AGLIPAYAN SPIRITUALITY AND THE THEOLOGY OF INCARNATION

(An Assessment of Aglipayan Spirituality vis-à-vis Integral Ministry from the Perspective of the Theology of Incarnation)
By: Rev’d Noel Dionicio L. Dacuycuy Input in the 2012 Clergy Institute: “An Interdisciplinary Study on Aglipayan Spirituality: Enriching Knowledge and Experience towards Relevant Ministry” Balay Aglipay, ACTS, Urdaneta City – October 4-5, 2012

Let it be stated at the outset that the Aglipayan Spirituality needs neither defense nor apology. For it is self-evident that, every Christian and every religious confession is “called and sent” to ministry in some ways or another; hence, its spirituality unceasingly personifies not only ‘a response to,’ but also a ‘relationship with’ the Triune God. Wherein, Aglipayan Spirituality articulates the theological thoughts and missiological notions of ‘calling and sending’ as enshrined in the IFI “nationalist heritage.” The authenticity of the Aglipayan Spirituality must be mediated by pristine Christology. This paper, therefore, casts a critical eye over many of the things which pass for relevant and effective ministry today. It is to systematically dissect the Aglipayan Spirituality and integral ministry of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) from the perspective of the Theology of Incarnation.

The Problem Spirituality is as difficult word to define as ministry; yet, it can mean everything. However, spirituality and ministry have to be assumed from the following parameters: (i) By the particular “gospel” the church advocates. Valuing salvation which the gospel takes is an enormous task. The “critical eye of theologian” is crucial to the proclamation of a liberating gospel, likewise, to a relevant and effective ministry in contemporary society, for now, in the era of globalization. Without the defining reproach of the Theology of Incarnation, ministry or integral ministry can easily degenerate into either the “good news” of a dominant group, or it can become the property of a powerful individual. It therefore demands, a hermeneutical task from the perspective of the historical Jesus and of the Christ of faith – the Word that “became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14). (ii) By the style, method and results. This involves not only the skill of “the critical eye” of a theologian (hermeneutics), but also the ability to discern the effects of the “ministry” (which spawns spiritual life) on the lives of the people and the entire society. Of which, it raises further deep anthropological and theological questions concerning the dynamism as well as the nature of ministry and spirituality in itself.
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Scope and Limitation It is in no way in a brief paper like this one, limited as it is, that it can tackle all the theological problems entwined to the “praxis” of the Christian faith: ministry and spirituality. What this paper inevitably suggests, is that: a properly understood ministry and spirituality are “bedfellows.” Integral ministry, as the witnessing the saving gospel in Jesus, is the indispensible prerequisite for the spiritual life (spirituality). Without the call to personal commitment, any discourse of spirituality is meaningless. It is true that the deeper a person being nurtured in “the life of the Spirit,” the more it will be under pressure by that same Spirit to bear witness the salvific activity of the Triune God in Jesus. On one hand, the “popularly” understood ministry and spirituality today suffer so much from the same disease of chronic individualism exacerbated by a virulent elitism. This form of ministry is incompatible and even inimical to the Aglipayan understanding of the Gospel message of justice, peace and freedom in Jesus. It is blatantly un-Christian that exacerbates a form of spirituality that tyrannizes and diminishes people to obscurity. These are the so-called “hell-fire-and-damnation” ministry and the “Jesus-as-pain-and-problem-killer” spirituality; thus, seeing the church as a “divine-saving-association” of “elect-saints” waiting to be transferred sooner or later to heavens above. On the other hand, a well-informed spirituality and ministry animate the Kingdom of God in a peaceful world. It enables to develop a Christian way of life—“being