We Drink from Our Own Wells is a noteworthy presentation of the spirituality of liberation that has shaped Latin American liberation theology. In this twentieth anniversary edition, Gustavo Gutiérrez describes his 1983 book as the development of a few pages from A Theology of Liberation, informed by experiences during the intervening twelve years (xvii). We Drink from Our Own Wells is accessible to a general audience interested in spirituality and serves as a helpful corrective to privatized, individualistic spiritualities that are prevalent in the United States.
In the first part of the book, Gutiérrez describes the Latin American context as one in which poverty means a premature and unjust physical death as well as a cultural death resulting from repression by those in power. The recent recognition by the poor of their power to act as agents in a process of liberation is the historical context in which poor Latin American Christians, and those in solidarity with them, discern how to follow Jesus. Like the spiritualities of St. Dominic, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Ignatius of Loyola, the spirituality of liberation reflects the historical context from which it emerges. As a result, it challenges spiritualities that are elitist and individualistic.
In the second part of the book, Gutiérrez, informed by Scripture, presents a Trinitarian understanding of the spiritual life; an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ begins a walking according to the Spirit as a journey to the Father. Reflecting on Gospel accounts of encounter with the Lord, Gutiérrez identifies the experience of encountering the Lord as the well from which spirituality flows. The initial encounter with the Lord begins the journey of following Jesus according to the Spirit. Gutiérrez develops the Pauline understanding of "walking according to the Spirit" by distinguishing the multiple meanings of flesh, spirit and body in Paul's theology. Incorporated into the body of Christ, Christians are members of a community seeking God. The communal journey of liberation from slavery in Egypt serves as the prototype for seeking God in the context of a movement toward liberation. Further developing the theme of communal journey, Gutiérrez draws on the Acts of the Apostles to describe Christianity as the Way.
In the third part of the book, Gutiérrez describes five characteristics of this spirituality of liberation: conversion, gratuitousness, joy, spiritual childhood and community. Conversion, which involves turning from sin with its personal and social dimensions, is the starting point that allows people to enter into solidarity. This solidarity that protests against the injustice of poverty is a response to the gratuitous love of God. The experience of God's love motivates protest against the injustice of poverty. In the midst of suffering persecution and martyrdom, these Christians experience an Easter joy. Their openness to and dependence on God Gutiérrez describes as spiritual childhood. Finally, Gutiérrez describes solitude in seeking God as preparation for authentic communion. This spirituality is not individualistic but communitarian.
Gutiérrez provides a new five-page preface for this 20th anniversary edition. The preface draws attention to two themes developed in the first edition of We Drink from Our Own Wells: first, the relationship between spirituality and theology, and second, the theocentric nature of the preferential option for the poor. Those looking for an assessment of the spirituality of liberation in Latin America during the past twenty years will be disappointed; Gutiérrez states only that: "These last few years have brought an abundant and valuable production in the line of a spirituality of liberation. The reason is simple: the spiritual experience of the poor people of Latin America and the Caribbean, in the midst of a history replete with achievements and with obstacles, has affirmed itself and matured. There is no doubt of this being a process that invites us to reconsider this topic...It is an exciting task, which we would like, at some time, to undertake"(xx).
We Drink from Our Own Wells is a good example of a contemporary Christian spirituality that is well rooted in Scripture and the Christian tradition. This book demonstrates well the influence of historical and cultural contexts on Christian spiritualities. This book will be of particular interest to those studying spirituality and/or liberation theology.