son is exhibited, to see the painting at first hand.

 

For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' Luke 15:24

 

Rembrandt’s painting has a very sensuous presence. Painted in rich colours, subtle tones and hues, with dim lighting surrounded by deep shadows. A blood red robed elderly Father gently envelopes the destitute son barely covered in rags, as other characters from the story and the Gospels look on. As viewers we might take in some of the senses involved in this picture. Touch especially, is winsomely communicated. The softness of the Father’s luxurious clothing, the human, non-threatening warmth of  both Father and Son’s  reunion embrace. Perhaps, we might also imagine the scene effecting our sense of smell as the woody fragrant spices the Father is wearing and the unpleasant reeking of the son -unwashed and unclean, having worked in a farm feeding pigs, blend together in a very human scene of  a wealthy father welcoming a poor son. At the same time sight is obviously involved. The lighting is intimate, bathing the scene of familial reconciliation in gentle amber light while all around is in darkness and shadow.

If a painting such as the one above and traditional religious devotion inspires you then you may well be a Sensate. Thomas asks the following questions (page 66). Marking each question 1 to 5, with five being very true and one being not true at all.

  1. I feel closest to God when I’m in a church that allows my senses to come alive – when I can see, smell, hear and almost taste his majesty.
  2. I enjoy attending a “high church” service with incense and formal Communion or Eucharist.
  3. I’d have a difficult time worshipping in a church building that is plain and lacks a sense of awe or majesty. Beauty is very important to me, and I have a difficult time worshipping though second-rate Christian art or music.
  4. The words sesnsuous, colourful and aromatic are very appealing to me.
  5. I would find a book called Beauty and the Transcendent interesting to read.
  6. I would like to explore prayer through drawing, art and music.

 A high score between 15 and 30 would indicate that you have a disposition oriented towards experiencing the world and God through the five senses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Discussion board: “What aspects of life make you feel more in tune with your soul and the transcendent?”

April 11, 2010

In the next couple of weeks, I will continue to look at the nine spiritual temperaments as described by Gary Thomas in his book – The Sacred Pathways. In parallel to this I would like to invite people to contribute their own thoughts  and feelings on what aspects of life they find truly energises or inspires them.

Discussion

 

“What aspects of life make you feel more in tune with your soul and the transcendent?”

 

Please post your comments below:

I would describe myself as a frustrated Protestant Sensate, Martha-like always painfully aware of the human and monetary cost of churches that are ‘dripping’ with luxurious materials which to some extent form a barrier between myself and the Infinite Father and yet something ‘lights up’ in the presence of paintings such as the Rembrandt Prodigal Son… the artist has expressed something which I feel but cannot articulate.

However, much of the early art was paid for by rich people who wanted to reduce their time in purgatory and the heavy work of carting tons of marble/stone to the top of the hill (witness Malta for example) were poor workers which taints and interferes with the spiritual rapture a little.

S Harman

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Spiritual Temperaments – Nature lovers (1of9)

April 11, 2010

'Leave the books behind, forget the demonstrations - just let them take a walk through the woods, mountains or open meadows.' (P22)

Saint Anthony, was an ascetic and monk who lived in the Egyptian desert during the third century CE. Thomas notes that: ‘he was made famous by the writings of Athanasius and was once asked: 

“How…dost thou content thyself, father, who are denied the comfort of books?” 

Anthony replied: “My book, philosopher, is the nature of created things, and as often as I have a mind to read the words of God, it is at my hand.”‘ 

The Sacred Pathways, Gary Thomas, Zondervan,P.39 

Thomas includes in his book, helpful short questionnaires at the end of each chapter to help readers discern if that specific temperament is one that resonates with them. For naturalists he asks the reader to score the following statements on a scale of one to five: 

  1. ‘I feel closest to God when I’m surrounded by what he has made – the mountains, the forests, or the sea.
  2. I feel cut off if I have to spend too much time indoors, just listening to speakers or singing songs. Nothing makes me feel closer to God than being outside.
  3. I would prefer to worship God by spending an hour beside a small brook than by participating in a group service.
  4. If I could escape to a garden to pray on a cold day, walk through a meadow on a warm day and take a trip by myself to the mountains on another day. I would be very happy.
  5. A book called Nature’s Sanctuaries: A picture book would be appealing to me.
  6. Seeing God’s beauty in nature is more moving to me than understanding new concepts, participating in a formal religious  service, or participating in social causes.’ (P.49)

A high score for these statements would indicate at least an underlying appreciation, if not preference, for this kind of spirituality.