Asceticism is simply about training.
The Greek word simply means, to adorn…to prepare by actions…to become adept by a disciplined exercise.
Asceticism is a set of practises which need to be taken as a whole – methods combined with principles, including both positive development and self abnegation.
If anyone would come after me, let them deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. – Mark 8:34
Does anyone think that Christian discipleship requires nothing of them?
In setting aside our selves a life of grace is developed in us; cooperation with the Holy Spirit is far more than conformity with a system of notions…moral, systematic, historical, cultural, mystical or otherwise. And it has nothing to do with acquisition.
Ascesis is nothing simple. Neither is it extreme.
- Laxity allows us to cherish illusions. And we grow up when we refuse to commingle our spiritual life with ease, comfort, wealth, and human consolation.
- Severity does not foster perfection; punishment does not make you moral.
- You cannot force your way into any special knowledge of God.
- No single practise is adequate to adorn a life. Humility. Generosity. Chastity. Sharing. Fasting. Gratitude. Diligence. Charity. Training is whole and holistic.
This is proven by experience. A stunted spiritual life is not due to the lack of a deeper interior life, nor an insincere love for God, but rather a certain lack of fullness of renunciation, an incomplete sense of abnegation, which disallows us from giving oursleves over completely to the work of God. These strike us in contrast to true saints.
God is the one who grants us a growing understanding of abnegation. And it would be imprudent to impose on ourselves by authority what God has not yet made clear. It is faithfulness to the small insights we have already received that prepares us for deeper insight and greater faithfulness.
– Joseph de Guibert