human-with-spirit”—which can embrace an open Christology and a deeper appreciation of the communal and collective efforts of the humankind to practice justice and love, and to passion for the historical realization of the Kingdom of God here on earth. Such forms of ministry and spirituality inevitably need to be interdisciplinary. Both need to take into account the discoveries of social sciences, which also need to be continually nurtured by systematic theology and biblical criticism relevant to the lives of the people. A spirituality or ministry that fails to take into accounts the insights of modern sciences and disciplines it will be “witnessing” a penurious gospel to impoverished and truncated people. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to argue that “ministry” and “spirituality” need each other, and that, when they are creatively harnessed together, an enormous transcendent vitality in the church is engendered towards genuine transformation of society, individually and collectively. While integral ministry requires spirituality, spirituality allows the Spirit of God to lead in integral ministry. When integral ministry is entwined with liberating spirituality, there is a redeeming event of the Spirit. Conversely, Aglipayan Spirituality seeks to promote the triumph of the Christian life, both individually and collectively as a church, towards the historical realization of the Kingdom of God in the world. This paper is divided into three primary sections: i. The “Abba” Experience: the reality of human experience with God. ii. Aglipayanism and Christological Question: the question, “Which Jesus Christ is being proclaimed?” is inevitably important to spirituality.
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iii. Integral Ministry as a Daring Enterprise of Aglipayan Spirituality: when the prophetic and nationalist traditions of the IFI come together in witnessing the Gospel in the era of economic globalization, there is an ingenious renewal of society; hence, the IFI becomes a pillar of society. I. The “Abba” Experience Spirituality, of course, is no less than the experience of the “Abba” in Jesus through the Holy Spirit. It is of this notion why the IFI asserts that Aglipayan Spirituality is “our relationship with God, with the community and with the rest of creation rooted in the Judeo-Christian faith and tradition.”1 Therefore, the question of spirituality is simply and purely the question of a correspondence to the revelation of God in the concrete historical experience. In the book, Spirituality of Liberation, Jon Sobrino asserts that God continues forever “to give self-manifestation in real history.”2 If spirituality, then, is the human “response” to the encounter with God, it therefore implies that, genuine spirituality strives to set forth the correct mode of human relationship with history, and thereby with God and the personal aspect of God. As Sobrino stresses, “that anyone who enters into a correct relationship with this [historical] reality is corresponding to God objectively, and that God will bestow self-communication to this person,” although it may not be in a thematically reflexive form, “the grace and truth appeared in Jesus can and should thematized the correct relationship with reality as a relationship with God, as experience of God, as God’s grace.”3 It is in this perspective, however, wherein the Institute of Spirituality in Asia rightly asserts that “spirituality refers to privileges and intimacy with God.” 4 Therefore, an earnest discernment of an “Abba” experience historically brings with it the necessity of developing criteria by which to evaluate and interpret the experience with the Triune God, without the criteria of a direct experience of God (whether real or apparent) is enormously threatening and remain ambiguous. Thus, similar concerns can be brought against both “ministry” and “spirituality.” For they are not only “individualistic,” as widely understood today, but even infected by either weak or narrow Christologies. As such, they often lead to abuse and petrify human beings. And they merely feed on the craving experience of human being without providing adequate criteria for interpreting genuine spirituality. Therefore, an interdisciplinary approach to understand experience with concrete reality is but necessary to grapple the challenges of the times. It is seen that, an “Abba” experience is a basic spirituality as it demands a basic honesty with historical reality. This “Abba” experience is an ultimate spirituality because it has to face up to, and deal with, ultimate realities—about life and death, justice and injustice, giving life to others and to own life. It is likewise a Christian spirituality because it forces the faithful into direct converse with the ultimacy of
