The Prophet as Spiritual Warrior: The Via Transformativa

We have been meditating on the melding of the Via Creativa and Via Transformativa and we have been offering some examples of people whose work is prophetic today and we will continue to do so.  Today we dive more deeply into elements of the Via Transformativa and the prophetic calling of each of us.

Dorothy Day (1897-1908), social reformer, journalist, and founder of the Catholic Worker Movement. Wikimedia Commons.

Every person is called to be both a mystic (lover) and a prophet or warrior.  A warrior is by no means the same thing as a soldier.  There is no warrior work without inner work. 

This means that the warrior has faced the joys of life (Via Positiva) and the limits and death and neither hides them or represses them.  A warrior has learned the lessons of Letting Go and Letting Be (Via Negativa).  A warrior serves others, not just his or her ego.  A warrior stands up for the vulnerable and does so on principle, not on the guarantee of success, insurance policies, fame or promise. 

The warrior has learned to steer his and her moral outrage into creative alternatives (the Via Creativa).  The warrior is aware and awake, not asleep and not busy mouthing tired shibboleths from the past.  The warrior does not just imagine but acts.  The warrior endures and perseveres and preserves what is good and beautiful and sacred from the ancestors.  He or she relates to the future and struggles to bring it about. 

Early cabinet card of Lakota chief, Sun Dancer, visionary and warrior Sitting Bull (1831-1890), photographed by Orlando Scott Goff (1843-1916). Wikimedia Commons.

The struggle for justice often requires warrior energy from both men and women.  Interestingly the Bible, which uses the word “prophet” far more often than “warrior,” uses it when talking about the Messiah.  

The Christian liturgy applies that warrior text to the coming of Jesus in the Christmas Liturgy. 

When peaceful silence lay over all,
and night had run the half of her swift course,
down from the heavens, from the royal throne,
leapt your all-powerful Word;
into the heart of a doomed land
the stern warrior leapt.
Carrying your unambiguous command like a sharp sword,…
he touched the sky, yet trod the earth. 

(Wisdom 18: 14-16)

Thomas Aquinas says Christ is a prophet and is anointed with “an oil of boundless courage, like a fighter for the purpose of fighting.  2 Kings 1 says: ‘How has the shield of the brave been cast down, the shield of Saul and Jonathan, as if it had not been anointed with oil?’” 

Veterans for Peace speaker at protest against imprisonment of Bradley (Chelsea) Manning, Fort Snelling, Minnesota, 3/20/2011. Photo by Fibonacci Blue on Flickr

A warrior is distinct from a soldier—this is the indigenous teaching.  An American Indian named Broken Walk volunteered to go to the Vietnam war at seventeen and returned very broken.  He says:

There’s a difference between being a soldier and being a warrior.  Don’t ever get these two confused.  When I was in the army I was a soldier.  I was a puppet doing whatever anybody told me to do, even if it meant going against what my heart told me was right.  I didn’t know nothing about being a warrior until I hit the streets and marched alongside my brothers for something I really believed in.  When I found something I believed in, a higher power found me.  That’s it.  That’s the story.  

He protested war and went to jail for it.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine, pp. 77f. 

And Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality, p. 375.

Banner image: Veterans for Peace banner, 7/1/07. Photo by Jen Joaquin on Flickr.

Queries for Contemplation

What is the deeper meaning of calling Jesus both prophet and warrior as the Book of Wisdom describes the work of the warrior?  Do you recognize the indigenous teaching between warrior and solider in your own life?  In that of our culture?  Is it a useful distinction?

Be with the Scripture reading above in silence.  Let it wash you inside and outside.  Be with it some more.

Recommended Reading

To awaken what Fox calls “the sacred masculine,” he unearths ten metaphors, or archetypes, ranging from the Green Man, an ancient pagan symbol of our fundamental relationship with nature,  to the Spiritual Warrior….These timeless archetypes can inspire men to pursue their higher calling to connect to their deepest selves and to reinvent the world.

Matthew Fox renders Thomas Aquinas accessible by interviewing him and thus descholasticizing him.  He also translated many of his works such as Biblical commentaries never before in English (or Italian or German of French).  He  gives Aquinas a forum so that he can be heard in our own time. He presents Thomas Aquinas entirely in his own words, but in a form designed to allow late 20th-century minds and hearts to hear him in a fresh way.  The result is exciting!

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1 thought on “The Prophet as Spiritual Warrior: The Via Transformativa”

  1. Avatar

    These are excellent thoughts and explanations in today’s meditations. Thank you so much for clarifying their differences and what makes them different. It’s great help for my young people who keep up with me on FB and often read my thoughts and meditations and nightly prayers when I include those with my friends, and occasionally the general public.
    Thanks for posting these meditations. They mean a lot to me with my morning devotions. This one today is especially “ringing my bell.” Peace and Blessings to you.

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