Specials

Obedience/Fasting

Purification, Illumination, Deification: Orthodox Spirituality

Fr. Stephen Rogers is the priest at St. Ignatius Orthodox Church in Franklin, TN. He gave a series of 9 talks at the parish on Orthodox Spirituality concentrating on Purification, Illumination, and Deification.

March 2014

Obedience/Fasting

March 1, 2014 Length: 52:39

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Tonight we’ll continue our discussion on purification with an emphasis on obedience, everybody’s favorite subject, specifically the obedience of fasting. We’re all familiar with the statement by Christ, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Psalm 19:8 tells us that the commandments of the Lord are pure, enlightening the heart, illumining them, this very process that we’re talking about in these weeks together. St. Basil the Great says, “Do you wish to be a theologian? Keep the commandments. Be guarded by them.”

St. Basil instructs us to be guarded by the commandments that are given to us by God and his Church, and we can see that obedience, keeping the commandments, is not an isolated or separated action from the spiritual disciplines we’ve been discussing so far. The commandments provide us with guideposts. They provide us with boundaries by which we can discern our actions, we can discern our thoughts, how we react to the commandments of God.

So therefore obedience and the effort to keep the commandments become a key in this watchfulness that we talked so much about last week. When I’m confronted with the commandment, “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” how do I react to that? What does that stir up within me? What thoughts does that generate? And our ability or inability to keep certain commandments reveals what remains in our heart that we need to repent of.

Our inability to keep certain commandments reveals to us what it is we’re unwilling to renounce. The struggle to keep the commandments reveals our need for repentance and confession, and they provide us a guideline for confession. And the commandments, especially the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, have always been offered to us as the primary preparation for confession, to examine ourselves in the light of those commandments as we come to confess.

None of the aspects of our purification that we’ve been talking about—repentance, renunciation, obedience—occur in isolation, because our need to renounce, our need to repent, our [disobedience], they’re all revealed by this same Holy Spirit, whom the Scriptures say is the convicter of sin and the revealer of truth. In our attempt to repent and renounce the world, in our attempts to lead a life of obedience to the commandments of the Church, it quickly becomes apparent that there is a physical component to this process.

All of last week we emphasized the mental aspect of this purification—our thoughts, how we think, what we’re to think, what repentance involves, what it means to come to our senses. But any attempt to live a life in obedience, it becomes very apparent, very quickly, that there is a physicality to our purification as well. Why? Because there was a physicality to our fall. Man’s disobedience manifested itself through a physical act: he ate. And it was this act of making our physical interaction with the world the primary means of fulfillment that constituted man’s fall.

It is clear from the scriptural account of the fall that there were physical consequences to that disobedience. First and foremost, by sin, death entered into the world, and there was a physical consequence to the disobedience of man. That physical consequence was not limited to physical life; it impacted the whole cosmos. God proclaims, “Now the earth will bring forth thorns and thistles. Now you will toil by the sweat of your brow. Now you will give birth in travail.” And our disobedience had physical consequences, and it is clear that to be purified of those consequences and to return to our calling to be made in the image and likeness of God, there is a physicality to that process that we cannot escape.

The truth is [that] in the fall of man that the very world that Adam attempted to consume wound up consuming him. St. John of The Ladder, the author of the classic spiritual work, The Ladder of Divine Ascent says that obedience begins with the body. I don’t know about your body, but my body… I described my mind as a raccoon looking for trash cans to rummage in; my body’s more like a bear looking for a picnic basket. But obedience begins with the body. If we attempt to bring our bodies into submission, into obedience, we see very quickly how difficult that is.

I have to tell you a quick story, one that some of you know, about the physicality, how the physical nature and our mental and intellectual nature are so bound together. There is a man—he’s no longer here—did not leave… His circumstances forced him to leave. [He] left on good terms, but when he came to St. Ignatius initially, he was not yet Orthodox, but he had studied Orthodoxy and begun to incorporate Orthodox spiritual practices into his life. Even before he was chrismated, he spoke to me about the prayer rule that he had developed for himself, and how he had looked at the Orthodox prayers and the practices of Orthodox prayer life. He informed me that his prayer rule included 50 prostrations, that he would say his morning prayers and then do 50 prostrations; he would do his evening prayers and do 50 prostrations.