The Aglipayan Spirituality [AS] was issued and approved by the Supreme Council of Bishops which met at the Aglipay Central Theological Seminary (ACTS), Nancamaliran West, Urdaneta City on May 8, 1998. 2 Jon Sobrino, Spirituality of Liberation: toward political holiness, trans. from Spanish by Robert R. Barr (Quezon City: Claretian Publications, 1988), 21. 3 Sobrino, Spirituality, 22. “Fidelity to that reality amid its taxing demands, in a hope and a practice of love steadfastly maintained, in order that these birth pangs may be transformed into the joy of new life; the experience of gratuity in the discovery of that, once we accept the burden of this reality, we are then borne along by it…” 4 Carlos Ronquillo, “Spirituality in Social Movement” in Fired from Within: Spirituality in the Social Movement, edited by Tom Dannenberg (Philippines: Institute of Spirituality in Asia [ISA], 2007), 378.
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others, especially the poor, with their life and death, and in so doing brings them into contact with the question of their own ultimacy as well, with the meaning of their own lives. Primarily, the heart of any reflection process and praxis as a concrete response to the ultimate reality must, therefore, always constitute the hope of the poor in their own terms. But why constitutes “the hope of the poor”? In the early Doctrinal and Constitutional Rules of the IFI, in the IFI Six Fundamental Epistles, and in the Manifesto of Bishop Gregorio Aglipay dated 22 October 1898, even not to mention the famous words of the illustrious bishop on Religion of the Future, he stressed a concern to the poor and vulnerable, and even anticipating triumph and liberation from local and foreign domination.5 Similarly, Gustavo Gutierrez categorically asserts this perspectival dimension in The Power of the Poor in History – the poor constitutes the hermeneutical place and historical subject in doing theology.6 Likewise, Gregory Baum, as cited by Ronquillo, is offering the insight as the perspective of the poor. It stresses that “Christian must try to understand their society from the point of view of the poor, of the little ones, of the marginalized, of the dispossessed and of the oppressed.”7 It is impossible, therefore, to understand society from a neutral perspective. It is not here rejecting the traditional ascetical call “to love God and to love of neighbor” (Matt. 22:36:40) – the two dimensions of the Gospel of Christ – as the way to life in spirit (spirituality) and bring us nearer to the kingdom (Mark 12:34), but these are central elements in the “Abba” experience of those who believe in the God of life. But why genuine praxis of the Christian faith constitutes the hope of the poor in their own terms. It is because through an encounter with the poor, that we encounter the Lord (see: Matt. 25:31 ff.). Therefore, the harmonization of these elements turns the Christian faith into a pilgrimage of solidarity with the poor towards the kingdom of God.8 When one grasps poverty and oppression from the perspective of the incarnation of Jesus among the poor, it affirms that the poor call for a great act of liberation of the same manner as Yahweh thundered of old and the divine response to people’s suffering. This is still the transcendent paradigm, therefore, and the appropriate response to the reality of the poor today (cf., Exod. 3:7-8).9 The IFI appropriately claims, therefore, that its spirituality is a “holistic response to the call of the God of salvation to liberate His people from all forms of dehumanization.”10 It further asserts that, it is in “living out the mandate of the Gospel of Christ and our [IFI] historical heritage of serving God and Country,” a continuing pilgrimage with the liberating God which affirms its hope for the establishment of the Kingdom of God.11 Nevertheless, this personal “encounter” with God in the concrete experience of the poor, which is not only demonstrating the personal nature of God, but as presented in the exodus, in the prophets, and in Jesus even in the IFI founders and early leadership. God is experienced as liberator and the one
