General Spirituality

The Ascetic Heart – Part 1

The ascetic mind is not one of stone, cold and darkened to the outside world. Too often, those who stand apart from the heavenly struggle see it thus, and thereby see it askew. To climb is not to descend, and to grow is not to die. Those who reject the world do so not out of hatred, not out of scorn for the creation into which they have been born, but out of most profound love. It takes a true love deeper than most will ever know, to consider the world with such fondness and thanksgiving that one is willing to let it go. Hope and faith must be of the profoundest sort, if ever they are to give birth to a heart willing to break away from creation, that it might one day be united more fully to it.

The ascetic heart knows the world, and knows that it is good. It can see the tranquil pond, the azure sky, the frail leaf, and catch in every glimpse the radiant shimmer of the Divine. In all things there is God.

The ascetic heart knows creation, and rejoices in its bounty. It sees the breath drawn in and out by all creatures, watches as they mingle together in the Creator’s hands. There is fawn, there is bird, there is beast, but all are life, and all life is in Christ.

The ascetic heart knows humanity. In its gentle sight there is no man, no woman—only brother and sister, father and mother, daughter and son. The family of human life is united together with a bond only this heart can truly see, and once it is seen, it is all that can be seen in man. That bond of communion, reflection of the Divine, is the nature of human being.

The ascetic heart knows itself, and knows that it is good. For all that may darken and stain its surface, the handiwork of a Craftsman is still beloved, and what was once made divine can only be sullied and perverted, but never wholly destroyed.

The ascetic heart looks within, and knows of a great Beauty to be found inside its own walls. Yet this same ascetic heart also knows of darkness. As much as it has rejoiced over its light and fullness, so much has it bewailed its void and emptiness. A brilliant light which cannot be seen suffers not always from its source, but rather from its surroundings—the ascetic heart is pure, but its purity is covered in shame. It is the unique gift of the ascetic to know this, and her divine blessing that such knowledge wells up tears of grief like none the world can call forth. To gaze deep within and see the Sun darkened with stains is to be pained in soul, to see nature perfected and destroyed at once and in the same breath. Unbridled joy and soul wrenching agony collide; and if their collision be perfect, the ascetic heart is born.

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