CESNUR 2004 INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE
"I Am God the Almighty; walk in My presence?.I Am God Almighty (El Shaddai); be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis l7:1; 35:11). But after the first sin which caused the 'fall' of our first parents,'God the Almighty' in His love and mercy promised He would send a Redeemer, His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ - God become Man who dwelt among us. Now we profess a creed which begins with the very first Truth we should live by: I believe in God, Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. We have gotten so used to reciting this to begin some important prayer that it has become a matter of routine that we don't even bother to reflect on it. But its meaning looms large in our life. El Shaddai, i.e. God Almighty becomes 'our Father' through our Savior Jesus Christ. We cannot escape this truth that all creation has its source in the Creator and that we live and move and have our being in God Almighty, El Shaddai, 'Creator of heaven and earth.
A lifelong quest to achieve my life-goals of a continuing personal growth in view of service to my country and my God, my desire to live a God-centered life led me to involve myself with one organization after another. However, I felt they were not the organizations God wanted me to be. Until I heard a radio station DWXI broadcast of a Catholic charismatic group under the name, El Shaddai. I got curious while one question was uppermost in my mind. "What must be the nature of an organization operating under the name, God Almighty? I have heard about it from people. El Shaddai DWXI-PPFI has been a phenomenon since its founding in l984. Why are millions of people staying in El Shaddai DWXI-PPFI and staying for good?
It was nearing midnight. People from all ages were singing their hearts out to the lively tune of a charismatic song. Each face in the horde of participants seemed to be in deep stupor - eyes closed, both hands raised high in the air, and bodies frolicking unceasingly, as if they were under a magic spell. At one glance, such an episode is just an ordinary scene in the charismatic activities of many religious organizations, especially among other sects. But what impressed me was that the group numbering approximately hundreds of thousands were conducting their worship under the pouring of an unrelenting rain. More impressive was that this was no uncommon occurrence. Their number seemed even to grow so fast that to ensure order, a large group was divided into several smaller groups (chapters). Later on, these groups were split into smaller groups(parish level). These dividing into groups continued as the numbers tremendously increased. What extraordinary force inspires these multitudes of people to brave bad weather to be able to keep their appointment with El Shaddai ?
Another factor which impressed me is the patotoo (testimonies) of El Shaddai members. These people narrate their life stories, how God lifted them up from their wayward existence. One listens to their testimonies with admiration, awed with wonder at the mercy of God who can make whole even the most broken. El Shaddai is a saving power in our times in the face of a world in a state of turmoil. Global economy is in disarray, with the United States and Japan leading the countries in recession. Unemployment rates are increasing while the buying power of currencies is decreasing. The political environment is even much worse. While terrorism has caused destruction of lives and cities, the attack of the United States on Iraq has negatively disturbed the solidarity of the United Nations Security Council and disrupted the balance of power and the peace of the whole world. By providing a workable means of addressing various global issues such as the escalating crime rates, cases of broken families, drug addiction, graft and corruption in government and business sectors, leaders of public and private organizations can initiate programs that can solve the crucial problems in the world today. If we must have peace, this peace must begin with each person.
The phenomenal movement that is El Shaddai DWXI-PPFI can result in the effective design of organizational or institutional structures and processes relevant to the situation of societies today. For the Catholic Church, Christian denominations and other world religions in dialogue and in solidarity with one another, El Shaddai DWXI-PPFI can facilitate improvement of spiritual programs and ensure the spiritual growth of their constituents so that they will become God-fearing individuals. But before this can happen, a deep study and discernment of the spirituality of El Shaddai DWXI-PPFI can be of great help to social scientists, religious, bishops, priests, educators, catechists, theologians, pastoral council members in their respective functions especially as formators and counselors giving spiritual direction. A religious experience of El Shaddai DWXI-PPFI be interpreted to be able to answer the question: What is the spirituality of El Shaddai DWXI-PPFI ?
There are different concepts of spirituality. These varied concepts do not only give us diversified meanings; they also provide contrasting views on various aspects of the concept. A vivid example of this is Creation-Centered Spirituality. Here, spiritual tradition begins not with the Original Sin of our first parents but with Original Blessings. It focuses on cosmic grace. Emphasis is put on the holiness of all being and the avoidance of all dualistic theism. The Westminister Dictionary of Spirituality details the Creation-Centered Spiritual tradition's four-path spiritual journey, namely: Via Positiva (creation); Via Negativa (letting go and letting be); Via Creativa (birthing) and Via Transformativa (new creation of compassion). This four-old path is one of a holistic spiral emanating from the core of creation - the dabar or creative energy of God.
Creation-centered tradition in a nutshell is a radical letting go of all images, all names, all role-playing to sink into darkness where God dwells, and where our depths lie for the ground of the soul is dark (Wakefield l983). Another facet of creation spirituality is the contention between the relationship between man and the cosmos. It is said that creation spirituality begins with creation and the cosmos.
Human beings do not exist apart from the stars. Human history cannot be divorced from planetary history, galactic history and creation's entire unfolding history. This concept is said to have universal roots. Peoples from the world over, had cosmology as the basis of worship, prayer, economics, politics and morality. The idea however does not confine itself to these cultures; creation spirituality is also the most ancient tradition of the Bible.
In this day and age, creation-centered spirituality is gaining significant ground in bridging the gap between science and religion. In many circles, creation spirituality has attained the status of a movement. It is considered a movement when it awakens people and their moral outrage at the folly of our race and offers a creative outlet. It usually attracts people, whose passions have been touched by the issues of our day, ranging from deep ecologists to artists. These people find this kind of spirituality movement a common language and a common ground in which to stand.