Santiago Lopez, Mons. Aglipay y la Religión del Provenir (Manila: February 1936, 6). Gustavo Gutiérrez, The Power of the Poor in History, trans. Robert R. Barr (New York: Orbis Books, 1983), 201; cited in Ronquillo, Spirituality, 28. 7 G. Baum, “La teología de la liberación y lo <<sobrenatural>>” in AA. VV., Vida y reflexión. Aportes de la teología de la liberación al pensamiento teológico actual (Lima: Centro de Estudios y Publicationes, 1983), 63; cited in Ronquillo, Spirituality, 329-330. 8 Supreme Council of Bishops, “Witnessing: Sharing in the Pilgrimage:” Pastoral Statement, (9 May 1989). 9 Jürgen Moltmann, The Passion for Life (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976), 44. 10 Cf. AS 11 Ibid.
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who strikes a covenant with people. The God of Jesus, the same God who called and sent the IFI for a mission, the same God who moves mysteriously, freely and radically through human experience and in history, continuously works actively in the present human experience, thus calls the church, the IFI, to discern His will amidst of the struggle of the Filipino people towards “the new heaven and the new earth,” towards a new history, and a new world wherein the fullness of “Abba” experience takes in. This notion therefore raises fundamental questions to ministry and spirituality, alike: Which Gospel is the church preaching? Which Jesus is the church proclaiming? What salvation is the church announcing? These questions therefore call to retrace the ‘footprints’ of the original Jesus, not only an adventure of the scholarly mind, but also a seeker-heart. It is by way of “knowing without knowing” Jesus. In saying the same words, it is of knowing Jesus beyond the mind, beyond confessions, by being in touch with historical realities. This, therefore, is the subject matter of the following section. II. Aglipayanism and Christological Question The IFI asserts itself as ‘people of God’ called by God to participate in the mission of the Triune God revealed in the life of the incarnate Word, Jesus, through the works of the Holy Spirit (definitively, the economy of “Abba” experience). It asserts that its theological grounding is the quest for a new “humanum” in Christ12 and its fundamental objective is a new “presence” of the church13 in witnessing the salvific activity of the Triune God. Therefore, the history of the IFI is also its historical vocation in living out the imperative of the Gospel of Christ, thus, a holistic response to the call of God to liberate His people from all forms of dehumanization. 14 In other words, the IFI history is in itself the IFI mission. It therefore brings with and poses Christological question that must be answered with a profound fidelity to the Triune God, which is an act of the Spirit. The basic phenomenon of spirituality as exudes in Aglipayan Spirituality is within the dynamism of the IFI nationalist heritage (Pro Deo et Patria) and the fidelity to its “Abba” experience. Categorically, the appreciation of the intervening Aglipayan faith on Christological question determines as well as the ‘causative force’ to Aglipayan Spirituality. Primarily, while the IFI does not deny ‘ahistorical’ realities, it understands eschatological fullness (the Parousia) not as ‘the end’ of historical process, therefore, the inauguration of timeless “spiritual” state, but as the “transformation” of historical realities towards the realization of the Kingdom of God in the world, of which the ultimate of Aglipayan hope.15 Furthermore, it should not be understood merely as the salvation of certain individuals or even the ‘reign of God’ in the heart of the people, but rather the reign of God over the entire creation—a reign of life in its fullness (John 10:10). It is the renewal of the ‘wholeness’ of humanity, the imago Dei, spoilt by sin.16 It is of this hope that the IFI insists the “incarnational” character (metanoia) of mission – to incarnate itself “where the people are” – engaged in