I said to him, “That’s wonderful. Beginning tonight, do 20 instead of 50.” About three weeks later, he came back and said, “I can’t do it. I can’t do 20. It’s too hard.” And it was amazing how 50, by choice, was easier than 20 in obedience. So our bodies are like a bear, wanting to eat out of that picnic basket, and not do what’s right but decide for itself.

Talking about commandments and keeping commandments, what are the greatest commandments? “You shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy soul and thy mind and all thy strength.” There’s definitely a physical component to that. “And the second is likened unto it: You shall love your neighbor as thyself.” And all of us know that at the heart of our purification process, for an Orthodox Christian, that process involves asceticism: spiritual athleticism, training, discipline, exercise. And this spiritual athleticism, asceticism, is not an individualistic battle engaged in order to obtain moral perfection. Let me say that again, to imitate Bishop Anthony, let me say that again. Bishop Anthony, when he says something that he likes, he backs up and says, “Let me say that again,” so I’ll emulate him. Asceticism is not an individualist battle engaged to achieve moral perfection.

Asceticism is the living out of the two greatest commandments: to love God and to love our neighbor. And asceticism are those practices and disciplines that reveal to us what must be removed from our lives that we might love. And asceticism is ultimately given to us by the Church to enable us to love. And we’ll see in the very end of our discussions, as we go from talking about purification to illumination to deification, in which about all we’ll be able to say about deification is to read about the lives of deified people—but you will see, at the end of the process is love.

And to truly be deified, to truly be enthused with the divine energies of God, to reflect his likeness, it is to love. It is to love without condition; it is to love without restriction. St. Silouan would weep for hours for the demons, and pray that they might somehow be saved. He would pray that Satan would repent. How bizarre to say that a deified man loved Satan. A deified man loves the whole world as God loves it, and desires that all men be saved. So ultimately asceticism: it’s not about moral perfection. It’s not about gaining spiritual strength. It’s about enabling us to love, to fulfill the greatest commandment.

And no one can love in isolation. Asceticism is the denial of self-centeredness, not as a means to improve ourselves, but to free ourselves in order to love. And for the vast majority of us, asceticism is a way of life, lived within the framework of a community, the community of the Church, the community of a family, the community of a marriage, the community of friends. Asceticism is to be set free without seeking freedom. St. Mark the Ascetic says, “Do not seek freedom, and freedom will come to you.” And the law of freedom is understood through the practice of the commandments.

And time and time again, see how already in all of our discussions, the world gets turned upside-down, and the definitions of the world get turned upside-down, and time and time again, we hear the truth revealed in the lives of the saints and in their words and in the Scriptures, that obedience is the pathway to freedom, that being obedient to the one truth and the one God, to living life with only one option is true freedom, not the freedom that the world says, “The more options we have, the freer we are, and any constraint on our humanity is a restriction of our human potential.” “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” The truth is Jesus Christ, and if we love him, then we keep his commandments.

Almost every time we gather for a Liturgy, you sing the following:

By choosing the apostles’ way of life, you succeeded to their throne. Inspired by God, you found the way to divine contemplation…

He found the way to illumination and deification. Through what? Finish the hymn.

...through the practice of virtues.

St. Ignatius, our patron, reached sainthood in a physical way, not simply through the intellect, but through the practice of virtue, of doing. And purification for us is very much a doing. It’s not simply in the realm of the intellect. And for us Orthodox, the keeping of those commandments is not limited to the words of Christ uttered in the Scriptures, but also the traditions and canons handed down through his body, the Church. For the Church is the body of Christ, the fullness of him, and we are commanded to hold fast to the traditions handed down to us, whether written or spoken.

And have you ever made that connection? Have you made the connection that if the Church is the body of Christ, then when the sacred traditions of the Church are offered, they are the words of Christ? For the Church is his body. So the sacred traditions are not separate from the word of Christ; they are the word of Christ, for the Church is his body.

Now, let’s get practical. Or, as they say today, let’s get real. When it comes to the practice of obedience, to the physical doing, one of the fundamental obediences of our tradition is fasting. And it is the universal acclamation of the Church that the controlling of the stomach is the first step in controlling the passions. We know that fasting is scriptural. It is commanded by Christ and practiced by Christ. And that tradition is as old as the Church itself. A quote from the Didache, written somewhere between the year 80 and 140: “But do not let your fast be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second and fifth day of the week, but you should fast on the fourth day, that is, Wednesday, and the sixth day, Friday.” We’ll come back to that later.

