Original Research - Special Collection: Holiness

Authentic subjectivity and social transformation

Michael O'Sullivan
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 72, No 4 | a3452 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v72i4.3452 | © 2016 Michael O'Sullivan | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 April 2016 | Published: 24 October 2016

About the author(s)

Michael O'Sullivan, Spirituality Institute for Research and Education, Dublin, Ireland; Department of New Testament, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa; Waterford Institute of Technology, Waterford, Ireland, Ireland

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Holiness in the Christian tradition has often been understood in a way that devalues embodiment and practical engagement with the world of one’s time. The latter understanding, for example, led to Marx’s critique and repudiation of Christianity. Both interpretations of holiness can be understood as mistaken efforts to express the dynamism for authenticity in contextualised human subjectivity. Vatican 2 opposed both views by addressing itself to all people of good will, declaring that everyone was called to holiness, and that authentic Christian identity involved solidarity with the world of one’s time, especially those who are poor. Vatican 2, therefore, provided an authoritative faith foundation for holiness expressed through social commitment and for viewing social commitment on the part of people of good will in whatever state of life as a form of holiness. This vision was also the conviction of leading spirituality writers of the period, like Thomas Merton, and inspired liberation theologians and the Latin American Catholic bishops at their conference in Medellín a few years after the Council. The argument of this article is that the emergence and development of a non-dualist Christian spirituality is grounded methodologically in the correct appropriation of the common innate dynamism for authenticity in concrete human persons and lived spiritual experiences consistent with and capable of enhancing this dynamism.




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