See, Epistle IV. See, Constitutional Rules and Doctrines of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, (1904). 14 AS. 15 Statement of Church Mission [SCM], (October 23, 1976), § 1 & 26; Statement on Ministry [SM], (October 22, 1999). Eschatology (Greek: ta eschata,) literally means “the last things.” 16 Cf. SM.
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the struggle of the people for liberation and freedom (the new “presence” of the church),17 which is primarily understood as the salvific activity of God towards the dawning of “the new heaven and the new earth” where righteousness and justice shall rule over the entire creation. It is a life lived in a community of freedom, which emphasizes the encounter with God through neighborly relationship guided with justice over ceremonial purity.18 But then again salvation underlies human wholeness and not a deliverance from ‘creaturehood’ or “fuga mundi.”19 This is the reason why the IFI asserts that the historical process of liberation is salvation.20 The IFI explains that the nature of a person with all its rights and liberty is a perfect and admirable creation of God (Gen. 1:31). It describes a free humanity, the perfect (new) humanum. This freedom – ‘walking according to the Spirit’ = the law of liberty’ (cf. James 2:12) – is not only a dimension of its subjectivity to God, but a liberating praxis—a power that transforms the world in accordance to God’s purposes.21 From the hindsight of this principle of “new” humanum and the historical process of transformation towards the establishment of the Kingdom of God, the people are the primary agents and bearers of change. 22 It is necessary therefore to promote the potentials of individuals so that they themselves become a driving force of a collective action towards liberation as a human concrete participation to the historical salvific activity of the Triune God.23 Nonetheless, the church must play a critical and dynamic role in the transformation of society. Thus, discipleship is the offering of oneself, “in spirit and in truth,” as a servant of all (together with the people) seeks the transformation of society towards the attainment of justice peace and freedom for all. The IFI therefore describes itself as “herald” or “servant community,” witnessing to the liberating work of God in history.24 In like manner, it asserts itself as a reality and a sacrament of the salvific activity of God – “the mission of revealing, unmasking and proclaiming the One and True God in the hearts, minds, culture and life of the Filipino people.”25 Therefore, it has to conform its life and works to the Triune God who has “called and sent” it into an integral mission.26 Nevertheless, the practice of integral ministry as essential to Aglipayan Spirituality (which is the subject matter of the next section) is not only in the virtue of an assenting faith, but essentially brings the church “face-to-face” with ultimate social realities, thus an “Abba” experience. It is indeed implied that through integral ministry is not only the way of drawing near to the mystery of the Triune God, nor is sufficiently by itself, but to situate the quest for justice within the framework of Christology – the incarnate Word, Jesus – in order to possible understand the predilection of God for the poor.
SCM, § 14; and AS. Ibid., §26. 19 SM; cf. St Irenaeus, Adv. Haer., 1, 36, 1; see also, Nickoloff, Gustavo Gutierrez: Essential Writings, 239. 20 The IFI refers to the Kingdom of God: the ‘ultimate truth’ of salvation, which then functions as an organizing and ordering principle for Aglipayan life and works. Cp. Statement on Development [SD], (30 July 1987). 21 Cp. Epistle VI. 22 SCM, §9. 23 Ibid.; cp. Epistle VI. 24 Ibid., §3 = SD. 25 Ibid., §9; cf. SM. 26 Ibid., §4; cf. Statement on the Ministry of the Laity [SML] (May 10, 2000).
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III. Integral Ministry as a Daring Enterprise of Aglipayan Spirituality Integral ministry and Aglipayan Spirituality are dynamically attending each other. Aglipayan Spirituality serves integral ministry (which tends toward ambiguity) by pointing uncompromisingly to the living reality of the incarnate Word, Jesus the Christ. It likewise undergirds integral ministry by insisting that the true Gospel erupts only out of the “Abba experience” in history. Thus, it is to conform its life and works to the Triune God who has “called and sent” it into an integral mission. What is encouraging in such “spirituality” is the way in which the whole church, exists as the Body of Christ, is the sacrament the unity and union of mankind with God. It is a foregone conclusion in the IFI that integral ministry is the revelation of what is to be revealed. In other words, as in Aglipayan Spirituality, it is the “service to the liberating God concretized in solidarity with the Filipino people in their struggle for peace, justice, freedom and abundant life.”27 The first and foremost sense of integral ministry is a proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is firstly a matter of conviction and faith. It therefore affirms that as the IFI is at the service of the Word of God, integral ministry is essentially an event of the Spirit, a divine activity which is truly sacramental. In a second sense, integral ministry requires other competencies: to “a commitment which basis is the critical and scientific analysis of the structures and systems that perpetuate the continuing destruction of life; a commitment being nurtured through immersion and solidarity with the basic masses”28 which enable the church to serve the Word more effectively. First of all, Aglipayan Spirituality points uncompromisingly that the task of the church is not to “bring” Jesus to the world, but to celebrate and proclaim His salvific presence in the world. Of which, one of the mistakes of some confessions make is to assume that Christ (cum: God) needs introducing to His creation. The IFI rightly affirms that Christ’s saving mediation comes in history through the Church, which has spiritually to quicken the historical process and show it its meaning as fulfilling of God’s purpose and intermediary of the redemptive salvation.29 Second, integral ministry is only the beginning of conversion. Jesus is no problem-solver, but rather is the harbinger of a peculiar form of suffering and sacrifice, of self-empting and solidarity (metanoia) to the struggling people for peace, justice and fullness of life; thus, metanoia, the true essence of incarnation. Metanoia is understood here not in ground of moralities if referred to mortal sins, but “turning back” to the Lord or “to be with” God is “to be with” the people in pilgrimage towards the kingdom of God. As such, Aglipayan Spirituality seeks to be the agent of the Spirit, whereby that suffering of discipleship is transfigured into joy with God in the Kingdom. Integral ministry, therefore, will be characterized by a concern for human promotions in the life of the Spirit and by deference of social justice when dealing with the world for which Christ died. Inspired by the message of Micah 6:8 (“to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with Him”), Aglipayan Spirituality is, indeed, a

