Christian experience according to Jean Mouroux

As Mouroux says, “the heart of the Christian experience is the soul’s movement towards God.” What most characterizes the Christian experience is that it is a constant movement in pursuit of the Last End. Its final goal is unity with God, but “the Last End is situated at infinity and never completely possessed here on earth” so the Christian experience must be a dynamic, continuous movement, toward something that does not have an end in this earthly life.

In order for Christian experience to occur, there must be a foundation and this is “faith working by charity.” Mouroux makes it clear that charity in the Christian experience must have its base in faith, because “faith provides charity with its object.” However, charity does not merely build on the already existing faith, but rather transforms it and makes it active. Likewise, faith cannot complete its orientation and realize its purpose without charity, which is evident as Mouroux quotes Corinthians: “If I should have all faith so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.”

The grace received in baptism is the starting point of faith, and an invitation to the Christian experience: a seed that we are called to nourish and develop in openness and self-gift “beyond any assignable limits.” This is what the Christian experience consists of: a dynamic, continual process of learning to open oneself and give oneself more completely. Initiated in baptism, this process guided and oriented by charity. According to Mouroux, the Christian experience is an integrating experience. This integrating aspect of the Christian experience is led by charity, and is opposed by sin: “sin dissociates, whereas charity unifies… [sin] dissipates desire amongst an endless sequence of passing goods, and shatters the soul upon the rocks of multiplicity” while charity concentrates the soul on the unifying goal — the love of God. Charity guides and leads the soul not to the division and multiplicity produced by sin, but rather to unity by constantly orienting it to God.

The Christian experience is a movement that literally takes us out of ourselves. We can see this through the signs that Mouroux discusses: we conform our will to the rule of the Church – this is right faith; we insert ourselves in the Church and follow the teachings of the Church – this is keeping the Commandments; we humbly recognize our sins and our gifts given by God, seeking forgiveness and glorifying God – this is self-judgment; and above all, our soul inclines towards God, searches for God and rejoices in God – this is the soul’s movement towards God.

All of these signs involve our whole selves: our intellect, our actions, our body, our freedom, our will, but center on God. Therefore, the Christian experience is the continual movement of the soul that starts with faith, is oriented by charity, and consists of a constant death to ourselves and resurrection in Christ. “We can never finish dying to sin that we may live to God.”

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8 Responses to Christian experience according to Jean Mouroux

  1. ctreidski says:

    You really got to the heart of what Mouroux explained in the passage we read. I like your incorporation of sin juxtaposed with charity. Would you consider these opposites or simply polarizing entities? What do you mean exactly by a ‘death to ourselves?’ While completely pertinent, it seems a rather morbid statement with which to conclude the post. Is it a death of selfishness? Is it a complete sacrifice of our being for the sake of bring our self closer to God? Just some questions to consider.
    See you next week!

    • I think that I consider sin and charity, not necessarily as direct opposites, but as things that work in opposite ways – that is, sin causes division and fragmentation, while charity unifies and integrates.

      By a ‘death to ourselves’ that does include giving up selfish desires, but I think of it in more general terms — as a shift — instead of living our lives and fitting God into it, we center our thinking on God and offer our lives, acting from the knowledge that our life is rooted in Him, putting His will, His teachings at the center of our lives. Trying to live in this way does involve sacrifice, and I believe brings us closer to God.

  2. cstewa01 says:

    I really like the way you describe grace as the starting point of faith. This idea stuck out to me a lot more when I read your blog post than it did when I read Mouroux’s explanation of it. I always find it kind of funny to think about the fact that faith itself is a gift from God. Faith is not something that we accidentally come upon, although many of us may be under that impression. God puts faith in our lives by instilling us with the grace to develop that faith. Think how different our lives could be had He not blessed us with whatever experience began our faith formation. Whether it was being born into a Catholic family, going on a retreat that opened our hearts and minds to God, or attending a Catholic college, we have all had an experience that caused us to pursue a life of faith. So in the end, it is not our choice whether God puts these elements of faith into our lives; it is our choice whether we decide to accept it. As such, I really like the image of the seed that you focused on from Mouroux’s chapter. God drops the seeds of faith, and it is our choice whether or not we take that step to plant them.

  3. Kristin, very well written. Why do you it is important that Mouroux emphasizes that the Christian experience is made possible by something outside of ourselves? Based on your understanding of the world today (I hesitate to use such a generalization but I’m stuck with it because of the nature of our media), why would this be something difficult to hear?

    • I think the key idea is that of the Last End as our final goal of the Christian experience. The fact that the Last End is something we cannot contain in ourselves and cannot be possessed in this life means that the Christian experience is driven by something outside ourselves. This is important because if it were something within ourselves, then at a certain point the search or the journey would end. But this cannot be the case when we are seeking unity with God, and God cannot be completely contained in one’s self.

      This I think is very difficult to hear because of the emphasis on the importance and ability of the individual. It is not easy to accept that there is something beyond the individual that may draw it out of itself, and in turn, seems to downplay the importance of the individual. Also, if the Christian experience comes from something outside ourselves, we cannot fit our understanding of God to fit neatly within our own limitied abilities to comprehend, and our faith journey to fit into our already existing way of life. It challenges a certain kind of “self-sufficiency” of the individual that I think is encouraged in our world.

  4. Kristin, you did a nice job with this essay and I enjoyed reading it. Two things in particular stuck out to me. First, I like how you discuss the importance of keeping God’s commandments and following the Church’s teachings. Unfortunately, I think that it is easy to misinterpret these Commandments and Teachings as arbitrary laws that we must follow begrudgingly. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. As Mouroux suggests, the laws set forth for us are aimed at guiding us towards eternal union with God. They are rooted in love and reflect both God’s desire and our freedom to achieve this union. Second, I like how you suggest that the signs involve our whole selves. It is not only a recurring theme throughout the chapter, but it seems to be the focus of Mouroux’s conclusion.

    • I really appreciate your clarification about the Commandments and Teachings and how we are free to follow them, as well as why they are given to us to guide us. I think you are completely right how they can be misunderstood and the way you explained it was put very well.

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