Archive for March, 2014

Living Without Stuff

Posted in Uncategorized on March 28, 2014 by citydesert

The man who gave up all of his stuff: Petri Luukkainen, a Helsinki-based documentary maker, put everything he owned in storage and removed one item a day for a year. He tells Theo Merz how many things we really need:

“Like many of us, Petri Luukkainen felt he had too much stuff. Unlike many of us, he decided to put it all in storage for a year, removing one item per day in order to discover what he really needed to live comfortably. The result is the documentary “My Stuff”, released in Luukkainen’s native Finland two years ago and in the UK this weekend.
stuff 3
The film, an experimental documentary in the style of Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me, begins with the 29-year-old naked in his empty Helsinki flat. From there he runs across icy streets to the depot where his belongings are stored, the first of which he takes being a long coat – preserving his modesty and providing a makeshift sleeping bag for the first night. On the second day he takes shoes, on the third a blanket and on the fourth jeans.
Stuff 1
Director Petri Luukkainen runs to collect a long coat in the first scene of My Stuff

Half way through the year he falls in love, leading to a dilemma over whether he should replace his new girlfriend’s fridge – another rule of the project is that he’s not allowed to buy anything new – or to fix it at greater expense. Later, Luukkainen’s grandmother is taken ill and has to move into a care home, meaning he has to go to her old flat to sort through her stuff. The events provide the documentary with such a satisfying narrative that some critics have suggested the film is semi-scripted, though Luukkainen insists it is all real.
The conclusion he comes to at the end of the year is probably what he suspected at the beginning: that possession is a responsibility and “stuff” is a burden. He does, however, provide a couple of figures which may be of help for anyone thinking about decluttering. Luukkainen found he could get by with 100 things (including swimming trunks, trainers, a debit card and a phone) but needed 200 to live with some “joy and comfort” (a third spoon, an electric kettle and a painting).
stuff 2
Luukkainen at the depot where his possessions are stored

Speaking from Helsinki ahead of his film’s UK release, the documentary-maker claims the project itself was not something he was particularly proud of. “My problem was that I had too much of everything. It’s not the worst problem and it’s not being noble to give some of it up for a time.”

Whatever the seriousness of the problem, the international interest in the film suggests it is one many of us in the West face, and Luukkainen says he has been contacted by people across Europe who have been inspired to take on similar experiments. “I’d love to be part of a movement but I’m not sure My Stuff is,” he says. “All I want to do is get people to think about what they have and what they need, because it’s not something I thought about at all before I did this film.”
stuff 4
For those who feel like they might have too much stuff, Luukkainen suggests spending some time apart from it, though doesn’t advise going to the extreme of putting it all in storage. Put it in a cupboard, and if its appeal fades with absence, give it away.

Luukkainen himself has tried to manage the “burden of stuff” since his project came to end, but says: “I’m not some kind of minimalistic Jesus, sitting in my flat with nothing but a phone. I might have a bit less stuff than other people but I’m still part of urban life with everything that involves.””

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/10729219/The-man-who-gave-up-all-of-his-stuff.html

See further: http://mystuffmovie.com/
http://www.everydaystories.be/content/petri-luukkainen
http://www.day-for-night.org/my-stuff

For a trailer for the movie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUBVl0FG6Yc

Aids to Prayer: 1 Washing

Posted in Uncategorized on March 24, 2014 by citydesert

hand washing
Washing, especially of the hands (and sometimes feet) has long had symbolic significance in the Middle East. Such washing has often been less for ablution (or cleaning) than as a symbol of an inner cleansing. A careful, intentional and ritual washing of the hands prior to prayer can have a powerful psychological effect. For some people, bathing (or showering) prior to prayer, or washing the face and rinsing out the mouth, will also be useful. Whatever form the ritual washing may take, the words of Psalm 26:6-12 (KJV—in the Septuagint it is Psalm 25), can appropriately be recited:

I will wash my hands in innocency and I will compass Thine altar, O Lord, that I may hear the voice of Thy praise and tell of all Thy wondrous works. O Lord, I have loved the beauty of Thy house, and the place where Thy glory dwelleth.

The tradition of Israel required ritual washing before prayers and meals, and on other specific occasions.

“The Talmud used the requirement of washing the hands in Leviticus 15:11 as a hint for general hand washing law, using asmachta – a talmudical hermeneutics form in which the verse used as a hint rather than an exegesis.
jewish hand washing
The general Hebrew term for ritual hand washing is netilat yadayim, meaning lifting up of the hands. The term “the washing of hands” after excretion is sometimes referred to as “to wash asher yatzar” referring to the bracha (blessing) said which starts with these words.
Halakha (Jewish law) requires that the water used for ritual washing be naturally pure, unused, not contain other substances, and not be discoloured. The water also must be poured from a vessel as a human act, on the basis of references in the Bible to this practice, e.g. Elisha pouring water upon the hands of Elijah. Water should be poured on each hand at least twice. A clean dry substance should be used instead if water is unavailable.
Contemporary practice is to pour water on each hand three times for most purposes using a cup, and alternating the hands between each occurrence; this ritual is now known by the Yiddish term negel vasser, meaning nail water. This Yiddish term is also used for a special cup used for such washing.
The blessing
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה הָ׳ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל נְטִילַת יָדָיִם “Blessed are you, Hashem our God King of the universe Who has sanctified us with His commandments, And has commanded us concerning the elevation of hands.”
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ritual_washing_in_Judaism