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AS. Ibid. 29 SCM, § 9.

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commitment to serve God and His people in the struggle for freedom, justice, peace and total human development through immersion and in solidarity with the basic masses for life in its fullness.30 Third, Aglipayan Spirituality forces integral ministry to take notice of the socio-political and economic realities in the world. Aglipayan theology is not concerned with saving a few isolated individuals “going” to high heavens, but with nothing less than the transfiguration of the world and the restoration of the “imago Dei” in the human person. Hence, the IFI asserts that it submits itself to the “mandate of servanthood to the people, especially to the poor” and affirms that its ministry is for the “well-being and wholeness of the human person.”31 It, likewise, emphasizes that its experience with Triune God that leads the IFI “to the progressive ministry of renewing the human person and of rebuilding the human community” and “the renewal and rebirthing of the whole creation.” 32

Conclusion Clearly, Aglipayan Spirituality is Christological – a “lived” Christ: a Christ of living experience, a Christ known primarily in the discipleship of solidarity in following Jesus – indeed, incarnational. Its insight is a path to God, the encounter with God in history. The reign of God is, indeed, the attainment by the world of its end, but not by its own efforts, and not without purifying of history, which in so many ways is fraudulent and deceitful. Though specifically Christological, Aglipayan Spirituality is basically anthropological as well – a commitment to the mission Dei being nurtured through immersion and solidarity with the basic masses. Incidentally, it is not only a way of knowing Jesus, but also a way of becoming, in varying degrees, ‘to change’ and ‘to be transformed’ for Christ. Correspondingly, Aglipayan Spirituality is not of Christomonism, but of Trinitarian in the retrospective of life. It is a living encounter with the “Abba” as revealed in the life and works of the incarnate Word, Jesus, through the living presence of the Spirit. Therefore, as the Aglipayan Spirituality stresses, the experience of spiritual life is but a journey ‘with God and among man (particularly the poor), toward God’ in the world.

Afterthoughts It seems that there is certain continuity between the human work towards justice, peace and freedom on one pole, and the Kingdom of God on the other pole that arises from the unitary plan of the Triune God for salvation. Since the “market culture” of imperialist globalization as it creates a global community after its own image, the image of capital, of which an idolatrous one, that leads to plutocracy contrary to the vision of society convivial to the Kingdom of God, the quest for social justice,

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AS. SM. 32 Ibid; cf. AS.

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peace, freedom and abundant life is but a “stewardship” of creation – to transform and recreate the world as a reflection of the fidelity of man to God. If the kingdom of God in Jesus (life and works) is potentially-actually present in the historical experience of the people, national liberation and sovereignty is, nonetheless, a “temporal” fulfillment of the Kingdom, although it is not yet the fullness of the kingdom. A sinful social situation (contrary to the purpose of God), the excruciating poverty of the poor amidst of the affluent life style of the few rich is a breach of relationship between God and his people, and among the people themselves, brought about the “possessive-market” economy of globalization. Therefore, liberation from the bondage of oppressions and social transformation is, indeed, a continuing salvation in history. Above all, spirituality is the “praxis” of faith. While commitment to the struggle for justice, peace and freedom is an element of “holiness” today; ‘sanctification’ is through immersion and solidarity with the poor in the quest for justice, peace, freedom and abundant life in this world. This is what the Aglipayan Spirituality all about.#

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