Once again we are presented with the fathers’ writing on asceticism. This evening we were given the essentials, the starting point for the pursuit of the spiritual life; fasting and vigils. We are told that without these practices we enter into the spiritual battle unarmed and no virtue will be gained. We fail to imitate Christ who, before taking up his public ministry, fasted and prayed in the desert for 40 days; precisely to show us what is necessary in the battle against the Enemy who tempted Him at the end of His fasting period. We may feel humiliated and weakened in body but on a spiritual level we come to know the strength and the virtue of Christ himself. Fasting from food and sleep reveals our basic desire for God and an acknowledgment that strength and grace come from Him alone. In all of this we have to have bravery and show great resolve and willingness to continue patiently in doing what is good, ever calling upon God to help and defend us. When we fail, we should not be indifferent or despair or abandon the attempt. Rather, we should increase our zeal and look to the instructions and guidance of the expert; first and foremost Christ himself and then all of the saints throughout the centuries who have conformed themselves to Him.
Text of chat during the group:
00:34:29 Ren: I must say that, for myself, and though I do not have the opportunity for it anymore, that I have never felt more joy or peace or intimacy in prayer than that which I experienced in vigil adoration. Being someone who struggles with moderation in sleep, its hard to accept, but my own experience has confirmed what the Fathers say so many times over. It really does feel like a whole different kind of prayer. Something about the deep silence and stillness of the night bring us so close to God.
00:39:34 Ambrose Little, OP: It seems like it doesn’t have to be severe, to the point of being unhealthy, but more like discipline in the sense of exercise—limiting within reason, unless we feel God is calling us to do more at times. Like you (Father) have suggested—getting up in early morning for a time of prayer. On the other hand, for many, in our day at least, we fail on the other side of it—often not getting enough sleep because of lack of discipline in favor of entertainment (for example). In that case, the better exercise might first be to be more disciplined about getting an appropriate amount of sleep, which may better set us up for success in regular prayer as well.
00:40:32 Ren: Oof. So true Ambrose. I’m sleep deprived half the time….and its not because of prayer. More like Frasier, or the Office.
00:41:04 Carol Nypaver: That’s an excellent point! And—one I can relate to.😳
00:42:26 Anthony: Our modern theory of work is a Puritan tyranny. We can't take it, it's "dominion" over this world outside of the natural and normal human rhythm.
00:49:31 Anthony: The only way Jesus could have done this (in my opinion) is out of love. Love is the most powerful reason to put aside even unselfish weakness and even the use of reason "if I don't satisfy myself, I'll go nuts or die."
00:57:34 Anthony: This reminds me of the patristic idea that Jesus was acting as bait, which the devil thought was easy prey. But the devil was tricked and defeated. In imitation of Christ, then, we weaken ourselves and -only if? - we are united to the Vine, God desires us to be weakened and thus be a trap in the imitation of Christ. "My strength is made perfect in weakness."
00:57:51 Anthony: And - is that feeling of being overwhelmed by vile thoughts a sin?
01:06:32 Rachel: If you were going to die tomorrow most would love fasting
01:14:28 Rachel: That is interesting. it reminds me of the saying that he who prays truly is a theologian. If one wishes to truly pray they must do the will of God. The simple thing like ordering all of ones life, everything, to the will of God. Rising, sleeping, eating, praying and everything in between. Why try to control ones thoughts if we cannot control our bellies or lose a little sleep? I am not saying to give up vigilance but to add to it the weapons the holy fathers are speaking of with patience and trust in His providence. A little grandmother hidden away can truly become a theologian this way
01:20:15 Anthony: The Christmas fast has different lengths. I find the Slavic St. Philip's Fast good but awkward in the Roman Calendar. Adding fasting to advent or practicing the shorter Melkite Fast could work, too.
01:21:45 Rachel: Wait, has anyones halloween candy ever lasted until Christmas??
01:23:37 Louis: Thank you Fr.!
01:23:52 Rachel: Thank you!
01:23:54 Babington (or Babi): Thank you
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