Asceticism: Day 3

Thoughts during Day 3 of the Ascetic Revival:

1.  I’m not a true ascetic like St. Francis or St. Antony.  If I were, I would sell all of my books save those required for my work and give the money for the poor.  However, we did sell a bunch of books today and are looking to get rid of more.  I would probably also get rid of DVDs, excess clothing, and use the Internet less.

2.  Jonathan wanted to know about Compline.  Jennifer and I pray together before bed.  This covers prayers at lamplight (ie. Compline) and also fulfills Tertullian’s exhortation for married men to pray with their wives before going to bed at night.

3.  Jumping straight into this sort of thing, as Sophia warned, is not necessarily the brightest idea out there.  I’ve been easing myself into this for a few years with various stops and starts at various aspects of the disciplined life.  What I have done now is consolidate these things into a regula.

4.  Robin wisely reminded me of the need for community.  If you want to lead a more disciplined life, spending time with friends and family must be incorporated into the various aspects of askesis.  St. Basil the Great was opposed to hermits because people who live alone cannot fulfill the commands to be the servant of all and love as Jesus loved.  Perhaps, then, we should seek to deepen our relationships with friends and family.  Grow with our Christian brothers and sisters and help those who do not know Christ draw nearer to Him.  I think that a disciplined life helps cultivate an inner person capable of such relationships.

5.  I haven’t ridden my bike yet.  However, I walked for approx. 2 h yesterday and was on my feet for a similar amount again today.

6.  I keep forgetting prayers at midday.  This, no doubt, means I am a glutton.  Gluttony, for those of you unacquainted with John Cassian and the Eight Vices, is often the root of other sins.  If you cut off gluttony, you can deal with your anger and lust more easily.  Gluttony includes eating what you ought not to eat, eating when you shouldn’t, and eating more than you should.  It involves putting food and the belly before the things of God.  Thus — not praying at midday is a form of gluttony.  Not like in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life when the guy gorges himself and projectile vomits, but gluttony nonetheless.

7.  If you don’t practise any of the disciplines, start with prayer and Scripture-reading.  Set aside a time once a day for these, either both at once or two separate times.  Yes, we are to pray everywhere all the time, but, as Richard Foster notes in Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, we have to pray somewhere at some time for this to work.

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