Entries tagged with “spiritual warfare”.


We are deep into the season of Epiphany here in this old house. January snow is on the ground and the days are slowly getting longer. I want to continue our meditation on the Breastplate of St. Patrick begun in my previous blog post. In the introduction, we focused on the background of this prayer and the opening lines. This week, I want to focus on the following sections:

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

After acknowledging that God, the Three-in-One, is the Creator of all, St. Patrick goes on to remind himself of the Incarnation of Jesus, God-with-us in the flesh here on earth. St. Patrick remembers Christ’s birth, baptism, death, burial, descent to the world of the dead in victory, resurrection, and ascension.

Next, he remembers angels and various forms of people who also seek to follow God faithfully followed by elements of the material world:

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In the predictions of prophets,
In the preaching of apostles,
In the faith of confessors,
In the innocence of holy virgins,
In the deeds of righteous men.

Since we are a part of all that God created (see Genesis 1), all aspects of the created world are “in this together,” so to speak (see Romans 8: 22-23). This section may remind you of St. Francis of Assisi’s “Canticle of the Sun” where St. Francis speaks of the various elements of creation as brothers and sisters with us. (see one example at http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=183)

I arise today, through
The strength of heaven,
The light of the sun,
The radiance of the moon,
The splendor of fire,
The speed of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of the sea,
The stability of the earth,
The firmness of rock.

St. Patrick then goes on to proclaim his trust in God:

I arise today, through
God’s strength to pilot me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and near.

You may remember from our discussion last week that St. Patrick is putting on a form of spiritual armor. A breastplate or lorica is an ancient kind of armor that protects the main section of the body from neck to thigh. As St. Patrick is arising each day, he is intentionally putting on those pieces of spiritual armor in the same way we put on our underwear, socks, shirts, pants or skirt, and shoes. Image result for free photos ancient armor

The idea of “spiritual warfare” is not popular in many circles today. Many of us are anti-war, and so we should be as Christ-followers, so the idea of “doing battle” is not an image we are immediately drawn to. Yet, in reality, there is the Kingdom of God or the kingdom that is against God. There aren’t any other options. Those two realities automatically imply an opposition of one to another. As Christ-followers, we are called to navigate life on this earth and be Christ wherever we currently are, doing whatever each day calls us to do. Not everyone will welcome our world-view with open arms. We will be laughed at, dismissed out-of-hand, viewed as irrelevant or antiquated, or even persecuted. At times, those rejections can feel like “fiery darts” coming into our souls, a vulnerable feeling that leaves us at a loss to know how best to defend ourselves.

Image result for free photos spiritual armorAs with St. Patrick, we may want to consider intentionally “arming” ourselves to go into our days ready to be Christ to all we meet. The tension is that some people do go through life as if each day were a war and they are armed to the teeth to defend themselves against whomever and whatever may come their way. That is not what we are talking about. We are talking about fighting corruption, injustice, racism and all the other “isms” of our world. We are seeking to love people while standing against the evils embedded in systems, governments, and institutions that keep people hungry and oppressed. As Ephesians 6:12 reminds us: For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Next week, we will continue with the next steps that St. Patrick takes in his prayer for daily protection.

 

 

Here we are deep into Lent. I don’t know about you but I have a love/hate relationship with the disciplines of Lent. For me, they are like New Year’s resolutions: easy to talk about and plan for, hard to keep.

This year, I tried to listen even more carefully to what God was calling me to for 40 days. I got out my new project pad from Staples and wrote: Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving on the left side. This was going to be an official spiritual project! I was going to get it right this time. Across from the subheadings, the three disciplines of Lent, I listed one or two things to do or not do. Joy and gratitude were going to mark my time. This year, I was going to balance giving up with adding in.

Well, here we are deep into Lent and all hell has broken loose. That is one of those few sayings that always seemed like swearing to me and, yet, I have come to realize is very theologically accurate. Hell breaks loose. Relationships, work projects, health and finances, every aspect of our life becomes susceptible to temptation from the lying master of hell, Satan.

Studying the spiritual disciplines and the writings of the Desert Fathers and Mothers led me to believe that any time the going was really tough, the Dark Night of the Soul was happening. The Dark Night is when we feel closest to Jesus’ cry from the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” It has even become popular to comfort struggling friends with Dark Night of the Soul noises and pats on the back. But I have come to learn that this Dark Night (a “done in secret” cleansing) is happening in all Christ-followers all of the time. It is simply and profoundly that deep work God is always doing in our souls. At times, that deep work floats to the surface of our awareness, bringing a sense of heaviness and spiritual dryness. It is like being aware of muscles we didn’t know we had after a particularly strenuous day of yard work. Those muscles have always been there and we do use them, just not at that depth.

This Lent, God has showed me that the Dark Night of the Soul is really what mature Christians experience. Me? I am fighting acedia, one of the seven deadly sins, that means sloth or laziness. This is not the laziness that reminds one of a long summer afternoon in a hammock or a mild procrastination regarding cleaning the bathroom. This is the prideful rebellion that says to God, in pouting tones, I don’t want to struggle for Christ-likeness. (Cue: stamping foot.) This hard time is the hand of God on a rebellious spirit. While it is the loving hand of a parent on a child in a full-blown temper tantrum, it has only served to ramp up my tantrum, not soothe it.

All hell has broken loose and I am tired of it, stamping my foot at God, pouting that I am not on a smooth and charmed path of “victorious Christian living.” I want to follow Christ, but as sheep follow a Good Shepherd, not as a fellow cross-hanger. I do not want to make the effort to truly turn over to God my pride, my sinful passions, my desire to have it my way. I want to carry my cross on a gold chain.

Acedia does not sound as romantic as the Dark Night of the Soul. Being called spiritually lazy does not make me feel good about myself. My project list for Lent was actually a form of acedia, things to do to make me feel virtuous, as I was too slothful to tackle the bigger sins of pride, arrogance, and narcissistic tendencies.

Yet, there is hope. I am reminded of the sermon by St. John Chrysostom (347-407) preached in every Orthodox Church at Easter. He reminds all of us that everything is from a loving God always at work in us: Conscientious and lazy, celebrate the day! You who have kept the fast, and you who have not, rejoice, this day, for the table is bountifully spread!

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus, come.

 

Follow the tour— While there are only a couple more to post on the tour, here is where we have been if you want to go back and read ones you missed.

February 20th

Rachel Stone: http://eatwithjoy.org/2012/02/20/lenten-fasting-easter-feasting/

February 27th

Margot Starbuck: http://margotstarbuck.blogspot.com/2012/02/being-formed-in-grocery-checkout-line.html

March 5th

Brent Bill: http://holyordinary.blogspot.com/2012/03/time-is-fulfilled-lenten-meditation.html

March 12th

Logan Mehl-Laituri: http://feraltheology.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/maximilian-tebessa-lenten-abstinence/

March 19th

Andrew Byers: http://abyers.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/when-salvation-hurts/

March 26th

Valerie Hess: http://www.valeriehess.com/generalnews/spiritual-warfare-or-spiritual-laziness

April 2nd

Beth Booram: http://peregrinejourney.blogspot.com

April 6th; Good Friday

Chad Young: www.findingauthenticchristianity.com