From the Shepherd of Hermas, written around 150 A.D.:

You do not know how to fast unto the Lord. This useless fasting which you observe is of no value. But I will teach you what is a full and acceptable fast unto the Lord. Do no evil in your life, serve the Lord with a pure heart, keep his commandments, walk in his precepts, and let no evil desire arise in your hearts. If you guard against these things, your fasting will be perfect. Having fulfilled what is written, on the day which you fast, you will taste nothing but bread and water. Then, reckon the price of the meal that you would have had that day, and give that amount to a widow or an orphan or some person in need.

That’s a little bit more challenging than “Father, can we have fish today?” Since the time of the apostles, the Church has provided us with a teacher that can instruct us anywhere, anytime, in any circumstances. We don’t need to go to the monastery, we don’t need to lament the fact that there are no great spiritual elders to direct us or great teachers to instruct us—for we have fasting. Obedience to fasting is instrumental in our purification. The ascetics say that one cannot ponder spiritual matters on a full stomach.

Obedience to the fast roots out evil and destroys the insensibility that we were talking about last week. “A restrained stomach produces humility and tempers loquacity,” says John Climacus. (That’s “talking too much.”) The Desert Fathers tell us that fasting is the road to purification. “Whoever loves the occupation of fasting all the days of his life is a friend of chastity.” “Fasting is the strengthener of all spiritual excellences.” And listen to this: “And the one who holds fasting in contempt holds the spiritual in contempt. For who should hold lightly the armor forged by God? If he who lay down his life fasted, who is there among those who would keep the commandments that has no need to fast?” Again from the Desert Fathers, the Sayings of the Desert Fathers:

The brothers ask, “What should be the beginning of the fight against sin?” The old monk answered, “In all the contests against sin and its lusts, the labor of fasting is the first thing to undertake, and especially so for the one who fights against the sin which is within him.”

Fasting is absolutely necessary because it is such a good teacher, says St. John of Kronstadt. St. John says that fasting is a good teacher because, number one, the person “who fasts soon understands that a man needs very little food and drink, and that in general we are greedy and eat a great deal more than is necessary.” Fasting teaches us just how gluttonous we are, and that our gluttony is not a matter of need or necessity or nutrition: it’s passion. And the one who fasts learns that we don’t need that much to get by.

Number two, St. John says, “fasting clearly discloses our sins and our defects. It reveals the weaknesses and diseases of our soul.” St. John says the third thing that fasting teaches us is it shows us the necessity of turning to God with our whole heart and seeking his mercy, his help, his grace.

And number four? Fasting shows us all the craftiness and all the cunning and all the malice of the bodiless spirits whom we have unwittingly served and who now persecute us for having ceased to follow them. You ever notice how life gets a little harder in fasting periods? Seems to be more attacks, more inconveniences, more hassles? Fasting makes us aware of the spiritual, the spiritual world, both the forces of good and evil. St. John goes on to say that those who refuse to fast have forgotten what our fall into sin was in the first place. Intemperance, a lack of self-control—it was the sin of Adam; it was the same thing the devil tempted Christ with in the wilderness: to become a prisoner to the sensual and sin-loving flesh.

And those who refuse to fast fall prey to that first lie, that first lie of the apple that was so good to taste and so beautiful to look at. And they fall prey to that first lie and they abandon their true purpose and seek the things of the world in and of themselves. It is important that we never lose sight of the fact that fasting should be approached as an act of voluntary obedience, and not as a mandatory legal standard. When entered into legalistically, Mark the Ascetic warns that fasting does more harm than good, for it generates the very thing that it is designed to destroy: pride and conceit. And fasting is given to us to destroy our pride and to destroy our conceit, but if we do it legalistically and mechanically, then it produces the very thing that it is designed to eliminate: pride and conceit.

In order for our fasting to promote within us a broken spirit, a contrite heart, we must enter into fasting with the proper perspective and disposition. I want to give you ten things to consider, here in the midst of a fasting season.

Number one: Simply be obedient to the fasting guidelines. Don’t analyze them, don’t question them, don’t make the statement that has been made to me dozens of times. That statement is, “But, Father, shrimp is a delicacy to our culture. It doesn’t make any sense to fast from that.” Shrimp’s a delicacy. That’s the attitude of legalism, because the point of our fasting is not to be logical. It’s to be obedient, and sometimes the best obediences are those things that just don’t make any logical sense.

