Thursday, November 08, 2007

On Asceticism

Fr. Dwight Longenecker has been on a bit of a roll of late. His recent post on hymns touched off a storm of interest. I am only hoping that our unfortunately necessary ad intra interest in the liturgy has not obfuscated from our view the rest of the life of a Christian. I retain a certain amount of hope that his post on Christian asceticism in America, indeed in the whole of the modern world, will elicit the same amount of interest.

The idea that one should make any sacrifice at all for one's religion is almost dead within American Christianity. Religion is there, isn't it, to make you happy, to make you feel better about yourself, to provide warm fellowship for you and your Christian chums, to reassure you that after a pain free victorious life in Jesus you will be on the express train to heaven and even more unimaginable happiness. Yes, American Christians do expect to make financial sacrifices as they tithe, but even then it is often seen as a form of investment. After all, "You can't out give God. If you tithe regularly you will receive much more back in return and be even more prosperous." Right?"
Even that, I would say, doesn't really crack into the center of this lifestyle nut. That alone, I would say, wouldn't be earth-shattering. We all know how easy it is to be superficial in our faith and how many of us are just that. It would be like a front page story declaring there is a war going on - nothing new. This, however, is where it really becomes real (emphasis mine):
This motivates and inspires me more and more as I come to understand and ponder more deeply the mystery of what I am doing in Christ as I celebrate the Mass each day. That sacrifice I offer brings Christ's one full final sacrifice into the present moment. That sacrifice is linked with whatever small sacrifices of asceticism I might make in the world. That sacrifice fills and empowers whatever I might try in my halting way to do and say to complete Christ's action of redemption in the world.
When Christ is the center of what we do, and only when He is the center, then our actions and our very life begins to take on meaning and make sense. Without Him even our triumphs seem empty. With Him, even our great trials and sufferings are causes for great joy.