Greetings in Christ Jesus our Savior.
If you are at all like me, you may be finding it a challenge to sustain the interest and commitment to working through this treasure of a book – not because its content is not worthy, but because its riches take much time and effort to mine.
But that is the work of the spiritual life. So let us pray for each other as we embark on Part Two, that we may be strengthened to persist in this holy work.
Fr. Matta tells us that, in Part Two, we are going to “look at the attributes of the person who prays…the factors that contribute to success in prayer and those that impede it.” In this brief introduction, he tells us that we began the process of dying to the world at baptism and that practicing a life of asceticism and austerity is but an extension of this process. He indicates that, while essential, this “mortification” must be handled with some care.
- What does it mean to you to “die to the world”?
- If, like me, you were baptized as an infant, does it make sense to you that you began dying to the world only days or weeks after you were born into it? If you were baptized later in life, was “dying to the world” a meaningful aspect of your choice/call to the sacrament?
- Up until now, what associations have you had to these words: asceticism, austerity, mortification? Where might these associations have come from and how do they impact your reactions to considering them as part of your prayer life?
I will not restate all of Fr. Matta’s guidelines here. The themes of his comments on ascetic practice are basically as follows: (1) its purpose and the problems that occur if that purpose gets misdirected; (2) the need of having appropriate limits on the severity and nature of one’s practices, plus prudent counsel from a spiritual father/director to help us moderate this; (3) how essential it is that asceticism be practiced in love and joy, and as an expression of our love for God.
- As a point of reflection, perhaps I might take each of these three themes and consider them – what are the purposes of asceticism? etc. Then I might want to reflect a bit further on what I may have experienced (or anticipate experiencing) as my areas of vulnerability. For example, I might see myself as vulnerable to taking pride in my “progress”. Or I might see myself as being prone to becoming depressed and joyless. And so on.
- As I thus reflect, I may form prayers to ask for help in these areas. If I have a confessor and/or spiritual father/director, I might seek extra counsel in these areas.
Blessings, dear friends who read and pray with me. I welcome your comments if you are so inclined.