Sat, 2 November 2019
Our Faith: Orthodox Christianity
Asceticism III: on Mysteries, Love, and Silence
Review. We have been called to a great purpose. In Christ it is possible. We need Him to be saved; we need Him to live the kind of lives we were meant to live. Lives of meaning and contented peace. Lives free of spiritual disease. Christ has the medicine that heals what truly ails us, but we need to have a relationship with Him to receive it. In the case of normal doctors, the mechanisms are things like conversation, prescriptions, and a healing touch. Through these, our relationship with our doctor gives us the opportunity for greater health. Christ is our Great Physician; what does a relationship with Him bring to us? What is the medicine He shares with us? Is it “work” to take the medicine?
We are sick. Our minds have become warped. We confuse our will with God’s and make an idol of our pride. We need to heal our minds. We cannot do this by reading books, even the right ones (although we can certainly make things worse by reading the wrong ones). Nor can we simply “try harder” to be good. Both of these simply act as offerings to our pride, trying to make it stronger so that it can overcome everything else. What we need to do is to quiet that pride and lower the mind to Christ. Hesychasm. God in us. Quiet. Peace. Restores truth and beauty to the center of our lives with the mind in its proper place as the executive of this beauty and truth.
So how do we achieve this peace? First, we have to immerse yourself in the Mysteries of the Church and you have to dedicate yourself to selfless love of and service to your neighbor (to include you spouses, your parents, your children, and even those people who unjustly seek to do you wrong). Next, you have to develop and follow a prayer rule. Spending five-ten minutes each evening and morning in prayer over an extended period of time is a prelude or warm-up for the way of silence.
The problem of thoughts – and the difficulty of finding silence. It’s hard, but you certainly won’t find it if you don’t try! And if you don’t, there is a real risk that the other two modes – being religious and being nice – will become distractions, taking us right back to where we were at the beginning of the story.
Which is why, my dear brothers and sisters, we need to develop the tools to bring peace to our lives and to those around us. “The creation waits with eager longing for the sons of God… because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Romans 8:19&21)
“Suppose you read about a pill that you could take once a day to reduce anxiety and increase your contentment. Would you take it? Suppose further that the pill has a great variety of side effects, all of them good: increased self-esteem, empathy, and trust; it even improves memory. Suppose, finally, that the pill is all natural and costs nothing. Now would you take it? The pill exists. It’s called meditation.”~ Jonathan Haidt from The Happiness Hypothesis
How do you meditate?
Don’t get frustrated or upset or worry if you cannot keep focused on these prayers for very long. If you make this a regular part of your daily ritual, you will train your mind for peace. In times when you are losing your calm, a couple of deep breaths will be enough to bring you back to yourself.
Next Week: The Rhythms of Life and Worship