The spirituality of El Shaddai movements stands on the four paths of creation spirituality and in its orientation. The four paths prescribe a unique framework that people can use as guide on how to live - a way of life that centers on things which ultimately matter in a man's earthly existence: in Path One - what matters are awe and delight; in Path Two - darkness, suffering and letting go; in Path Three - creativity and imagination; and in Path four - truth, justice, freedom, compassion and peace. Taking the way of the four paths, El Shaddai DWXI-PPFI addresses the questions: Where is God? Where will the experience of the Divine be found in our time?
In the light of these queries, Creation Spirituality responds: The divine will be found in these places: In Via Positiva, the experience of the Divine in the "awe, wonder and mystery of nature and of all beings, each of whom is a word of God. In Via Negativa, the Divine can be perceived in "darkness and nothingness, in the silence and emptying, in the 'letting go' and 'letting be' and in pain and suffering that constitute an equally real part of our spiritual journey.
In Via Creativa, we find man's generativity, when we co-create with God and in our imaginative output, when we trust our images enough to conceive them and give birth to them so we can give them existence. In Via Transformativa, the Divine can be experienced in the relief from suffering; in the fight against injustice; in the struggle for balance in society and history, and in the celebration that when persons struggling for justice and freedom, who try to live mutuality, come together to praise and give thanks for the gift of 'being' and 'being together'.
Joining, then, the El Shaddai movement and following its spirituality is to live in God the Almighty, creator and source of all being. In Jesus Christ, Word and perfect Revelation of God, made man that He may redeem us. Because He is Son of God, God the Almighty is Father and the Love which binds them is the Holy Spirit who is sent that we can co-create. This unique relationship existing between the three Divine Persons who become One in LOVE is the model whereby we should relate to one another in love. This is the greatest reality, at the same time the greatest mystery. Since mystery cannot be understood as an ordinary form of natural human knowledge, but is rather a reality ordered to the act of religion as such we must call mystery that to which every person rises above himself or herself in the unity of intellective and freely loving transcendence. Thus mystery is a primordial aspect, essential and permanent, of total reality in that reality as a whole (that is, as infinite) is present for the finite, created spirit in the latter's intrinsic openness to the infinite, Spirit, as this openness to the infinite, is the capacity to accept the incomprehensible as such, i.e., as permanent mystery. The teaching of our faith about the 'beatific vision' or the
capacity to see God, El Shaddai, face to face, does not abolish the permanence of the incomprehensible. Indeed, the vision of God will reveal His incomprehensible infinitude and thus make it the object of the soul's real and eternal beatitude.
El Shaddai inspires 'delight and wonder' that results in the experience of creation. This elicits delight and wonder of what man create, which, in turn, increases in a unique manner because both paths enunciate 'awe and wonder', 'delight and beauty'. Likewise, a person cannot feel compassion if he or she has not experienced the 'darkness' of suffering and pain. Without knowing what is dark, one cannot appreciate light. In the same manner, one must first experience 'brokenness' before he or she can exude compassion - all people who have lived their lives fully have undergone sadness, pain and the like. Similarly, one cannot understand or appreciate the value of justice unless he or she has not experienced injustice.
If the collective tribulations of the world and the individual agonies that each person undergoes are the stimuli, the response to these is transformation. The moment we reach the fourth path, man is already more 'equipped' to face life's harsh realities - to react to afflictions not with anger but with creative, more effective manner that eventually result in healing. However, a word of caution - since we're living in an imperfect world, man is bound to experience more
suffering as he shares in the tribulations of others.
Abraham Heschel once said that 'man's sin is in his failure to live what he is'. In this light, it is then crucial for us to know who we really are the four paths of Creation Spirituality - creating, enduring suffering, going out of oneself creatively are key to enable a person to discover his or her fullest potentials. This is likely so since the four paths have the intrinsic capability to facilitate in the narration of our life stories at the level where each of our stories can be considered as sacred.
Each person has his or her own sacred story to tell. Man is not just physical but emotional, moral and spiritual as well. This makes him capable of relating to all things in their aesthetic aspect. Likewise, he or she is also capable of destroying them. With his immense creative power, man is in dire need of guidance to control such power - so that he can utilize his energy in ways that can help make this a better world to live in.
El Shaddai charismatic movement began with a spiritual experience of the founder. From this experience, essential insights considered most significant sharings on the Word of God were delivered to people who joined the movement. From the testimony in February l978 of Brother Mike Velarde, El Shaddai chief minister, an angel of God roused him in his room at the Philippine Heart Center while he was awaiting a major heart operation. According to his account, the angel delivered to him the Word of God, which reinvigorated his failing heart and immediately restored the health that debilitated him for quite a long time.
The following day, Brother Mike's doctors were surprised to see him walking enthusiastically along the hospital corridor. For many days he was thoroughly diagnosed by the doctors who observed that not a single trace of his heart deficiency was present. The scheduled heart operation was suspended. Since then, Brother Mike became a renewed Catholic. It was the turning point of a once wasteful life, for he considered the miracle wrought as a signal grace from the Lord. The days following found him busy in establishing the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Quezon City with Monsignor Fidelis Lim of the Good Shepherd Parish in West Fairview, Quezon City, Jeanne Young, Sister Angelina Lim, FMM of Stella Maris College, Brother B.P. Dionisio, Brother Cesar Roxas, Brother Bingbong Crisologo, the late Brother Ronald Remy and many other ardent followers of the movement.
