Getting Started

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Tito Colliander wrote a small spiritual classic, The Way of the Ascetics. I heartily commend it to all. Asceticism is not simply the domain of monks, or something foreign to Christianity, much less is it opposed to salvation by grace. Asceticism is not an earning of grace, but a “doing of the Word.” It is obeying the commandments of Christ and not just talking about them. I am offering here the short first chapter of Colliander’s work. Again, I commend the book.

Chapter One: ON A RESOLUTE AND SUSTAINED PURPOSE

IF you wish to save your soul and win eternal life, arise from your lethargy, make the sign of the Cross and say:

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Faith comes not through pondering but through action. Not words and speculation but experience teaches us what God is. To let in fresh air we have to open a window; to get tanned we must go out into the sunshine. Achieving faith is no different; we never reach a goal by just sitting in comfort and waiting, say the holy Fathers. Let the Prodigal Son be our example. He arose and came (Luke15:20).

However weighed down and entangled in earthly fetters you may be, it can never be too late. Not without reason is it written that Abraham was seventy-five when he set forth, and the labourer who comes in the eleventh hour gets the same wages as the one who comes in the first. Nor can it be too early. A forest fire cannot be put out too soon; would you see your soul ravaged and charred?

In baptism you received the command to wage the invisible warfare against the enemies of your soul; take it up now. Long enough have you dallied; sunk in indifference and laziness you have let much valuable time go to waste. Therefore you must begin again from the beginning: for you have let the purity you received in baptismbe sullied in dire fashion. Arise, then; but do so at once, without delay. Do not defer your purpose till “tonight” or “tomorrow” or “later, when I have finished what I have to do just now.” The interval may be fatal. No, this moment, the instant you make your resolution, you will show by your action that you have taken leave of your old self and have now begun a new life, with a new destination and a new way of living. Arise, therefore, without fear and say: Lord, let me begin now. Help me! For what you need above all is God’s help.

Hold fast to your purpose and do not look back. We have been given a warning example in Lot’s wife, who was turned into a pillar of salt when she looked back (Genesis 19:26). You have cast off your old humanity; let the rags lie. Like Abraham, you have heard the voice of the Lord: Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred,and from thy father’s house, into a land that I will show thee (Genesis 12:1). Towards that land hereafter you must direct all your attention.

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