So, in yesterday’s post (click here) I discussed what a spiritual rule is and why it’s important. This post will discuss the different aspects of the spiritual rule.
1. Psalms (agpeya): Pope Shenouda III used to say, “e7faz el mazameer wel mazameer ye7fazak” (memorize the psalms and they will watch over you”. What greater deal can we get? In 2 Peter 1:21, we learn that “prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” These words of the psalms, in the agpeya, are God’s own words. They came by movement of the Holy Spirit. In addition to that, it was said that David was a man after God’s own heart, so if these words and prayers are coming from David’s heart, isn’t it safe to say they’re from God’s own heart as well? We are praying from the heart of God when we pray the psalms. And when we pray God’s own words, He must follow through. Doesn’t 2 Timothy 2:13 say that “He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself”?
2. Metanoias (prostrations): There are four major aspects of metanoias– worship, submission/surrender, repentance, and tiring out of your body. When people greeted kings and queen or any other royalty, they bowed down before them; metanoias are us bowing down before God, worshipping Him and giving Him glory. Not only that, but when I do a metanoia, I am putting my whole self at the feet of Chris and declaring His lordship over me; I give Him control over my whole being. When we do metanoias, one of the prayers we pray is the Jesus prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” This is repentance. Metanoias also feeds the spirit and deprives the flesh, tiring out the body and all its desires (trust me, this works). Lastly, mentanoias are full of power! When we pray for someone while doing a metanoia, we are breaking down walls! Like I mentioned in my last post, God will not force His way into someone’s life, but when we intercede on behalf of others, especially when doing metanoias, we cause walls to break down that God otherwise would not have broken down. Not only that, but we defeat Satan with our metanoias. Abouna Paul makes this awesome distinction between our metanoias and the fall of Satan. When Satan fell, he fell flat on his face, hands sprawled open. When we do metanoias, we are forming a cross with our fingers, crushing Satan beneath the cross. Pretty cool, right?
3. Eucharist/Liturgy: When we attend liturgy and partake of the Eucharist, we receive grace, washing, renewal. We receive the life of Christ. We receive Christ. In John 13:8-10, Christ is washing the feet of the apostles. When Peter refuses to let Jesus wash his feet, what did He say? “If I do not wash you, you have no part in Me.” Partaking of the holy communion is critical.
4. Fasting: Fasting is a form of crying out to God. We cry out and beseech Him to answer our prayers, whatever they may be. Great example– Nineveh. In Jonah 3:6-10, Nineveh turns its heart back to God, repenting, fasting, and praying. And He listened! That’s key! Fasting is also super powerful! In Mark 9, the apostles are trying to cast out a demon, but are unsuccessful. They go to Jesus and ask Him why they were unable to cast out the demon. In verse 29 He tells them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” It is so powerful! Lastly, in Isaiah 58, we read about true fasting and the many benefits of fasting. There are 10 major benefits seen in this chapter, which I encourage you to explore.
5. Bible Reading: There are two forms of reading the Bible, studying and reading. It is important to go slowly and study the words in the Bible, and it is equally important to just read. Reading is a way of worship, and even when the brain isn’t understanding, the soul is being nourished. In addition to that, the word of God cleanses — “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3).
6. Retreat/silence: It is important to take time out for silence. It is important to speak to God regularly, and is equally important to listen to what He’s saying back. We must listen to hear God’s will. It’s a conversation, not a one-way street. There’s a quote somewhere that says, “Silence your mouth so your mind can speak. Silence your mind so your heart can speak. Silence your heart so that God can speak.” There are also many places in the Bible where we are instructed to be silent or to be still. Here are a few– “Be still, and know that I am God…” (Psalms 46:10). “It is good that one should hope and wait quietly For the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:26). “My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation is from Him.” (Psalms 62:5).
7. Partnership with the heavenly: This means partnership/relationships with the saints. The beautiful thing about the orthodox church is that we are always communicating with the saints, asking them to intercede for us, and striving to be like them. In having a partnership with saints, they can intercede on our behalf to God. This is pretty huge. Also, when we die there is a struggle between Paradise and Hades for our souls. There will be individuals on the side of Paradise trying to pull your soul toward them, all the while your unrepented sins will be like little pieces of metal attached to your soul being sucked into the magnet of Hades. The more advocates you have on the side of Paradise, the stronger the pull towards Paradise becomes.
A great example of this is in the litanies of the 11th hour of the agpeya–“Therefore, prepare for me the ways of repentance, O lady the Virgin, for to you I appeal, and through you I seek intercession, and upon you I call to me, lest I might be put to shame. And when my soul departs my body attend to me, and defeat the conspiracy of the enemies, and shut the gates of Hades, lest they might swallow my soul…”
8. Confession: When we confess our sins, we receive release from sin. We receive forgiveness. A really cool example is St. Moses the Black! When he confessed all his sins for the first time, it’s said an angel had a tablet with all his sins, and as he confessed each one, it was wiped clean from the slate until the slate was completely empty. His story can be read here.
9. Daily Evaluation: This is important for growth. It is a way to keep track of how you are doing, and a way of keeping yourself honest.
Sorry this post is pretty hefty, but it is so vital in our walk with God! And after all, would you rather a post be wimpy, wimpy, wimpy or hefty, hefty, hefty? 😉