The movement was poised to bring the Good News of the Lord to people. The Catholic Charismatic Renewal was to form a vigorous assembly in a monthly Catholic Charismatic and Healing Rally at the Araneta Coliseum every fourth week of the month. As a token of good faith, Brother Mike wholeheartedly offered to Msgr. Limcaoco his last money in the bank, a PhP50,000 blood money intended fro his then ailing real estate business; this, amidst the crisis in Philippine economy. He gave the financial help despite an outstanding debt of Php200-million. Truly, the Word of God is grace for anyone who seeks Him. God worked wonders in his moribund real estate business. It was again proven that evil had no place in enterprises for the Lord.
The Word of God was a seed sown in the heart of Brother Mike. Soon, his fervent wish to share the Spirit of the Lord with people in all walks of life grew and bloomed like a thousand flowers. Then one morning the Holy Spirit inspired him to open the radio station DWXI (1314 kHz) a voice proclaiming the Good News that eventually would spiritualize and heal people. Thereupon, Brother Mike instructed his lawyer to register with SEC a foundation upon which financial support for the movement derived from tithes in his real estate firm and other business would be deposited in the bank. In l984, the DWXI Prayer Partners Foundation International was established.
After the successful Mass and healing rally in 1981, Brother Mike said he was inspired to build the temple of God where people can find rest and healing. He thought of building this temple out of steel, marble or stone, cement like a basilica. He had contracted an architect for the choice design. In 1982, when the plan was finished, Brother Mike made a trip to Rome for the Pope's blessing on El Shaddai. Later on, after prayerful discernment he felt that what the Lord wanted was not a temple of stone and marble but a spiritual one. For it is written, 'Know ye not that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man defile the temple, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are" (Corinthians 3:16-17).
Through DWXI, Brother Mike launched the program entitled "To God be Glory". The program would be aired regularly every Sunday from 9:00 to 11:00 p.m. every Sunday. One Sunday, August 20, 1984, he invited radio listeners of DWXI to come over for a Thanksgiving Mass to thank the Lord for all the blessings he continues to shower on El Shaddai. Approximately, a thousand people came to radio station DWXI at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Again, the miracles happened. Almost all who came for the healing rally, received the unexpected cure and blessing from the Lord.
Since then, hordes of people came wave after wave. Crowds even flocked to his office at Amorsolo Street, Legaspi Village in Makati City. Everday, especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays, a large crowd swarmed the place. These long weeks tested Brother Mike's firm determination to give himself in faithful dedication to the movement.
Unfortunately, before the end of 1987, some skeptics questioned the Movement's fund, prompting a case with the Securities and Exchange Commission. A raucous crowd stormed DWXI resulting in the destruction of many properties and communication equipments. The event was a serious one compelling the radio station to be off the air for sometime until matters could be cleared. The verdict of the SEC absolved Brother Mike. His acquittal brought blessings from the trial he had undergone. During the fourth anniversary of El Shaddai held at the Rizal Park on August 20-21, l998, a multitude of more than 400,000 attended. This phenomenon was overwhelming as the members mushroomed to incomparable numbers.
So unusual were the events that it caught the attention of the Catholic hierarchy. Some priests agreed in holding prayer meetings during El Shaddai gatherings. Still others were cynical and they would hurl questions whether the principle of the Movement was based on the canons of the Church. Soon, there was a response to this. His Excellency, the Most Rev. Bishop Teodoro C. Bacani, D.D. himself headed the first Leadership Training Seminar of workers in the Foundation, October 1989 at Amorsolo Street. Later on, Brother Mike was invited as guest of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to a meeting which threshed the elements of Catholic. With this, charismatic gatherings were fully guided by designated spiritual directors and advisors. Some of them were Bishop Bacani, Fr. Archie Guiriba, OFM; Fathers Anton Pascual, Bong Guerrero and Sony de Claro.
This time, the Movement's broadcast extended to television (IBC 13). Radio DWXI broadcasts were heard in far-flung provinces of the country. Like hailstorm workers, the El Shaddai personnel became a busy group of spiritual followers receiving a regular deluge of letters that narrated problems encountered and how they found solutions to them. Together with this, members expressed their joy and enthusiasm. All of them were given support.
El Shaddai's endeavors engulf a never-ending responsibility as the Movement continually nurtures love under a congenial atmosphere of faith. Healing messages poured in. Without much contention, the most likely reason behind the phenomenal success of El Shaddai is the healing message shared by Brother Mike delivered at each El Shaddai prayer meeting held every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Among the three, the Saturday congregation is the most attended. Prayer partners call this A Family Appointment with El Shaddai. Called Gawain, this comprises the following activities (in their order): an opening prayer, praise and worship songs and dance and other forms of expressions such as the clapping of hands, dancing, etc. Patotoo (testimony) or hearing witness about member' experiences of God, another praise and worship exercise, praying the Angelus, singing the 'Our Father', recitation of Psalm 91, celebration of Holy Mass and final praise and worship songs. To introduce the main activity, the Congregation sings the El Shaddai song. Brother Mike takes center stage, commencing with a praer of praise and worship, thanksgiving for the whole creation, and healing of all the sick. A song is then sung to mark the reading of the Holy Scriptures (read both in Tagalog and English); another song is sung to complete this portion.
Brother Mike begins Gawain by greeting the crowd: Kumusta na kayo?" (How are you?) This is to start a dialogue. He then tells a story based either on his own experience or some sharing from others which he vividly expounds and integrates with the biblical verse(s) read. Whenever possible, Brother Mike enlivens the meeting with humor and sings with the community. To close, he makes the Congregation repeat the theme of his healing message with a prayer partner.