You’ve all heard this story. You’ve all heard me say it ten times, and you’ve all read it, but it illustrates the point. [Knocking] There’s a knock on the monastery door, and the young man, full of zeal, wants to devote his entire life to God, and he falls prostrate before the abbot. He says, “I want to serve God with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind, and with all my strength. I’ll do anything to be a part of the monastery.” And the old abbot says, “Very good. Take this stick, walk ten miles in the desert, stick it in the sand, and then for the next 30 days, walk ten miles, water this stick, and come back.” Slams the door.

The young man thought the abbot was a crazy old man. But, he was obedient, and for 30 days, he made that 20-mile round-trip in the scorching heat in the middle of the desert to water a stick, and on the thirtieth day the stick had bloomed with fragrant flowers. And the point of that story is that it wasn’t logic, but it was obedience that bore fruit. And sometimes, trying to be logical negates the obedience involved in the action. So, number one, don’t analyze it; just do it.

Number two: Don’t make light of it. “Of whom I am first.” I want to qualify that, but I think sometimes especially now that we’ve been into this Orthodox rhythm for over a quarter of a century, many of us, things get a little bit routine, and we fall into the habit sometimes of almost kidding about our fasting. “Well, we’d better go out and have a burger tonight, because the fast is coming up” or making little jokes about fasting and making light of it: “Eat up; there’s a fast coming.” “I don’t feel good”—“Well, you were fasting, you know.” Don’t talk about it.

Number three: Never impose upon yourself more than what is called for. Never fast to sickness or to the point of weakness, that you are unable to focus on your prayers and the services. But—and it’s a big but—be honest about the difference between weakness and discomfort. And, brothers, and sisters, discomfort is not a disability. So do not fast to physical true weakness and disability, but be honest with yourself: a hunger pang is not malnutrition. [Laughter] Discomfort is not a disability, but never impose more than what is called for.

Number four: Never separate prayer and fasting. For whatever physical responses our fasting creates, whatever physical discomfort and turmoil that it creates within us, whatever awareness it creates in us of our weaknesses or our tendencies or our desires, all the tumultuous inner activity that goes on during a fasting period is given to us to turn us to God in prayer, whether it be a prayer of repentance for our weakness or a prayer of thankfulness for the simple meal that’s placed before us. And fasting without prayer is legalism to the worst degree.

Number five: Deny; don’t lie. And what do I mean by “Deny; don’t lie”? What I mean by that is: Don’t fast from categories while feasting on tastes. By that I mean don’t try to conjure up legal recipes that taste just like the real thing. I think early on we were a little bit guilty of that, and I can remember thinking, “If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it’s a duck!” And, yes, there are some delicious “legal” recipes. But the point of fasting is not to lie to our stomach; it’s to teach it the truth. And so: Deny; don’t lie.

Just today, I got a call from a woman who wanted to know if she could rent out our kitchen twice a week. [She] and her daughter wanted to start a little baking business, and in order to be able to sell the cookies commercially, they have to have a commercial kitchen. And I didn’t reject it out of hand. I said, “Well, what do you plan on baking?” “Oh, we’ve got a whole line of fasting cookies that we want to bake.” And I went, “Well, you know what? I don’t think our place is available.” [Laughter] But “fasting cookie”—that’s lying, not denying.

Number six—and you know this—never draw attention to yourself in your fasting, especially in public. When you are being served by others, you eat what’s put in front of you. Again, by way of example, a story that every one of you have heard ten times. If it wasn’t his first trip, it was very close to his first trip, when Bishop Basil came for an episcopal visit, and he would arrive on Friday, and we took him out to dinner on a Friday night. I think it’s changed names a couple of times, but it was that Italian place up there, right across the street from Fourth Avenue Church of Christ. And he ordered a salad, and it came out, and it had bacon bits all over it. Those of you that know Bishop Basil—this is Bishop Basil I’m talking about! And that salad comes out, and they plop it down in front of him, covered with bacon bits. He looked at me and he looked at Terry, and he made the sign of the cross over the salad, and says, “Tonight, these are bread crumbs.” [Laughter] And he ate up.

