3/12/07

True Spirit of Mortification

Yesterday I participated in a pilgrimage (pellegrinaggio alle sette chiese) which had begun from the 16th century in the Roman tradition. It was initiated by St. Philip Neri during a Lenten season and demands the faithful to visit the seven important Basilicas in Rome (St. Paul, St. Sebastian, Lateran, Santa Croce, St. Laurence, Maria Maggiore and St. Peter) on foot. The traditional route of this pilgrimage includes "Via Apia" through which the early Christians and the Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul walked to Rome where they were martyred. It was a notable experience for me, yet the question of its significance remain in doubt for many people. They ask, why do Christians practice such corporal mortifications? Does it mean that human body is in itself evil and we have to punish it in different ways? I answer no, for it is contrary to the goodness of Creation and the teaching of the Church. But at the same time we have to discipline it to protect from evil.

The theologians say, we are not redeemed by fine words, or by an army, or technological advances or a new financial plan nor are we redeemed by some kind of 'feel good' social therapy. But we were redeemed by the Man-God suffering alone on a cross, with tremendous physical and moral pain, and giving everything to his Father God. Hence, some mortifications have a great significance for His true followers. It is a struggle against their bad inclinations or tendencies in order to do the will of God and not of the body. The Church always held that the human body and its appetites are good, but they are disordered by sin. Since Adam's sin, flesh and spirit have contradicting desires. A kind of death is working in the feelings and passions of men that separates them from the true good of their life, and from their own identity. Therefore the exercise of bodily mortification aims the liberation of man, who often finds himself, because of concupiscence, almost chained by his senses. The body becomes the staging ground for the disordered movements of the human soul like lust, jealousy, anger, laziness, vanity etc. The emotions of anger, fear, sorrow and love have all been disrupted by sin, and like unruly rebels they wish to dominate human lives. They are exaggerated, these selfish tendencies need to be controlled and disciplined, and yes… even punished at times to follow the will of God. If we compare the spiritual life to an athletic contest, to win the contest one must be hard to oneself and not give into the softness and weakness of the flesh (Cf:1 Cor 9 24-27)

Even I knew these realities and I did such a mortification, the very night of that pilgrimage I went through some temptations and fell into sin. Why did it happen? I was wondering about my strange dispositions. I did big sacrifices (subjectively) to follow Him but failed in little things. Gradually some similar pictures came to my mind from the Bible. When Peter was following Jesus at a distance on the night He was arrested, at a certain moment he forgot the greater value of following Him and sat down beside the little pleasure of the burning firewood, though he had sacrificed great things from his life to follow Him. And Judas, who lived with Jesus for three years forgot himself in the glazing of 30 silver coins!

Later I came to find some answers through my examination of conscience. Firstly, the desire to do that pilgrimage in itself brought out feelings of "pride" resulting in laxity, some adjustments, in my usual prayers. In the morning I woke up a little bit late and skipped my meditation by reasoning that I am going for a pilgrimage. Secondly, at night I did not go for adoration by justifying to myself that it is not necessary for I have already done a great sacrifice by walking more then 20 kms. Oh Lord I am not greater than Peter or Judas in their weaknesses. You have taught me that all of these mortifications in the absence of its true spirit (love and prayer) produce negative effects. Now I am convinced about your teaching after the healing of a boy with an unclean spirit that, "this kind can come out only through prayer" (Mark 9:28). And if my corporal mortifications do not lead me to such a prayer experience and to its true effects, then the very act would become fruitless as you warned the Pharisees about their fasting. God give me your grace of perseverance to follow you always and to discipline my feelings and emotions according to your will.

5 comments:

sinto said...

this artical I liked most.
Because we both went for the same pillgrimage. You had a different experience and perceptive from me.

Jaimon Pallineerakkal said...

Thanks dear...

GvS said...

dear brother
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Jeeva Elizabeth said...

really it is nice

Dr. Sr. Christy Cmc said...

Wonderful! it is great!!!! Congratulations!!!