Normally, Brother Mike reminds the crowd about his so called 'new mathematics' - one plus one equals three. This implies that in everything we do, God is always there. By this, every person is made conscious of the presence of God. Prayer partners are then asked to raise to God all their concerns, offerings, etc., while he lays before God all their requests both material and spiritual favors especially for the healing of physical or spiritual sicknesses of persons both present or absent in the gathering. Likewise, he prays for the improvement of the socio-economic and political situation of the country and the world. Gawain ends with a song of thanksgiving.
Originally delivered, Brother Mike's healing messages have been translated from Tagalog to English. These healing messages are taken from the Word of God which gave sacred meaning also called "essence of experience". Every healing is sign of Divine intervention. The spiritual reaction is always a recognition of the wonder God has wrought. That is the divine dispensation. From suffering accepted is followed by divine consolation. The miracle of healing is God giving a blessing for some mission. Rebirth and renewal is always an aftermath. A soul resigned to God's Will lets go. God blesses poverty of spirit, detachment from material things and a loving attachment to the Word of God. Truly the Word of God is grace.
God helps people attain to full development. The kind of spirituality Brother Mike preaches includes well-being in all aspects of his life. Putting every endeavor in God's hands, he encourages the members to seek prosperity and success as a form of sustainable development. The material and spiritual dimension of life complement each other and have a role in the journey of every person to God.
God endows the humble person who follows Him with spiritual insights which are central to El Shaddai DWXI-PPFI. These are: The emptiness of man pushes him to search for God. We come to know God by communicating with Him in prayer. To be with God is to be strong and to be at peace. We long for this strength and peace that we experience with God when we are close to Him. Thirsting for the Word of God is thirsting for God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When we live the Word of God, we worship Him. Worshipping God entails total surrender and complete trust in Him. Christ gives us the power of His Resurrection if we follow Him on the way of the Cross.
Amen. Praise the Lord! Surrender and the intention of doing all for the glory of God are expressed by the words which are repeated over and over by members of El Shaddai in the gatherings led by Brother Mike Velarde. These words sum up the two most important attitudes in our relation to God - AMEN, i.e., "So be it" or "Glory be to God". We praise Him in joy as well as in sorrow, in prosperity and poverty, in darkness and light, in whatever situation we are and in whatever God sends.
The spirituality of El Shaddai DWXI-PPFI is a creation-centered spirituality. The whole flock of El Shaddai have traveled the paths of creation-centered spirituality - in its wonder, its praise of God; in its Amen, its surrendering, its patient suffering, in its perception of God even in darkness and nothingness, in its silence and emptying; when we can co-create with God, when we trust our images enough to give them existence; transformation is our relief from suffering, in the fight against falsehood, injustice, slavery and chaos. We try to attain balance in our celebrations, our effort to live in mutuality, to come together to praise and give thanks for the gift of 'being' and being together.
Today, when through the manifestation of the power with which Christ's Resurrection endows us, Jesus shines forth from within all the forces of the earth and so become visible to us, and we recognize as our Master. With delight, we surrender ourselves to Him. Creation continues building. a process is at work in the universe, an issue is at stake, which can best be compared in the processes of birth, the birth of that spiritual reality which is formed in souls and in such material reality as their existence involves. Laboriously, through and thanks to the activity of mankind, the new earth is being formed and purified and is taking on definition and clarity. No, we are not like the cut flowers that make up a bouquet; we are like the leaves and buds of a great tree on which everything appears at its proper time and place as required and determined by the good of the whole.
Humanity is in progress. Human suffering, the sum total of suffering poured out at each moment over the whole earth, is like an immeasurable ocean. But what makes up this immensity? Is it blackness, emptiness, barren wastes? No, indeed, it is potential energy. Suffering holds hidden with it, an extreme intensity, the rising force of the world. The whole point is to set this force free by making it conscious of what it signifies and of what it is capable of. For if all the sick people in the world were simultaneously to turn their sufferings into a single shared longing for the speedy completion of the Kingdom of God through the conquering and organizing of the earth, what a vast leap towards God the world would thereby make! If all those who suffer in the world were to unite their sufferings so that the pain of the world should become one single grand act of consciousness, of sublimation, of unification, would not this be one of the most exalted forces in which the mysterious work of creation could be manifested to our eyes?
That we might hold on to God more closely. That our consciousness were as wide as the skies and the earth and the peoples of the earth; as deep as the past, the desert, the ocean; a tenuous as the atoms of matter or the human heart. We adhere to God everywhere throughout the entire extent of the universe. This is the spirituality that is being re-awakened, cultivated, and developed by El Shaddai DWXI-PPFI in every person's earthly existence. It is life in God re-awakened, re-created.
Considering the innate uniqueness of each individual, both in character and experience, findings fortify the universal truth that man, from any origin or state in life, generally experience the need to address their spiritual needs - that it is inevitable for man not to undergo a phase where they must satisfy spiritual needs, thus, further maintaining that man is both flesh and spirit. The diversity of values, beliefs, experiences, orientations, etc. in life, are actually connected, related and interdependent with one another in God. It can also be corroborated that man experiences crisis actually a novel opportunity to reawaken his or her spiritual journey. Problems of all nature and magnitude generally occur to remind us that man does not live on bread alone; but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4) and in this earth we do no have a resting place.
However, we need both material and spiritual nourishment to live our lives in this world.
Similar to having a map to guide in traveling unknown places, study findings suggest the need for a spiritual path to serve as guide in this spiritual journey. The need of a guide in one's spiritual journey is actually greater in significance. When moving in one's spiritual journey, one does not have the benefit of road signs along the way. One must rely on inner strength to move on despite the bumpy roads and complete trust in God while traversing the dark, scary roads.