Don’t draw attention to yourselves in your fasting. If you find yourself in a restaurant, you can find things to eat. If you’re invited to a meal, you eat what’s put in front of you. Fast. Make your fast in moderation, and as we’ve all encountered something I’ve already said not to do, joking about fasting, we say, “Don’t go out of your way to get a lot of invites during a fasting period so that you can eat what’s put in front of you.” [Laughter]

Number seven—rarely is this verbal, but sometimes you’ve got to guard yourself against non-verbal communication—never remind someone else that we’re in a fasting period. And if you happen to go into Charlie’s for a salad, and one of your brothers or sisters is chowing down on a steak, you do the same thing Noah’s sons did to their father. You back up, cover up the sin, and don’t look at it. Never point out someone else’s failure to fast, especially in public. Don’t criticize or critique. The only exception I would make to that about talking about it or reminding is with the education of children.

But don’t criticize and don’t critique, and that extends to other aspects of the fasting as well. I’ll give you two examples, one that’s coming up. I don’t remember how long ago—I think it’s as long as we’ve been Orthodox—but as you all know, Metropolitan Philip, many decades ago, issued a dispensation from fasting for Thanksgiving Day. It falls right smack in the middle of the Nativity Fast, but it is an American holiday steeped in tradition and celebrated a certain way. And, recognizing that, Metropolitan Philip said, “We’ll have a one-day dispensation from fasting on Thanksgiving.” There were those that criticized that, and there were even some that refused to observe it.

Another example, whether you agree with it or not: a number of years ago, the Synod of Antioch extended the Paschal feast from Bright Week to 40 days, and said that Antiochian Orthodox Christians have the choice of ending the [feast] after Bright Week or extending it through the 40 days. And that brought criticism from some. And to criticize or to analyze, especially a synodal decision, is to reduce the fasting back to the realm of legalism. I recommend you take advantage of it. [Laughter]

Number eight: As a matter of fact, talk less in general on fasting days. I don’t know about you, but hunger and discomfort sort of ratchet up my potential for irritability, and irritability ratchets up my potential for an ungoverned tongue. And if my stomach is yelling at me, I might wind up yelling at someone else. So as a general course, try to be more reserved.

Number nine—we’re talking about fasting periods and fasting in general—when eating, stop just short of satiety. Leave the table not quite full.

Number ten: Understand the context of a fast or a fasting period. Don’t simply observe the fast of Great Lent or observe the fast of Nativity or the Apostles or the Dormition or Wednesday or Friday or prior to Communion, but enter into it. Contemplate and consider the context of those fasts.

For me, Great Lent, the lenten fast, the context is purification, and my fasting is there to expose my sinfulness and my self-centeredness, my preoccupation with the world. The very first lenten service, on Monday in matins, the first hymn of the first service: “As the first-fruit of the fast, let us gather compunction, and let us close the door on all our passions.” And so the fast of Great Lent is to be experienced in the context of purifying.

This Nativity Fast that we’re in the midst of now, for me, the context of this fast is preparation. Fasting during this 40-day period is a house-cleaning. It’s making a manger in my heart for the coming Christ, and as we approach the Nativity and the season of the Nativity, in the hymnody of the Church, with more and more frequency, we’ll start hearing the words “Make ready! Make ready! Make ready! Prepare! Prepare! Make ready, Bethlehem!” And the spirit of this fast is one of cleaning, getting in order, and preparing for the Guest of all guests to enter into our house.

For me, the Apostles’ Fast is a fast of participation, of entering into the struggles of the apostles, who endured persecution and hunger and privation, who let nothing stop them, who took up their cross and followed Christ. And during the Apostles’ Fast, at least I can honor them by entering into their struggle in the most meager of fashions.

The Dormition Fast, for me, is a fast of salutation. The service is called the Salutation to the Theotokos, and my fasting is an offering to the Mother of God. It is an acknowledgment of the Mother of God. It is an offering to her as an icon of God’s love and the example of what God calls me to become. It is a time of following her example in her response to the divine yes, to make my body a living temple, to honor her and praise her for being my example. And, again, the hymnody of the Dormition feast of assembling together to rejoice, of assembling together to offer praise and thanksgiving. So, in a sense, for me, the Dormition Fast is an offering.

