The Catholic University of America

 Final Examination of

Gregory D. Voiles

for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy

Monday, September 19, 2016

2:00 pm, Caldwell Hall, Room 125



"The Shape of Spiritual Direction in the Mystical Theology of Jan van Russbroec"

Director: Rev James Wiseman, O.S.B., S.T.D. 

This dissertation considers the trinitarian mystical theology of the late-medieval mystical theologian Jan van Ruusbroec and how his trinitarian thought forms and animates his written spiritual direction. It particularly examines the relationship between Ruusbroec’s trinitarian mystical theology and his post-Brussels written spiritual direction, which offers guidance to specific communities and persons in their pursuit of union with God through the life of prayer, worship, and service. In order to render a coherent account of this relationship and its primary characteristics, the work argues that one must read Ruusbroec as a mystical theologian. As a mystical theologian, Ruusbroec’s thought displays the natural integrity of theology and spirituality, as assumed by the majority of the theological masters of the Christian tradition, from its origins to the High Middle Ages. After dealing with the biographical details of Ruusbroec’s life and historical, cultural, and theological contexts, the study makes a foray into the works of Ruusbroec to show the primary characteristics of the Brabantine’s trinitarian mystical theology, the core of which is his teaching of essential love, the perfect, eternal simultaneity and harmony of activity and rest of the life of the Trinity.

            The study then goes on to offer interpretations of three of Ruusbroec’s most important writings of spiritual direction from his post-Brussels period. It shows that the Augustinian canon’s written spiritual direction in these writings is intricately shaped by his trinitarian mystical theology. His spiritual direction is, so to speak, harmonically related to the “firm melody” that is his trinitarian mystical theology. Finally, the study offers some possible paths forward for future research, based upon what the dissertation has found. The purpose of this work is to make a contribution to Ruusbroec scholarship that continues to illumine the shape, scope and beauty of his mystical theology as well as to contribute to the broader theological scholarship that has been, over the past five to eight decades, bringing to light the integrity of “spirituality” and “theology” within the Christian tradition.



More about Voiles

The Rev. Greg Voiles was born and raised in Jamestown, TN. After completing his Bachelor of Arts degree in Religion in 1997 at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, TN, he entered the Master of Divinity program at Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO. While completing his Master of Divinity Greg worked as a chaplain at the Kansas City Rescue Mission. He completed his MDIV in 2002 and served in pastoral ministry in Kansas City, KS for the next four years and was ordained to the order of Elder in the Church of the Nazarene in 2004. During this time he also served as a Spiritual Guide at Leavenworth United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, KS. In 2007 Greg entered the doctoral program in Spirituality at The Catholic University of America. During course work at CUA Greg served in pastoral ministry in Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife Charity in Nashville, TN where he serves as an adjunct professor of theology at Trevecca Nazarene University.