Creation-spirituality unites man with God and the cosmos. Precisely because this spirituality traces in life the four paths of awe and praise to God Father Almighty, surrender to Him especially in suffering, the use of talents to co-create with Him and the constant effort to transform oneself so that one becomes more and more the image of his Creator. This spirituality of the members of El Shaddai centers on the core virtues of Faith, Hope and Love anchored on the Word of God. Such spirituality entails life completely guided by the Word of God, a way of life characterized by simplicity and purity of mind and heart, total obedience and surrender to God's Holy Will, continuous expression of one's gratitude to all the graces given through Divine Providence, and observing a childlike attitude and dependence on Him.
In the widest sense, faith means freely accepting what a person says because of one's confidence in that person. This is to say that faith always entails a relationship between persons which stands or falls with the credibility of the person who is believed. In this way faith differs from knowledge which can be proved and from the arbitrary paradox of "blind faith". If this concept of faith, one must be quite clear from the first that it can only be applied to Christian faith analogically. For here is God Himself who is believed, God whom one believes and in whom one believes, because from Him is revelation of Truths we should live by. Those who witness to these Truths should be credible. Christian faith shares these formal characteristics with faith in general. But the fundamental difference between the two is that in Christian faith, God's disclosure to the human person is not mere intellectual information, where God is merely an external motive of faith; rather the disclosure appeals to all the dimensions of man so as to order them all to God's self-communication, i.e., grace and its complete fulfillment to love. At the same time, God the revealer communicates himself in such a way that this ordering of man to God lays claim to all man's subsequent life; discloses Himself both as a lover and as man's surpassing (supernatural), final goal containing in itself the perfect fulfillment of all hope.
The Word of God in Scripture presents faith as a personal relationship in the Old Testament, above all as the relationship between God and the prophets (Abraham, Genesis 1 5:6), the Jews obediently leaving Egypt and traversing the Sea of Reeds (Exodus 1 4:31); the word generally used for faith signifies "to be confident", "to hold fast". Faith in the Old Testament also connotes the fidelity of the whole people and of the individual to the God of the Covenant in response to his fidelity (thus the Prophets in particular). Hence, faith can take on the sense of "obedience, that is, to the will of El Shaddai or Yahweh as revealed in the Law, and of confession, in the face of Israel's later environment which had become too powerful to be defeated in war and had simply to be endured. The basis of the Israelite's faith remains the mighty deeds that God has done for him.
Passing over the use made of the word faith by Jesus Himself and His precise purpose on working His indisputable miracles in particular cases, we must say that Jesus demands faith when he requires recognition of the signs of the new and final dispensation which is inaugurated in Him, signs which include all His activity (e.g., His preaching, His casting out devils, the healing of the sick and the raising of the dead); and when He summons men to follow Him. "Believe the Gospel" (Mark 1:15). This faith expresses itself in a change of heart in man who after conversion, he hopes for things from God which before seemed impossible (Mark 9:32; 11:23ff). the faith of the later period which begins with the "primitive Church", Jesus Himself entrusted to witnesses, by gathering the disciples about him, clothing them with authority and founding the Church. Accordingly, faith if not only confidence (Romans 4:24ff) and hope (Galatians 5:7, Romans 1:5) and confessing it (Romans 10:9ff). Faith can also mean the content of preaching (Galatians 3:2,5; Romans 12:6). St. Paul and St. John developed a very cogent and pregnant explanation of faith in the light of the Jewish conception of the Law as the means to salvation, showing instead, by the example of Abraham (Romans 4 ), that faith given in grace by God Himself is the only way to the justice which God demands. This faith, of which all men are capable (Galatians 2:15ff; Romans 3:21031; 10:3-10) is regarded as one with baptism and must preserve and manifest the new life given in baptism by active love (Romans 6' Galatians 3:26ff;5-6). St. John explains faith on the basis of the new life (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:29, 40, 47; 8:51; 11:25ff;20:31) so that here too faith is a unique relationship both God who begets us anew and with our brethren in the faith (John 13:34ff; 17-26; I John 3:23). As St. Paul defends His teaching by appealing to the tradition of the primitive Church which he himself has received (I Corinthians 11:23;15:3) faith comes by hearing Romans 10:17), so St. John likewise stresses the fact that faith is based on the testimony of witnesses (John 5:31-47; 10:38).
The first impetus to faith and the disposition to believe are gifts of God's grace. It is not mere confidence, but an act of assent to those things which God has revealed and promised; this faith is the gift of God's grace in us. It is the beginning and root of all justification. Without works (that is to say hope and love), it is dead. In the 19th century the magisterium defended the supernatural and gratuitous character of faith against rationalism and the reasonableness of faith against traditionalism. The first Vatican Council defined faith as follows: Since man is wholly dependent on God, his Creator and Lord, and created reason is entirely subject to uncreated Truth, we are obliged to render God revealing the perfect obedience of our intellect and will in faith. This faith, which is 'the beginning of human salvation', the Catholic Church acknowledges to be a supernatural virtue whereby, impelled and sustained by grace, we believe those things to be true which God has reveled, not because we have perceived the intrinsic truth of these things by the light of our natural reason, but on the authority of God himself who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived. For 'faith' as the Apostle says, 'is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not (Hebrew 11:1), The Council then enlarges upon each of these qualities of faith.
