The place I attend has an interest in talking about “spirituality”. It’s got an outdoor labyrinth and time set aside for an indoor one and hosts a Taize service once a month (that is hosted in other local places in other weeks).
I like Taize stuff and it formed an important part of assuring that I remained engaged and interested in Christianity when I was in college because I found through it a contemplative side of Christian worship I hadn’t experienced before. (I’ve since found it in many other kinds of Christian worship, both personal and public.)
Even labyrinths aren’t bad things when properly understood. When we understand that it grows out of the pilgrimage concept and recognize it as an imageless form of the stations of the cross/journey to the cradle/etc., then it plays a useful if occasional role in cultivating Christian spirituality. Too often to my mind, however, it becomes overly focused on the “personal journey” and the place of God as both companion and telos is lost, robbing it of its potential for specifically Christian formation.
I’m no opposed to these kinds of things–but neither should we mistake them for the heart of Christian spirituality!! From where I sit, I often see churches promoting spiritual practices of this order (throw in “Celtic” spirituality et al.) it seems to me we’re majoring in the minors and leaving the center by the wayside.
What is the center of Christian Spirituality? I’d argue it’s exactly the same as a correct definition of liturgy: the ordered and bounded encounter with the entirety of Scripture and the God described therein.
As such, the central practice of Christian spirituality is grounded in the public liturgies of the Church: the Mass and Office. They serve as an inexhaustable sources of spiritual richness because of their interpretive methods and mechanisms. That is, the liturgy functions through the simple principle of juxtapostion; the liturgical cycles put different texts together, then the liturgical compositions for the day/season use a decidedly underdetermined approach to relate them. That is, the colleects, hymns, propers, never come right out and explain the connections, rather they simply hint at them or draw attention to one aspect of them. The power of the liturgy lies in this underdetermined interpretation–the liturgy never tries to fully explain itself or its ways, leaving us always capable of finding new and more connections between and throughout the texts brought together.
This is what we need to teach. This is what we need to promote.
Sure, the other stuff is good too—in its place. And its place is the recognition that even all the ancillary forms of Christian spirituality can not and should not be seen apart from the center. To tease this out a bit, embracing—say, medieval spiritualities like the Rhinelanders or the anchorites—is all well and good, but we misinterpret it if we don’t see it arising from the established public forms of spirituality.
The center is the key. The ordered and bounded encounter with Scripture and the God who animates, breathes, and speaks through it is what we fundamentally need to be about.