Thursday, February 25, 2016

diet and exercise--spiritual version, Part I

Dreary, rainy drive into work Wednesday of last week and one week later not much has changed except now it has snowed, mind going in several directions. Reciting the Creed to start the Rosary, though, brought everything back to reality.

I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty
Maker of Heaven and Earth, of all things visible and invisible

Well!  That's one way of getting a grip on the situation!  No matter the trials--great or small--facing us, the Creed allows us to see through it all to the source of life, God Himself.  The Rosary constitutes perhaps one of the Catholic tradition's steadiest, most tried-and-tested, "diet and exercise" paths to spiritual fitness.  It takes some getting used-to, just like any new workout, but once accustomed and you're "in the groove," reciting the Rosary uncovers and illuminates so many levels and directions of spiritual growth to be enjoyed. In this particular case, reciting the Creed beforehand has illuminated once again the Trinitarian shape of reality itself.  God creates all things visible and invisible and creates them through the Son and gives them all life through the Holy Spirit.  It is in this vein that some Rosary-influence Lenten reflections will be offered.

Consider Steve Skojec's recent post on fasting.  First, some honesty which I admired--Skojec admits he's not good at fasting.  That's good, because I'm not, either.

I’m horrible at fasting. Always have been. Every time I hear someone say that our present crisis requires “more prayer…” I do a fist pump and say “YEAH!” – but then, they inevitably finish with, “…and fasting” – and I become instantly sullen. “Jeeze. Why is that person such an extremist about everything?”

Then more:

Suffice to say, food and I are great friends, and I carry around the extra pounds to prove it. My lovely bride and I experienced the first spark in our relationship when she asked if I’d like to join her for lunch at a sushi place in downtown Phoenix. (We were co-workers at the time.) In a manner of speaking, you could say we dined our way into a shared life together, our joy over great food and life fully lived forming the initial basis of our blossoming romance. If there was a film that captured our ethos, it would have perhaps been Big Night, or better yet, Babette’s Feast. And we didn’t just go out. My wife — as anyone who knows her will tell you — is a phenomenal cook. Friends and family never turn down an opportunity to come to our house when Jamie is offering to feed them.
I’m supposed to be writing about fasting, and all I can talk about is eating.
That alone is a cash-money line:  supposed to be fasting, focusing on eating.  This is a spiritual diabetes outlook one hundred percent.  Supposed to focused on spiritual food, but usually my mind is running somewhere toward this:

From a wonderful church supper in Montgomery, Alabama, March 2010.  Yes, those are real collard greens, and, yes, I ate about five squares of cornbread with this and, yes, I had fried chicken and a grilled sausage to go with it.  No, I didn't skimp on the sweet tea, either.

Skojec doesn't stop there. Seeking deeper roots to guide his fasting, he turns to the 1917 Code of Canon Law which he, a traditionalist Catholic, cites from the Society of St. Pius X.  OK, for the few readers who tend more left than right, please Skojec some slack.  He then cites at length St. John Chrysostom; the best lines are these:

Sharpen thy sickle, which thou hast blunted through gluttony–sharpen it by fasting. Lay hold of the pathway which leads towards heaven; rugged and narrow as it is, lay hold of it, and journey on. And how mayest thou be able to do these things? By subduing thy body, and bringing it into subjection. For when the way grows narrow, the corpulence that comes of gluttony is a great hindrance. Keep down the waves of inordinate desires. Repel the tempest of evil thoughts. Preserve the bark; display much skill, and thou hast become a pilot. But we shall have the fast for a groundwork and instructor in all these things.
Again, that's Chrysostom--and Skojec rightly attends to that devastating line "For when the way grows narrow, the corpulence that comes of gluttony is a great hindrance."  Of course, Chrysostom means more than merely physical corpulence, although he certainly means that, too.  Spiritually we've become fat, but we've been called--like great soldiers, sailors, farmers, and travellers--to go out and do.  To succeed in these endeavors, we must train and the basis for that training, the beginning of diet and exercise, is fasting.  Skojec notes that Chrysostom also advised fasting from more than just food;  visual and audial fasting should accompany the stricter diet.  Otherwise, what good will less food, sugar, red meat, or coffee do us if we continue to slake our lust-tastes visually?  That's a great point and Skojec does a great service to us all--and especially somebody like me--for citing the saint thusly.

Read it all here--and may God continue to bless us all this Lent.

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