With St. Thomas, we should regard the act of faith as primarily the ordination of the whole human person to God, since the act of faith totally concerns and engages the whole man; where we have such a radical and total fulfillment of man. The radical act of faith engages man in the self-communicating, incomprehensible "mystery of God", which reveals itself as the triune and incarnate God, who by His grace establishes the believer in the "beatific vision of God, of which faith is the beginning. It is possible and obligatory only to believe what is vouched for by the authority of God Himself - what is
formally and virtually revealed. A truth is formally revealed if it is directly contained as such in God's original revelation and does not require to be deduced with the help of other truths. It need not, indeed, be explicitly revealed; it may be found, in the course of human thought and experience, to be formally but implicitly revealed, so that the intrinsic elements of a truth already known stand out in a new light. That faith in a truth formally revealed, as revealed, is called divine faith; if in addition the truth is expressly proposed by the authority of the Church, then faith in it is called divine and Catholic faith. Those truths are virtually revealed which can only be deduced from revelation with the aid of other truths. This is ecclesiastical faith since it is directly based on the authority of the Church.
In the New Testament sense, hope is ultimately constituted by he intersection, on the one hand, of that divine predestining plan for man whereby the love of God which being incarnate in Christ, has become human history - has efficaciously and permanently affected man, and on the other hand of the responsive attitude towards this plan shown by the person who confidently awaits the final consummation of the divine economy of salvation in the coming of Jesus Christ (Hebrew 6:18ff; Romans 8:24) in reliance on the saving plan which has already and irrevocably been initiated by God, as He knows wit the certainty of faith. Thus hope is a God-wrought virtue, closely bound up as such with grace, but at the same time a genuinely human act (effected by God), as He knows with the certainty of faith. Thus hope is a God-wrought virtue closely bound up as such with grace, but at the same time a genuinely human act (effected by God) and thus closely associated with personal faith and love, thereby forming a sort of intermediate state, i.e., the historical development of faith into the absolute personal intimacy of love. The following form the material object of hope: the forgiveness of sins which is already known by faith, grace both as justification that can never be claimed or merited and as efficacious help to persevere in this state of grace, but above all the ultimate beatific vision - all as gifts that God has "always intended for me". Christian hope finds its certainty in the person of Jesus Christ in whom God's gracious assumption of human destiny and of man himself has become history; that every assumption (transformation) of human history as a "must" that is part of God's own plan and necessarily issues in the definitive new creation, gives its "rightness".
Christian love is the free fulfillment of man's being which orientates the whole man as God actually will and summons him to Himself, thus establishing him in God's grace (justification) and in salvation. This fulfillment takes place as an acceptance of God's free and absolute self-communication and in virtue of that self-communication. Since this happens in relation to t he self-giving God and is of a dialogical and responsive character, God Himself is conceived of as Love (I John 4:8). The nature of man being personal self-transcendence inwards what is higher (as a person), its fulfillment is the unselfish love of generosity, as distinguished from love of a good which serves as an element of or a means to legitimate self-affirmation. Such love is grace, an infused virtue, inseparably bound up with justification insofar as this love which surrenders itself wholly to God is freely created by God along with man, is only enabled to penetrate God's closest intimacy (filial love and the love of friendship. as contrasted with servile love for one's master) by God' s prevenient gift of Himself to man and in order to correspond "connaturally" to this gift (to be 'worthy'), needs to be sustained by it, thus always implying a conquest by God of man's sinful self-centeredness.
Love must also be understood as "charity or agape" because man's love for God depends on God's prodigal, condescending agape selflessly giving itself to his lowly creature (that is not a love enkindled by the presentation of an "ideal"), and draws the fellowman God loves into participation in God's own love. Since love is the total fundamental human act which integrates everything else, it is on the one hand the sum of the salutary acts that are required of man; but on the other hand love must declare itself in the multiplicity of those spiritual operations, distinct from each other and from love (faith, hope, repentance, justice, etc.), which when 'informed' by love can provide it with a concrete presence in the world, a criterion of the genuineness and modes of growth without being simply identical with it and thus without conclusively showing forth its existence. In the development of man's personal history such operation can precede love (as arising from virtues not yet 'informed' by it and can prepare its fulfillment.
Love for our fellowman, so far as it can and must be distinguished from "love of neighbor", is the will directed to some person desired as a good (value) to be taken possession of and enjoyed. This love is inseparable from the desire to perfect the beloved in his own being; by attempting this, the lover undertakes the endless task of self-development (Spirit). In both these ways, love shows itself to be the means by which infinity shines through a finite form. This also means that human love must come soberly to terms with the limitations of the beloved, and while necessarily and unquenchably hoping for infinite fulfillment does not make the beloved suffer for the disillusionment but accepts its own human limitation as the point at which God, by the very pain of His absence, shows that He alone is infinite fulfillment.
In every affirmation it makes, the human mind affirms, at least implicitly God as the real ground of the principles of being ad knowledge that are assumed without qualification when any statement is made, and further affirms absolute being as 'mystery and - in eminent sense - as personal being (Person). This nameless being we call God. El Shaddai stands upon this absolute incomprehensible reality, which is always the silent horizon of all intellectual encounter with being, thus always implicitly conjointly affirmed in every affirmation as infinitely different from the knowing subject that is the person of any man or woman. Accordingly each member of El Shaddai DWXI-PPFI can only ascertain the relation between he or she is knower and God who is known - finite being and absolute infinity - in two respects: first, God being absolute and infinite, must be utterly distinct from finite being like man, otherwise He would be an object of comprehension instead of the principle and ground of comprehension that always lies beyond it; this he is and always remains, even when metaphysical reflection names and objectifies Him. Consequently He cannot "need" us finite beings. Otherwise He could not be radically different from the world but would be part of a greater whole, the world being something of God Himself, as it were God's body, the mode of His manifestation, the means by which He is Himself.
