II. True Spirituality in Action.
-“put to death”: This is a moment that we choose to make a clean break with sin. Paul uses this term in Romans 8, but in that case the word is to slay or execute. In this passage the word to put to death has the sense of killing by wearing out. It is used to describe Abraham’s old worn out body before God miraculously blessed this “dead” man with a son. This phrase has the idea of dying by neglect. We stop giving energy to sin and withers and dies.
-Asceticism is this process of dying. Jesus’ death and resurrection did not provide escape from death, but it transformed death into being life-giving. We practice asceticism so that there may be fruit in our lives. Just as an athlete trains to compete, so do we train to run the race! True Spirituality or asceticism is cutting off earthly things not embracing them.
-The idea of dying with Christ is important. There is a monastic story of a young monk struggling with pride who goes to his spiritual father. The elder monk sends the young man to the graveyard and asks him to praise the dead for a certain period of time. After he finishes, the young monk is to return and report what happens. He does so, and returns to the elder and says that nothing happened. The elder acts astonished and commands the young monk to go again but this time to curse the dead. The monk returns and reports again that nothing happened. The elder then replies that he is to imitate the dead, whether he experiences praise or cursing he is to act as one already dead. [I don’t remember where I heard/read this, so if any readers remember the source please let me know].
- St. John of Climacos suggests: "Think of your lying in bed as an image of the lying in your grave; then you will not sleep so much. When you eat at table, remember the food of worms; then you will not live so highly. When you drink water, remember the thirst of the flames; then you will certainly do violence to your nature...Let the thought of eternal fire lie down with you in the evening and get up with you in the morning. Then indolence will never overwhelm you when it is time to sing the psalms."
-the list: Paul singles out the sins that were most common among the pagans in this part of the world, and they are mostly sexual in nature: fornication and uncleanness.
-passion: any consuming compulsion not necessarily sexual.
-evil desire: craving for evil things
-covetousness (which is idolatry): making an idol of something that we desire. To be greedy or covetous is give our hearts over to something other than God.
-anger (habitual anger)
-malice: remembrance of wrongs
-blasphemy: not necessarily of God, but of others; cutting verbal abuse that cuts others
-filthy language: obscenity
All these things close our hearts to the presence of God. And if the goal of the Christian journey is the experience of the life of God, then these things must be removed.