Spiritual Rule Part 2

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? ūüėČ

God bless,
Marina

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Spiritual Rule Part 1

Hey guys, here is the promised post about the spiritual rule! I wanted to do this before Lent started, but med school is crazy, and we can’t always do things according to the plan we had.

Anyway, I’m splitting this topic into two posts. This post will be focusing on what a spiritual rule is and why it is important. So here goes nothing!

The importance of a spiritual rule, in my opinion, is summed up in Proverbs 24:30-34 (to read my post on this passage click here):

I went by the field of the lazy man,
And by the vineyard of the man devoid of understanding;
And there it was, all overgrown with thorns;
Its surface was covered with nettles;
Its stone wall was broken down.
When I saw it, I considered it well;
I looked on it and received instruction:
A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to rest;
So shall your poverty come like a prowler,
And your need like an armed man.

It only takes a little laziness, a little slack to end up with an unkempt heart and soul. Thorns/nettles of the enemy will crush the spiritual fruits that the Lord has been planting within me if I am not tending the field that is my heart.

Another great verse is Proverbs 25:28 (notice how Proverbs is full of jems): Whoever has no rule over his own spirit
Is like a city broken down, without walls.

If you have no rule over your spirit, the enemy can just stroll right in and take over, and that’s not what we want.

So what is the purpose of the spiritual rule? it is a channel or tunnel that I dig inside me. It provides structure and direction for growth into holiness through a pattern of disciplines. Basically, through the spiritual rule I am opening room for the Holy Spirit, grace, and the light to fill inside my heart and soul. I am allowing the work of the Holy Spirit. IMPORTANT– I must keep it open! It can’t be forced! God will not force His way into our hearts. That being said, consistency trumps quantity. I’ts not about how much I do, but how consistent I am in doing it.

A great example of how the spiritual rule should work ¬†is in monasteries. There is something called the monastic belt. It is a belt that a monk wears just a little too tight so there’s no room for the devil to work for laziness. This is important because, like we read in Proverbs, the times I give myself some slack are the times when the devil attacks and I fall. We need to have this “monastic belt” over our souls.

1 Chronicles 14:8-17 exhibits one of the many benefits of spiritual rule:

Now when the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over all Israel, all the Philistines went up to search for David. And David heard¬†of it¬†and went out against them.¬†Then the Philistines went and made a raid on the Valley of Rephaim.¬†And David inquired of God, saying, ‚ÄúShall I go up against the Philistines? Will You deliver them into my hand?‚ÄĚ

The¬†Lord¬†said to him, ‚ÄúGo up, for I will deliver them into your hand.‚ÄĚ

So they went up to Baal Perazim, and David defeated them there. Then David said, ‚ÄúGod has broken through my enemies by my hand like a breakthrough of water.‚ÄĚ Therefore they called the name of that place Baal Perazim.¬†And when they left their gods there, David gave a commandment, and they were burned with fire.

Then the Philistines once again made a raid on the valley.¬†Therefore David inquired again of God, and God said to him, ‚ÄúYou shall not go up after them; circle around them, and come upon them in front of the mulberry trees.¬†And it shall be, when you hear a sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees, then you shall go out to battle, for God has gone out before you to strike the camp of the Philistines.‚Ä̬†So David did as God commanded him, and they drove back the army of the Philistines from Gibeon as far as Gezer.¬†Then the fame of David went out into all lands, and the Lord¬†brought the fear of him upon all nations.

Here you see two different battles, and in each battle God has a different strategy to give David victory. Likewise, every battle in our lives will have a different strategy required to defeat the enemy. The only way to know what to do is to be watchful and to be keen to the voice of God just like David was. Our walk with God is¬†not monotonous! Every day poses a new battle, and every battle poses a need for a new strategy, and the only place we can find the strategy of victory is God. The only way to know God’s voice is to walk with Him daily, talk with Him daily, listen to Him daily. Thus the need for a spiritual rule.

I’ll leave you with one more thing: It is important to note that the spiritual rule has no power in and of itself. It provides you with the¬†opportunity to open your heart to receive the grace of God!

God bless,

Marina

Click here for Spiritual Rule Part 2.