The goal of this site is to translate ancient Christian reflections on the spiritual life, usually from the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, into our modern, 21st century context. In a word, to bring the desert to the world.
Ancient Christian spiritual texts are generally written by monks for monks. There is nothing wrong with this, but translating it from their context to our own can be difficult. This blog is as much my own effort to reflect and process this ancient wisdom as it is to help others relate to it as well. It does not claim to reflect the teaching of any church in particular, though the author writes from the perspective of his own tradition.
What is asceticism?
Asceticism, contrary to common misconception, does not require viewing the body as evil. Quite the opposite, in fact. Though ancient Christian ascetics have many negative things to say about the life of the body, the true meaning of asceticism is about exercise. It is about how we use our bodies to train our souls. In this sense, the ascetic perspective views the body with the highest dignity. Even the body ought not to be merely carnal; it was made to be spiritualized. In this way both soul and body are transformed through Christian asceticism, being ever conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ.
The ascetic life is about learning to say no to ourselves and yes to God. Popular culture tends to advocate the opposite: “you’ve earned it”; “have it your way”—our world is full of pressure to live for ourselves and for the fleeting things in this life. However, one of the things that is most human about us is our ability to transcend our passions (emotional habits) and live beyond our own self-centered concerns. In order to do that, however, we need to cultivate an entirely different way of life. And for those of us living “in the world,” that means an everyday asceticism. We are capable, by God’s grace, of living intentionally righteous lives, and in so doing we find all that is truly fulfilling. Or, to put it better: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).