Moltmann Monday: A Spirituality of the Senses

Today’s Moltmann Monday excerpt comes from his new book The Living God and the Fullness of Life on a section about embodied spirituality:

As the word spirituality suggests, what we are talking about here is the seizure of the human being by God’s Spirit….But if the soul is defined through detachment and an ascetic denial of the body and the sense, then narrow limits are set to God’s Spirit. The result is a spirituality hostile to the body…

The Spirit of the resurrection comes like waves of ‘living water’ into the hearts, into the community, breaking through all the barriers of race, gender, class, and nation, in the emerging energies and forms of creation in heaven and on earth…We need a spirituality for the world, a piety or spirituality of the everyday Spirit that preserves and renews the world.

As I was typing out this section, I thought. “Oh, I might talk about embodied spirituality a lot…” and then I thought, “Well, apparently we still need to keep talking about it because we are still FAR away from it being the norm. We’ve gotten better at talking a good game about spirituality and the body, but, here’s some irony, I don’t think we’ve lived into our language just yet. And honestly, I don’t think a good portion of our theology is yet as robustly incarnational as our Savior has always been.

So I like this section in Moltmann’s book because he adamantly emphasizes that the body is at the heart of a living spiritual faith. I like the idea of spirituality as being seized by God’s Spirit. It’s a much more powerful description than spirituality as religion’s lazy cousin or spirituality as some generalized je-ne-sais-quoi. Spirituality makes or breaks us, and it’s anything but frail. I love that Moltmann also always describes the Spirit as the Spirit of the resurrection. That’s some LIFE right there. That’s some power. It breaks down barriers and feels like a wave of living water in our hearts. We need a spirituality that embodies this kind of life with God. He continues,

Before the living God the living human being always appears as a psychosomatic whole. It can also be said, conversely, that it is only ‘before God’ that people appear in their entirety, that is to say, in their whole life histories, since in the face of eternity all the times that we experience successively are simultaneous.

I really love this too- the picture of our being whole before God. It reminds me of a parent’s gaze, which is so very important in our young lives. The idea that God looks upon us in a way that makes us whole, in a way that can make us whole more than any other gaze because we are always and only our whole selves before God- what a lovely view of that profound relationship of love between God and us. When you think about it, even your deepest closest friends and beloveds don’t know all of you. They can’t. You’re always only known in relation to them. To envision God as seeing the you in all your relationships, across all your life, even in your inner life–and then to envision God looking upon you with love–wow. That’s a gaze that can seize us and empower us for love and life and good work in this world.

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