Saturday, April 28, 2007

Spiritual Disciplines

I just finished teaching a six week class on the spiritual disciplines at NMC. It was designed to be a sampler class, exposing people to various disciplines with assignments to practice a different one each week. I've done such a class several times now, and it never ceases to amaze me at the outset how few of the evangelicals who've spent their whole lives in the church know much about the substance or purpose of the spiritual disciplines. By the end, though, I've yet to have a member of such a class believe the spiritual disciplines not to be worth pursuing as a component of a life of discipleship. Thoughts about the spiritual disciplines will be a prominent feature of future Stump Speeches. I believe them to be crucial.

For now, here's a quote from Amma Syncletica, a fourth and fifth century Desert Mother:

“It is dangerous for someone not ‘formed’ by experience of the ascetic life to try to teach; it is as if someone whose house is unsound were to receive guests and cause them injury by the collapse of the building… For the mere articulation of words is like the inscriptions painted in perishable colours which a very short period of time has destroyed with blasts of wind and splashes of rain. Teaching that is based on ascetic experience, on the other hand, not even all eternity could destroy. By chiseling away the rough edges of the soul, the spoken word bestows on the faithful Christ’s everlasting image done in stone.”

The Life of Blessed Syncletica, trans. Elizabeth Bryson Bongie (Toronto: Peregrina 1999) v. 79, 50.

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