Second, the world must radically depend on God, without God depending on it as the master depends on the servant; no part of its being can be independent of him, any more than the variety and oneness of earthly things can be perceived apart from the "prior reach", the transcendence of the mind to God. It is defined Catholic teaching that God must freely establish this dependent being, for being finite and transient, it cannot be absolutely necessary; it could only be absolutely necessary if God necessarily willed the world, and in this case the world would be necessary to God; He would be dependent on it. This radical dependence must be permanent that is to say must characterize more than a "beginning", because finite being now and always refers us to its absolute source.
This peculiar relation between God and the world which cannot really be submitted under a general (universal) concept of causality, is known as the "createdness" of the world, its permanent rootedness in the free enactment of the personal God, whereby the world, totally and at all times, remains dependent on him. The creative enactment, therefore, does not imply ay material already in existence. It is defined teaching that God creates out of "nothing". What God makes out of this nothing simply by just willing it, exists. It is no mere appearance behind which God is concealed, but real being different from God, so that genuine reality and radical dependence grow in the same, not in inverse proportion. Faith affirms this creation out of our prayerful experience of our own autonomous, responsible being and the complete surrender of that being to the unmasterable mastery of utter mystery; and it sees the creatureliness thus experienced as the fundamental structure of all finite being with which man has dealings.
Creatureliness is only fully realized in man.The world is not God and therefore is rightly looked on as "material" for the creative powers of man, who encounters in it, as such,dull finitude and in himself and the world so far as he knows and controls it, the limitless spiritual openness. Of his own genuine creatureliness, man finds God. Through this utter dependence, finite being at every level "reveals" something of the nature of God. An analogy between Creator and creature must and does exist to the glory of God. The creation-centered spirituality of El Shaddai DWXI-PPFI finds its explanation not only in general of the createdness of all that is not God (Genesis 1:1) but especially of that creatureliness which is proper in man and thus becomes the fundamental basis of man's relationship with God: Humility, adoration, trust in El Shaddai (God Father Almighty) who sustains the life we can no longer control, readiness to believe, hiddenness in God, docility in God, the inner dialectic of the attitude which accepts both utter dependence on God and real, responsible autonomy and independence in dialogue with God. These are the necessary elements of creation-centered spirituality which does not simply state what human nature is, but in elaborating the notion of the creaturely, embraces every sphere of human life - and therefore also man's supernatural elevation by grace. Creation-centered spirituality is closely connected with anthropology which becomes cosmic anthropology since man's place and role in the world as intended by the Creator, God Almighty (El Shaddai) is seen only when we look at the whole creation.
A most important aspect of creation-centered spirituality is the Catholic teaching that God creates every individual soul not out of nothing (Creation), uniting it with the cells of the parents, which have fused in generation to form a single human being. The soul does not exist before its substantial union with the body. The soul is infused at the moment when the cells of the parents are united in the mother's womb, not at birth nor upon the first intellectual act. Creationism does not deny that the parents are in a true and proper sense the cause of the new human being but it also affirms that the production of what is truly new transcends the created cause through which God works, though in such a way that the dynamism of God's absolute being remains "in" this cause so that in spite of the act of creation, the new person originates through a genuinely natural event, regardless of the moral character of the parents' act of generation.
The two creation narratives (Genesis 1:1 - 2:4a; 2:4b-25), the one more concerned with the world, the other with man, set forth in dramatic and picturesque fashion our primordial and religious experience; the creatureliness of the world and man, their origin in a spiritual, wise, free God who will His creature's good, (optimistically) rejecting any absolute dualism, emphasizing the fact that the division of the human race into two sexes, the equal dignity of both - however widely the two natures may differ - their union in marriage, all are part of the original order of creation, which always remains the exemplar of man's historical development both individual and social.
Because all reality is God's creation, which always remains the exemplar of man's historical development, both individual and social. Because all reality is God's creation, because man is one being composed of a spiritual soul and a body and as such as a spiritual person the elements of whose nature interact cannot be - cannot be accounted for from below", man must be created by God, body and soul. This does not mean that the origin of man had no prehistory in the world, under the creative governance of God which sustains all earthly being and enables that being at every level to rise above itself as it could never do by its own powers. On the contrary, man's pre-history in the world is the general history of the evolution of material things and biological life. The creation narratives do not "report" the way in which creation happened at the beginning but state the fact of creation which the human authors deduce from their own intellectual, social and religious situation.
Thus, we may enunciate the principle that whatever can be learnt of the beginning in and through this situation (which also includes religious experience of grace, of man's universal entanglement in sin, and so forth) is part of the context of the creation narratives, so that its truth is guaranteed by the inspiration of Scripture. Everything else is the mode of expression, designed to convey in bold outline, in figurative, childlike terms the createdness of the world and man's relationship with God.
Man is one in his substantial nature in such a way that this unity has a priority over a genuine, real, irreducible plurality in his natural life; he is one in his origin, existence and last end. This means that to make any affirmation about man under some partial aspect is to make it about man as a whole. Yet there is a real plurality of realities in man which cannot be derived from each other. What we call the rational soul in man is not a mere modification of what we describe as his materiality and his corporality and conversely. Man possesses a proper, specifying, constituent principle of his whole nature, a spiritual, simple, substantial soul, which without prejudice to the unity of the one human person is essentially distinct from matter. Its existence and intelligibility are intrinsically independent of matter and it is that act which because it does not fashion things by making new combinations of what is already extant and given - is called creation, and thus presupposes that absolutely independent power we call God. But because it originates a single being, at once spiritual and material, precisely this creative impulsion of God expresses itself in this its effect as a self-transcendence of material being. The meaning of "spiritual" is that which is transcendent or above what is material. This is positively taught by our faith.
