Nothing exists in general. If something is beautiful or good, it is manifest in a particular way at a particular time such that we can know it. And this is our true life. A life lived in a “generalized” manner is no life at all, but only a fantasy. However, this fantasy is increasingly the character of what most people think of or describe as the “real world.”
A monk lives in a monastery. He rises early in the morning and prays. He concentrates his mind in his heart and dwells in the presence of God. He will offer prayers for those who have requested it. He will eat and tend to the work assigned for him to do. And so he lives his day. He works. He prays.
And someone will say, “But what does he know about the real world?” But what can they possibly mean? He walks on the earth. He breathes the same air as we do. He eats as we do and sleeps as we do. How is his world any less real than that of anyone else on the planet?
The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. John. (12:1-18)
As we move into Holy Week, we will quickly see that the cries of the people who came to greet the Lord Jesus on Palm Sunday, have changed. They came out by the hundreds and possibly thousands to say “Hosanna! Blessed is He who cometh in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel!” They greeted the Lord as a victorious king, but what a great difference just a few days can make. In less than 5 days, He will be betrayed. In less than a week, the same crowd that came to greet Him and to call Him “king”, will deny Him and cry out with one voice “Crucify Him!”
We are reminded that our feelings are not to be trusted. The people were not watchful, but passionate. They were easily swayed and not firm in their faith and belief in Jesus Christ. We are amazed at their quick change of attitude and we are left much more amazed by the humility of the Lord Jesus. How much patience and mercy He has towards us. His own creation, the very works of His very hands, had completed it’s rebellion and turned against Him. Yet, He did not respond with anger. He
All of the great spiritual insight of the holy fathers and mothers of the Church must be accepted with discernment. The insight into the human psyche (soul) is eternal—human beings are human beings whether it is the fourth century or the twenty-first. However, the specific acetic practices and disciplines that work very well in one context might not work well at all in another. This applies not merely to the differences between monastic life and family life, but it applies also to the differences of culture and lifestyle among people who live in the world
For example, I know someone who lived in a city in the southern U.S. and ate as a vegan all year around. She did this for no reason other than it seemed a more globally sustainable life-choice and she didn’t like the idea of killing animals unnecessarily (and, perhaps—and this may just be my cynicism—also because it was a socially cool choice that also helped her keep her weight under control). However, when she married a farmer and moved to the Canadian prairies things changed. Fresh vegetables and fruit were pretty expensive a lot of the year, and meat and eggs were basically free (at least on her farm). Now when this woman was in her vegan stage, lenten fasting was almost no sacrifice whatsoever. Fresh fruits and vegetables were cheap and easily available all winter, so there was basically no change in her diet during the fast. However, on the Canadian prairies, keeping a lenten fast costs quite a bit more. First, it represents a radical change of diet. Those of us who have kept a strict lenten fast and then feasted on the paschal lamb know what kind of suffering one can undergo switching from a diet high in animal protein to a diet high in plant-based protein, and back again. Second, it cost a lot more money to buy fresh fruits and vegetables imported from halfway around the globe, and consequently, there is much more reliance on high carbohydrate (read: fattening) foods. Thus it becomes very hard to keep from gaining several pounds during the still very cold days of lent on the Canadian prairies.