GOD and the world are usually put in contrast. We are supposed to choose one and reject the other. No in-between, much less, both together. This can be gleaned in many parts of Scripture and other spiritual literature.
St. Augustine, for example, put it sharply when he said: â€œTwo loves built two cities – the earthly which is built by the love of self, even to the contempt of God, and the heavenly which is built by the love of God, even to the contempt of self.”
And thatâ€™s understandable, given the fact that the world has absorbed the sinfulness of man, and in a way has detached itself from God, its creator. Because of that, the world has become the seat of all that is opposed to God.
It follows a law that cannot connect with God. Itâ€™s a purely material and natural law, lacking the proper spirit that it needs to link itself with its Creator. Thatâ€™s our task. We are the ones who can give it the spirit that reconnects it with God, or, sadly, another spirit that separates it further from him.
This state of affairs has given rise to a certain way of life, commonly known as the religious spirituality that considers the world, a priori, as an enemy of God or as something to be treated with much caution.
The corresponding attitude that sprang from this mentality is that of what is known as â€œcontemptus mundi,â€ a certain contempt for the world, or at least a distancing from the world.
Thatâ€™s why hermits and monks who started this lifestyle lived in caves, deserts, mountains, etc. This was aggravated because there was aggressive persecution against Christians in many parts ofÂ the civilized world and in many periods of time.
This frame of mind eventually graduated into some people living in enclosed and isolated communities, in convents and monasteries. It became their way of protection from the world, and of intensifying their spiritual life and other things, like the spirit of fraternity and the business of formation.
When the missionary activity started, this spirituality also heightened since the hard environment that met the missionaries in the beginning simply forced them to live this religious lifestyle, protected, isolated and conducive to spiritual exercises..
But things have changed lately. With religion given freedom to develop and grow in the world, with persecution and hostile environment significantly diminished, this religious spirituality somehow also waned. What is gaining strength is what is known as lay spirituality.
This is the spirituality of people living in the middle of the world, who have no reason to be afraid of the world and, in fact, are eager to stay in it, convinced thatâ€™s where they belong, where God has put them. There they try to infuse the Christian spirit.
Itâ€™s not exactly opposed to the religious lifestyle.
ItÂ´s just different. It simply recovers the original state of things when the world was created good by God. It can and should lead us to God. And even in its alienated status because of our sin, the world is still where our Lord has placed us. Itâ€™s not something to run away from.
This truth about the world can somehow be discerned in that prayer of Christ right before his passion and death. To his Father, he said: â€œI pray not that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from evil. They are not of the world, as I also am not of the world.Â¨ (Jn 17,15-16)
And right at the beginning of human history, we are told: Â¨God created man to his own image…And God blessed them, saying, Increasing and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures…Â¨ (Gen 1,27-28)
We have to learn how to find God in the world, and to subject everything in it to God. Obviously, with the evil that has crept into it, we need to be careful and prudent. We are told to be Â¨guileless as doves and shrewd as serpents.Â¨
But we have to learn to make the world our true home with God, renewing it always to connect it with our heavenly home. This, I think, is what is meant by the expression, Â¨new heavens and a new earth.Â¨
This is in St. PeterÂ´s second letter: Â¨We look for new heavens and a new earth according to his promises, in which justice dwells.Â¨ (3,13) The world ought to be our path to God!Â (By Fr. Roy Cimagala)