This morning I was looking over a copy of The Talanton, the newsletter from St. Gregory Palamas Monastery in Ohio. Included is a good homily by Metropolitan Savas, you can read the whole homily HERE. I had a hard time picking which part to share, so this is kind of a long excerpt. Worth the read, though.
This is why we go through this period of fasting: to discipline our body, to show the body who is the boss so we are not led by it. But we are riding the body like a horse. This is why we involve our body in prayer; we do not just pray in our heads, but we involve our bodies: we raise hands, bend our knees, kiss the ground, cross ourselves. We know that whatever we do with the body affects the soul. We know that the body’s actions are an expression of this. And we know that we wait for a new heaven and earth. We aren’t expecting to be delivered from the material world – we are expecting a transfiguration of the world. . .
I want to share an extended passage from St. John [of the Ladder] that speaks to this relationship of body and soul. . .
By what rule or manner can I bind this body of mine? By what president can I judge him? Before I can bind him he is let loose, before I condemn him I am reconciled with him, before I can punish him I bow down before him and feel sorry for him. How can I hate him when my nature disposes me to love him? How can I break away from him when I am bound to him forever? How can I escape from him when he is going to rise with me? How can I make him incorrupt when he has received a corruptible nature? How can I argue with him when all the arguing of nature is on his side? If I try to bind him through fasting, then I pass judgement on a neighbor who does not fast, with the result I am handed over to him again. If I defeat him by not passing judgement, I turn proud, and I am again a prisoner to him. He is my helper and my enemy, my assistant and my opponent, a protector and a traitor. I am kind to him and he assaults me. If I wear him out he gets weak. If he has his rest he becomes unruly. If I upset him he cannot stand it. If I mortify him I endanger myself. If I strike him down, I have nothing left with to acquire the virtues. I embrace him and I turn away from him. What is this mystery in me? What is the principle of mixture of body and soul? How can I be my own friend and my own enemy? Speak to me, speak to me my old fellow, my nature, I cannot ask anyone but you. How can I remain uninjured by you? How can I escape the danger of my own nature? I have made a promise to Christ that I will fight you, yet how can I defeat your tyranny? But this I have resolved, mainly that I am going to master you.
. . .We are living now in a period where we are trying to do just that, master our bodies, for the sake of the health of our soul, and we are in a period where we are in a sense all becoming monks and nuns. We are trying to do at least 40 days of what monks and nuns do throughout the year. You know they are the maximalists of the faith, they have the volume turned way up. They do it all the time, we try and get there every so often, and follow their example, and learn from them. And so this is the time where we, too, turn to literature such as this that feeds our souls as we try to reign in our bodies, and we thank God for the gift of St.John and we ask for his prayers always now and forever and to the ages of ages.