Everything that exists through creation, that is to say, everything whose explanation has beyond itself, all that is finite, such that creatures are enabled to rise above themselves are by grace given acceptance of the divine self-communication. Hence, El Shaddai DWXI-PPFI makes the Word of God central in their members' creation-centered spirituality.
This author has made a study of El Shaddai DWXI-PPFI not merely as an inquirer or as an interviewer but one who is a member of this charismatic movement. Life stories narrated by some members reveal common patterns - all have treaded the path characterized by a transition from crisis to a life enlightened and guided by the Word of God. Some have led a naterialistic existence, while others have been experiencing problems caused primarily by a life devoid of spirituality. Once they had opted to 'die' to their old selves and be 'reborn' to a new one, respondents embraced the emerging spirituality - a life completely guided by the Word of God, a way of life characterized by simplicity and purity of mind and heart, total obedience and surrender to God's holy Will, continuous expression of one's gratitude for all the graces given by Divine Providence, and despite all earthly knowledge, skills, attainments and possessions, follow the path of abandonment to God with full confidence and childlike attitude and dependence on Him.
It was also found that the respondents' spiritual journey has significant parallelism with the four paths of the spiritual journey characterized by awe and wonder, by patient suffering, by creative charity towards others and a turning about from laxity to transformation after conversion. The 'crisis' experienced was one of spiritual darkness, pain and sufferings. The experience of enlightenment' through the Word of God, an experience of who and what God is, was followed by a realization of one's sinful life ad repentance for sins, the decision to change and renew life in accordance with the 'Will of God'. the commitment to a renewed life in its sharing with other in Faith, Hope and Love led to transformation, an experience of compassion.
Life stories vividly reveal the attributes of interrelatedness, interconnectedness and interdependency, communion and community of persons related to God within the whole creation. Such are proven by statements regarding God's use of human instruments to accomplish his plans, the blessings that come out of faithful attendance in Gawain as El Shaddai DWXI-PPFI gatherings are called, human incapacity when not helped by God, Divine Providence, and the power of the Word of God on our lives. Further, the assurance that if God is with us, no one can be against us, where there are trials, there, too, is Divine intervention, the importance of family, the power with God of a child's prayer, the utter goodness of God and forgiveness of enemies and of those who do us wrong, as taught by Christ in the Gospels.
Above mentioned study undertaken by this author purports the authority of human experience in understanding the spiritual journey taking place in a man's life, more so, with the spirituality that is being re-awakened, cultivated, and developed in one's earthly existence. Considering the innate uniqueness of each individual, both in character and experience, findings fortify the universal truth that man, from any origin or state in life, generally experience the need to address their spiritual needs; that it is inevitable for man not to undergo a phase where they must satisfy spiritual needs, thus, further maintaining that man is both flesh and spirit.
Amidst the diversity of values, beliefs, experience, orientation, etc., in life, are actually connected, related and interdependent with God, fellow human beings, and the rest of God's creation. That to exist is akin to man's communion, communing, and being in a community with God. The question posed once by Brother Mike Velarde to a gathering of El Shaddai is a pivotal question: "What do you treasure in you hearts? Is it not the Word of God?
Brother Mike continues on: Listen to the Good News. What will happen to those that keep the Word of God? God will of course bless them. According to Luke 8:4-10, many people were gathered together, and were coming to Jesus out of every city. In those days, how did they look at people like us? Why do you come here every Saturday for the Gawain? What do you do here? Who do you bring yourself to? Say it loudly. When you come here, what do you do?
Many people were gathered together and were coming to Jesus out of every city. He spoke by a parable: A sower went out to sow his seed, and as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. and some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns and the thorns sprung up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bore fruit a hundredfold?he that hath ears to hear, let him hear. And his disciples asked him, saying, "What might this parable be?" And Jesus said, "Listen to the following verses. These are for all of us. Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God. Do you know any mystery of the kingdom of God? Who among you know any mystery of the kingdom of God? The seed is the Word of God.
Like any seed when planted in the land, you don't see the Word of God. Like any seed when planted in the land, you don't see it anymore. Days will pass. We won't see anything. Some lose hope. They think that the seed has become rotten. So they leave. They don't persevere. They don't know how to wait. They are always in a hurry. It's no different from being inside a church. The Mass is one hour, some stay for 10 or 15 minutes only 15 because they don't know the mystery that will be proclaimed, -- Word of God.. Like a seed after some days or weeks, life will spring up; life from the planted seed will spring up. If the seed springs up a plant or blooms into a flower or bears fruit, do you see just one fruit? There will be much fruit. Others will have a hundredfold; others 200; others 400 and on to 600. It will all depend on who cultivates it, because the seed or the Word of God is of God, not of the person keeping it. It does not bear much fruit because of men. It is a miracle seed. It is called the miracle of life. We are given back what is overflowing with graces and blessings. Amen? (Amen).
The seed is the Word of God. Since then until now, the seed of God has continued to spread. That is His Word and it is sown not in the land but in the hearts of men. God is happy about those who are humble. God is happy about those who hear the Word and keep it in their pure and honest heart. The Word of God is the mystery in the kingdom of God. We take the Word of God to heart, then manifest the delight and wonder that results when we experience within ourselves the creative power of God. We elicit delight and wonder at what man can create, which in turn, increases his awe. He experiences darkness the better to appreciate the light. In the same manner, one must first experiences brokenness the better to appreciate wholeness. Then with that wholeness man becomes better equipped for transformation whereby he faces life's harsh realities, to react to afflictions not with anger but with creative, more effective courage which eventually result in healing.
All the discourse above, has attempted to approximate the kind of life, a creation-centered spirituality lived in God, in El Shaddai, (in God Father Almighty) through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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