Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Role of Spiritual Discipline, what we call Ascesis

Today the Orthodox Church commemorates the memory of the father of monasticism, Saint Anthony the Great. To perfect his calling of dedicating his entire life to Christ, Saint Anthony lived in the desert as an ascetic in response to Christ’s challenge to “see all that you have and give to the poor.”(Matthew 19.21) Saint Athanasios knew him personally and considered his love for God second to none, and that God’s grace filled his life. When we consider the life of Saint Anthony, we understand the spiritual benefit of the ascetic life, without necessarily spending our life in the desert.

The Greek word, ‘ασκησης, can be translated as, exercise, and when used in the spiritual sense refers to various disciplines or practices that help shape our soul and guide our journey closer to Christ. Saint Anthony lived a life of prayer and fasting with only the most basic food, but not all Christians need to leave the city and live in the desert to life a life dedicated to God. By prayerfully being guided by our spiritual father, the spiritual disciplines of the Church – prayer, fasting, almsgiving, the sacramental life – we can grow closer to God.

Just as living in the desert brought grace to Saint Anthony, following the daily disciplines of the Church, will help you not only grow closer to God, but His Grace will also grow. Who knows....maybe someday the world will remember your grace-filled life and dedication to God. It all begins with spiritual discipline and ascesis. 

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