Making life more spiritual and more holy
What can I do?
our church can be no stronger than the spiritual strength and commitment of our members
Here are some worthwhile thoughts about some ways we can all embrace a more active spiritual life:
If we are truly to serve God, we do well to cultivate a deeper spirituality. After all, our church can be no stronger than the spiritual strength and commitment of our members. No surprise – right? Spiritual practices matter!
Spiritual disciplines are ways of becoming fully awake personally and staying awake to God. The considerable decline in The Episcopal Church (aka the Anglican Communion) gives occasion for renewal; consider, if you will, these seven spiritual disciplines practice by all the world’s monotheistic traditions. Over the millennia, billions have practiced these ancient spiritual disciplines in a successful quest to draw near to God, to deepen spiritual life and to build a greater sense of belonging to a community of witness and faith.
First on the list is Fixed Practice of Prayer which is a regular pattern of worship and prayer that is offered to God every day. This is the primary way we hold ourselves in communion with the One who created us and sustains us in life. These can be the ‘Quiet Time’, the Liturgy of the Hours, fixed-hour prayer, the Divine Office (Matins/Evensong/Lauds/Vespers), the Rosary, the Jesus Prayer, daily prayers – they all refer to the practice of interrupting secular time every few hours for even a moment of time made sacred by prayer (e.g., the Angelus) and thereby sanctifying our whole day.
Next is Keeping a Sacred Day. This special day is not fundamentally a break, a day off, or a twenty-four-hour vacation. It is a feast day that anticipates our play in the new heavens and is celebrated here on earth with family, friends, and strangers for the sake of the glory of God (like practicing eternity.) For Christians this is Sunday, the First Day of the Week, when Jesus rose from the dead. Every Sunday is a ‘mini- Easter (Resurrection) Day’ and we observe it by joining with other believers throughout the world in worship and praise at the Eucharist.
Next: Entering the Sacred Seasons. Each year the sacred seasons transmit the full scope of our faith as it gears our rhythms to those who share our faith, everywhere in all time, present and past, and all places, here and there. The sacred seasons tell us over and over again the story that forms us and that we are fulfilling. Christian observance of the Seasons centres on the Life and Mysteries of Christ the Lord (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, Trinity, Corpus Christi, the Sacred Heart/Divine Compassion of Jesus) and then Ordinary Time and the living out of the meaning of these mysteries in discipleship and stewardship.
Next is Fasting – which is the natural, inevitable response of a person to a sacred moment in life. Fasting is found in all the great world religions and philosophies; fasting means to deny oneself of food and possibly water for a time in response to a sacred moment. Fasting is not a bribe to God or a diet or a health regimen and must be done intelligently; nevertheless, fasting can liberate us as the deepest level. For this reason, we observe a fast before receiving Holy Communion, by abstaining from all food and drink (except water and prescribed medication), often from midnight but always for at least an hour beforehand. Alongside Fasting we may place the practice of daily Self-Examination of Conscience to review each day, with the help of the Spirit, the accountability and affirmation of our lives before God; this usefully includes regular Sacramental Confession and Reconciliation in the presence of a Priest and the companionship of Spiritual Counsel.
Next we come to Stewardship/Almsgiving. Biblical patterns encourage tithing, that is, giving at least a tenth of whatever your income is as an offering to God through His Church for the work of Christian Mission, Ministry- and Evangelism. The preeminent spiritual reason for giving is gratitude to God for the blessings we receive; the harmony between the Divine and the created is enhanced by giving. In other words, stewardship is more than what you give – it is about how you use what you keep, as well.
Next is The Sacred Meal (the MASS) which symbolizes the communal unity and communion with God and moves the believer from being a citizen of the world to be a citizen of heaven. Sacrament, symbol, memorial – the sacred meal is a spiritual discipline that dare not be ignored; the Eucharist, the Mass is at the centre of Christian Catholic spirituality. That is why we have the Sunday Obligation – the expectation that we will make sure we are present at Mass every Sunday, unless seriously impeded by illness or other cause.
Then there is the Sacred Journey. Pilgrimage is in the human DNA and each year millions of Christians, Jews and Muslims visit sacred sites all over the world. Again, pilgrimage is not a vacation or a holiday with a religious shore excursion; it is an encounter with the Living God in a different place, to bring us fresh perspective and renewal. Tourists return with memories and souvenirs; Pilgrims bring home changed hearts. Many of us have spent time at Walsingham, Lourdes and places closer to home – it matters not where we go, but WHAT we allow to be transformed within us by the Spirit. Every time we come to Mass can be a ‘mini Pilgrimage’. Think about it ….
Each of us has it within our power to embrace these seven spiritual disciplines. Editing the list down or a half-hearted involvement is unwise – both for ourselves and our church.
How about giving it a serious go in YOUR life?