Monday, December 20, 2010

The Agonas (the games)

Greeks understood thousands of years ago about the personal and social benefits of "the games" or agonas. The psychological and sociological wide reaching effects are still applicable to modern times. The solidarity amongst competitors, the basic respect, and the understanding how the greatness in others inspires and encourages greatness within ourselves is central to competition. Similarily the Holy People of God the Saints illicit the same response for the believers being the role models and coaches for the christian. the individual battles the inertia which can be like quick sand and sets sights on the goal of victory. Personal victory in a particular event or victory in Jesus. There is no secret formula for christian success just as there is no secret to winning an athletic event.
How does running really enrich your prayer life and make you a better follower of Christ? it trains the mind and teaches the will to focus on the task at hand. It demands dedication, commitment, stamina, consistency in a daily renewal and of course one's time. good runners are able to remain faithful and fully engaged at the task at hand. Christians likewise are taught to resist temptation to flee from it; to be delivered. Both running events and christian living does not seek a multitasker who fits running or religious life into what's left. It requires one who is completely present with the task at hand. An overall perspective on what's expected. It's why runners think about nutrition and their next training session the other 23 hours in a day. The commitment is complete and extends beyond the run. Additionally a dedicated christian is consumed with the details of christian living, fasting, love kindness and acts of charity beyond the confines of the Divine Liturgy.
This clarification puts into place the task at hand the work to be done the joy of the run itself. And in running the body comes under submission but also more loudly proclaiming its wonderful design. The repetitive nature of running is symbiotic with the repetitive nature of prayer. Breathing, the heart beating and repetitive nature of the cadence all can be said for continuous prayer.
Running puts the focus into my life like nothing else. it is a lightening rod against which and in I find my direction and read my compass. sometimes I consider the state of my life. and many more times then not, i am grateful and loving it. there are those times when I am less productive generally that I wonder what am I running for: what do I hope to accomplish and can my time be better spent? and no... my time spent in motion running can not be better spent it is good medicine. alone time, in the presence of my God, or at a minimum a time when i can't escape 'continuous me time'. Don't get me wrong the run is not all prayer and hymns. I would be hard pressed to get through a run without some Santana playing. Or me replaying a scenario in my 'thoughtful spot' to work through an issue or feeling.
Remaining on task is difficult even for most pleasantly rewarding task. Distraction is one of the greatest tools of the enemy. Do not take your eyes off the prize a crown of glory. like a cat on the hunt don't take your eyes off the mouse it requires concentration, patience, and more patience. The agility of the mind and body to move in an instant but only for the prize. to remain silent and for the mind to move slowly. Running reminds me of what I need to focus on. At times its speed and how much my lungs burn and at other times amazement that I push through barriers. Sometimes its time barriers and other times the barriers of temptation.
I have exceeded the expectations of my parents and i have proved my temperament useful. I have a place to maximize my bold character without having to temper it. While running determination not stubbornness is what harnesses the energy. then there are those runs to clear my thoughts and get some alone time with God and my running reminds me to get back on task to see everything as a path back to God; a way back. The tenacity to remain a faithful orthodox christian is the same which gets me off the couch to run. It curbs my religious pride and clarifies words like love, forgiveness, acceptance and justice. It takes to heart the higher Christian standard that we are called to. It is a consistent environment and setting in which i look inward to the Kingdom that is within.
As i put on my running gear or uniform it is a reminder of the spiritual armor which i am dressed in always. running gives me the mindset and determination to move through the difficult times and draw closer to God. The point of all this hard work and effort? Having a competent captain during the storm. I have relied several times on the lessons learned during the persistence of training, the hard runs and the good runs. I am better able to handle the difficulties that come. I have walked through process before and have come to anticipate the dynamic of growth. The difference between the wise and foolish virgins was preparation, activity; not just intent. they were all chaste but the work of the faithful is time with God in contemplation and devotion. It is not something that can be portioned off to someone else. It is the work done for oneself. We must learn to recognize the voice of our Lord . Learn to hear and listen. One is to perceive; the other is to obey.
Jesus prayed that His Apostles not be taken from this world but delivered from he evil one. As even in the Lord's Prayer he prayed and taught us to pray for deliverance. Yet, all but one of his Apostles were martyred. Yet, they were also completely delivered from the evil because they even unto death in the face of unspeakable things they did not fall or fail to complete the race. It is conditioning and practice of Biblical principles which are embodied in the ancient rites of the games which prepare for the sad and turbulent items in your life. It shapes celebrations so that they are not confused with an excuse for dereliction. it is a wonderment how God established this symbiotic relations between activities which engage the body which bring the mind into focus. The way to salvation is not denying the body which God formed but using it to set the stage for discipline and spiritual and physical health and communion. Then when all the work is done you can relax and trust your training your conditioning your preparation and time spent in attention to God. I haven't mastered as yet the skillful art of complete engagement in a task but is is a more natural inclination now. Give each task the full measure of my ability and dedication and the payoff will be there. Christian living is the map for this life and living it.
Lastly and on a slightly different point, we need to understand that we are already in eternity. it is not something that is triggered by death which would be contrary to eternity. we have an immortal soul through the gift of God in our creation and with that creation he gave us this body. At the commencement of our conception we have already begun our journey through immortality which too often we confuse the the afterlife. by pushing eternity into the future in another lifetime, we removed it from our self and our consciousness it is easy to lose perspective. the monks caution us to remember our death to embrace it to understand that what is done now even in our relative youth is vital. what kind of eternal life do you want because you are in it already living it creating it.

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