In previous posts, we discussed intellectual and moral conversion: intellectual conversion has to do with knowledge of God and moral conversion focuses on the practice of moral actions directing one toward the good and away from evil.
The last, and certainly not least, type of conversion is spiritual conversion. In a homily, St. Gregory of Nyssa tells the faithful to keep their gaze fixed on Jesus. This instruction provides the fundamental core of what spiritual conversion is all about, namely, fixing our gaze on the one we love–Christ Jesus.
Love as a Gift
Spiritual conversion is falling in love with God. The love of God is a gift freely given to us by the Holy Spirit. Bernard Lonergan often quoted Romans 5:5 when discussing spiritual conversion:
“And hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.” -Romans 5:5
Lonergan recognized God’s love as a free gift bestowed upon us. This gift does not depend on any merits achieved or works accomplished, but rather, it is given as a free gift from God.
Love as Ecstasy
The love associated with spiritual conversion is far from being a selfish love. On the contrary, love from God draws the lover out of oneself and toward the other. In his encyclical “Deus Caritas Est,” Pope Benedict XVI reveals the ever-deeper horizons in which love lifts us by stating,
“Love is indeed ‘ecstasy,’ not in the sense of a moment of intoxication, but rather as a journey, an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus toward authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God.” -Pope Benedict XVI
This love liberates us out of ourselves and toward the discovery of God. Inasmuch as our hearts are turned towards God, our hearts are set on the life that is above.
Fr. Spitzer relates the upward gaze of the spiritually converted to meeting the Spirit in our hearts: “He prepares us to leave this world and go to his Kingdom. This is a catalyzing and concluding dimension of spiritual conversion.”
This ecstatic love that is at the core of spiritual conversion brings us out of the confines and bounds of a mere earthly existence. It is truly a transcendent and elevating journey as our gaze turns from ourselves to the Spirit of Love.
The Role of Prayer in Spiritual Conversion
As we look to God to freely pour His Divine love into our hearts there are steps we can take to deepen the working of God’s love in our lives. The first invaluable step is prayer. Fr. Spitzer instructs us on both individual prayer and communal prayer:
“We are called not only to individual prayer but to Koinōnia–Church community and spiritual communion. Therefore, church community is indispensable to our spiritual nature, fulfillment, and destiny.” -Fr. Robert Spizter
This insight sheds light on the importance of joining others in worshiping God as we travel the road of spiritual conversion. A sure way of consistently joining others in prayer is becoming part of a spiritual community.
As the central focus of spiritual conversion is love for God, the practice of prayer seems all the more valuable. The importance of prayer can be seen clearly if we look back to the wisdom of St. Gregory mentioned earlier, that is, spiritual conversion lies in turning our gaze toward Christ. Prayer has the power to turn our gaze right to Jesus. In his upcoming book, “Escape from Evil’s Darkness: The Light of Christ in the Church, Spiritual Conversion, and Moral Conversion”, Fr. Spitzer not only expands more on how individual and communal prayer deepens our spiritual conversion, but he also brings many more insights and concrete actions on how to go further on our spiritual journeys.
Fr. Spitzer Can Help
As mentioned above, Fr. Spitzer’s book, “Escape from Evil’s Darkness: The Light of Christ in the Church, Spiritual Conversion, and Moral Conversion,” (coming 2nd half 2020) will provide insightful and encouraging information on spiritual conversion. For more, look below for a list of books, a scholarly article, and a link to blogs that also touch upon the topic of spiritual conversion.
Scholarly Article: Contemplative Prayer Leading to Spiritual and Moral Conversion
Blogs: The Magis blog page on Prayer