We have those seasons, but we have those days. Remember way back, in that document from the first century, we were told the correct days of fasting are Wednesday and Friday, and I think we all know why. The Wednesday was instituted as a fasting day because it was the day in which Christ was betrayed, and that fast was a commemoration of the betrayal of Christ. So for me, if I’m thinking about it, Wednesday and the Wednesday fast is a day of examination. It’s a self-examination of my own betrayal, and there are a hundred ways, small and big, that I betray my Lord every week. And when I change my diet on Wednesday, it’s in this spirit of examining myself in the light of Christ’s betrayal.

The Friday fast, of course, commemorates the crucifixion, and for me the Friday fast is one of identification. Christ endured a voluntary death for my salvation. He died for me. Can I not do a little something for him? Can I at least endure a little discomfort, as a physical catalyst to just identify, in some of the smallest ways, on his suffering? “Before thy Cross we bow down and worship, O Master, and thy holy Resurrection we glorify.”

And then the pre-Communion fast for me is a fasting period of invitation. Again, if you read the pre-Communion prayers: “Come, abide in us. Receive me today as a communicant. Give us this day our daily bread.” And the prayers and the spirit of the pre-Communion fast is one of inviting, turning all of our being, physical and intellectual, toward God: “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”

There’s one more occasion of fasting that I wanted to mention quickly, and that’s the fast of intercession. Throughout the history of God’s people, there have been special times of fasting as a form of intercession. There may be times and situations in your life that you feel like fasting is a way of gaining clarity and discernment and focus of what God would have you to do in that situation. But what I would suggest is, before you do that, you have a conversation with your priest, just a brief conversation on the reasons and the motives, just to make sure that your intentions are pure. It doesn’t have to be me, but a priest.

In the last few minutes that we have, I want to touch briefly on another aspect of our physical obedience, one that’s more subtle than fasting, but nevertheless important, and that is obedience to the rubrics of the Church. Anyone who has ever walked into an Orthodox worship quickly comes to the realization that it has physical components to it. There’s a physicality to Orthodoxy that we cannot escape. As a matter of fact, the sadist in me enjoys watching the congregation on the first Monday night of [Great Lent], that first Canon of St. Andrew, that long canon of repentance, where the new Orthodox person learns that in Orthodoxy, we should have the right doctrine, the right worship, and the right shoes. [Laughter] And in that Canon of St. Andrew, sometimes that third component preoccupies us most of the night.

And during that long canon, we’re called to stand, and we get uncomfortable and we struggle to pay attention. It’s hard to focus, and our physical discomfort overwhelms our intellectual capacity. And you know what? That’s a good thing. That’s one of the reasons that we’re called to do it. Christ said to the apostles in the garden, “Can you not watch with me for one hour?” And we submit ourselves to that physicality, to that standing, and we discover very quickly how enslaved we are to our bodies. And it talks to us! [Whispers:] “Sit down, sit down, sit down!” We learn very quickly in the Orthodox Church how much we’re controlled and dominated by our physical selves, or, more specifically, our desire for physical ease.

But as I said earlier, there is no purification without bringing our bodies into submission, and standing and bowing and prostrations are physical actions given to us by the Church in recognition that our bodies seek to master us. And the way to overcome that slavery is to offer our bodies to another master: to stand, to bow, to prostrate before the one, true Master, our Lord Jesus Christ. And we make the sign of the cross not as a token of being in the club; it’s not our fraternity handshake. [Laughter] And we do not simply make the sign of the cross to ask God’s blessing or as an expression of thankfulness, but we make the sign of the cross as a pledge to submit our whole physical self to God: our minds, our hearts, and our strength. And we need to take care to submit our physical selves to God upon entering his Church. We make the sign of the cross, we reverence the icons, we control our tongues, and we watch our posture—not simply to be correct, but to be freed.

And just as bringing our thoughts into captivity results in the mind turning to Christ, so, too, bringing our bodies into submission results in our physical senses turning to God. And that very physicality that wants to dominate us and distract us, it can be that very same physicality and sensuality that sees the icons and the candles and the lamps and smells the incense, and our very physical senses become lifted up into heaven. Our purification brings about an integration of mind and body, and when we bring our bodies into submission and obedience to the rubrics of the Church, it helps to restore that sense of wonder that we were talking about last week, of sensing the mystery behind the senses.

And when we seek to be obedient with our bodies, when we seek to submit our bodies to the rubric of the Church, then the very thing that prevents our purification becomes a means to purification. And it’s one way of experiencing the promise of Christ, that “behold, I make all things new.”


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