Thursday, November 18, 2010

Do you Believe In Church Wisdom? Benefits of Rule

Rules, rules, rules. They get a bad wrap for sure. In a society where freedom of expression and liberty trump common sense and morality it is easy to fall away from basic obedience. Prayer Rules, Exercise Rules, Dietary Rules and countless others make their mark on one’s life. They teach the Biblical concepts of obedience, stamina, determination, perseverance, etc. Rules cultivate the landscape overtime preparing us when turmoil strikes and often times ward off trouble at the onset. Even a small rule is vital and better than no rule at all.

For example in the most common banal sense, brushing one’s teeth every morning is the least we can do for oral hygiene and health. To really address care of our oral health, we should eat less sugary foods, brush several times a day, floss and see a dentist every six months. Most people especially children really neglect their mouths beyond cosmetics. Prayer is the same.

A consistent prayer rule, though small will have an even greater effect, as the need is vital to our spiritual, physical and social health. A prayer life is an imperative.  The Church year with its Lenten Seasons provide the necessary rhythm for living for God in a measured accessible way. Like the training of an elite athlete we can’t always be pushing stressing the limits of our ability. On the flip side too much recovery, too much rest, too much comfort compromises the fitness which slowly it slips away. There is a natural ebb and flow to prayer.

So for us mortals living outside the monastery walls let’s do the basics: attend Church with regularity, pray daily (even simple small prayer) and read Biblical text (don’t underestimate a verse or two) and established readings (just a quote). Try and watch movies which provoke moral questions not which attack the gate of our soul with salaciousness or obscenity. We need to be good stewards of our own spiritual and physical health we are the gate keeper.

Additional help is on the way through disciplining the body. Fasting even when  handled in small doses (meat restrictions on Wed. and Fri.)  will have profound effects.  It seems simple enough and yet many of us break the rule without paying any note to the possibility of its long term benefit.

Society secularizes the foundational cures and preventative measures with artificial instructions and structure. Dietary and Stress Reducing Techniques mimic Church recommendations but profess them to be based on a higher rationale. We are cautioned to eat less red meat and limit meat by- products by the American Medical Association (AMA). They advise regular stress reducing techniques replete with self help gurus’ encouraging meditation, yoga, and even the repetition of mantras (to the exclusion of the Jesus Prayer of course).  Prayer is about more then managing stress and fasting is about more then dieting.

So establish or more importantly adopt some rules and be transformed. Understand that after the initial enthusiasm there will be resistance, then doubt, but keep at it. The Church encourages all to come as we are but will show us how to discover our truer self. The Church doesn't seek to answer scientific questions it addresses what science must dismiss outrigtht because it can never answer questions of faith.


Jeremiah said...

Really good points. When you mentioned the weekly fast, you mentioned meat fast. Do most of the more ethnic parishes just fast from meat, or do you do the meat, dairy, wine (any alcohol) or oil?
Speaking of monasteries, I read an awesome lecture given in 1989 by Fr Alexander Men of Russia. He spoke about the need to find the balance of parish life, meeting the needs of people, with monastic stillness. In his understanding of the Tradition, the tendency toward reclusion as the sole means of spirituality was a grave mistake on the part of the Church. For it took the tangible Gospel (which the early Fathers lived) and made it inaccessible, while "secular" needs were relegated to a realm outside the Church.
My point is, the rules you bought up make us aware of the spiritual nature of our everyday lives. If we are attentive, we will do His will. If we relegate our faith to an ethnic identity, and ignore it, as you said, it will be powerless.

Angela Damianakis m.s.w said...

I don't know what you mean by 'ethnic' churches. generally people that fast observe the fast in its entirety. allowances are made for children. Tomorrow I'll post about monastic centers and parishes.

Jeremiah said...

I was contrasting ethnic churches that are mainly cradle Orthodox, with the convert churches. I wasn't sure if the Churches that were mainly cradle had more leniency when it comes to fasting, as apposed to a convert who is full of zeal.