“The Talmud requires a person to wash his hands before prayer. A person must wash his hands to the wrists before prayer. Therefore, even though he washed his hands in the morning, if his hands touched a place of filth – i.e., a portion of the body which is sweaty and usually covered: he scratched his head, or in the morning, he did not wash them until the wrists – he must wash them again before prayer. (Sotah 39a). The custom is to wash the right hand three times, and then the left hand three times. In addition, the Shulchan Aruch requires that the face be washed and the mouth rinsed upon rising.
hand-washing-set-6L
The ritual washing of the hands is not explicitly prescribed by the Bible, but is inferred by the rabbis (Ḥul. 106a) from the passage, Lev. xv. 11, in which it is stated that if a person afflicted with an unclean issue have not washed (or bathed) his hands his touch contaminates. The passage, Ps. xxvi. 6, “I will wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass thine altar, O Lord,” also warrants the inference that Ablution of the hands is requisite before performing any holy act. This particular form of Ablution is the one which has survived most completely and is most practised by Jews. Before any meal of which bread forms a part, the hands must be solemnly washed and the appropriate benediction recited. Before prayer, too, the hands must be washed; also after any unclean bodily function or after contact with an unclean object. The precepts concerning the carrying out of the ritual washing of the hands are contained in the rabbinical code “Shulḥan ‘Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim,” §§ 117-165. The chief rules are these: The water must be in a state of natural purity, not discolored or defiled by the admixture of any foreign substance; it must not have been previously used for any purpose, and must be poured out by human act, the mere natural flow of water not sufficing. If a hydrant or stationary receptacle is used, the cock must be opened separately for each hand. This precept, that the water must be poured out by human act, is based on the fact that Scripture describes the pouring of water upon the hands as performed by one person for another, and considers it an appropriate act for the disciple to do for his master. The pouring on of water was a sign of discipleship. Thus, Scripture says of Elisha that he poured water ( ) upon the hands of Elijah, meaning that he was his disciple. The hands may also be purified by immersion; but in that case the same rules must be observed as in the case of immersion of the entire body in a regular ritual bath, or miḳweh. If water is not obtainable, the hands should be rubbed with some dry, clean substance, such as cloth. The hands must also be washed after eating. The Ablution before grace is known technicallyas mayim rishonim (first waters), and the subsequent Ablution as mayim aḥaronim (last waters). The latter Ablution is by no means generally observed.”
The 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/338-ablution

This was also the tradition in the early Church. The Apostolic Tradition (or Egyptian Church Order), an early Christian treatise from the third century, requires that that hands must be washed before prayer:
“41.1 Let every faithful man and every faithful woman , when they rise from sleep at dawn,
before they undertake any work, wash their hands and pray to God. Then they may go to
work.
41.11 Around midnight rise and wash your hands with water and pray.”
http://www.bombaxo.com/hippolytus.html

“The rite of ablution was observed among early Christians also. Eusebius (Historia Ecclesiastica, X, 4.40) tells of Christian churches being supplied with fountains or basins of water, after the Jewish custom of providing the laver for the use of the priests.
lavabo fountain
Lavabo, Le Thoronet Abbey, Le Thoronet, France

The Apostolical Constitutions (VIII.32) have the rule: “Let all the faithful …. when they rise from sleep, before they go to work, pray, after having washed themselves” nipsamenoi.
The attitude of Jesus toward the rabbinical law of ablution is significant. Mk (7:3) prepares the way for his record of it by explaining, `The Pharisees and all the Jews eat not except they wash their hands to the wrist (pugme). (See LTJM, II, 11). According to Mt 15:1-20 and Mk 7:1-23 Pharisees and Scribes that had come from Jerusalem (i.e. the strictest) had seen some of Jesus’ disciples eat bread with unwashed hands, and they asked Him: “Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.” Jesus’ answer was to the Jews, even to His own disciples, in the highest degree surprising, paradoxical, revolutionary (compare Mt 12:8). They could not but see that it applied not merely to hand-washing, but to the whole matter of clean and unclean food; and this to them was one of the most vital parts of the Law (compare Acts 10:14). Jesus saw that the masses of the Jews, no less than the Pharisees, while scrupulous about ceremonial purity, were careless of inward purity. So here, as in the Sermon on the Mount, and with reference to the Sabbath (Mt 12:1 ff), He would lead them into the deeper and truer significance of the Law, and thus prepare the way for setting aside not only the traditions of the eiders that made void the commandments of God, but even the prescribed ceremonies of the Law themselves, if need be, that the Law in its higher principles and meanings might be “fulfilled.” Here He proclaims a principle that goes to the heart of the whole matter of true religion in saying: “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites” (Mk 7:6-13)–you who make great pretense of devotion to God, and insist strenuously on the externals of His service, while at heart you do not love Him, making the word of God of none effect for the sake of your tradition!”
http://www.bible-history.com/isbe/A/ABLUTION/

“It may be noted that possibly in consequence of the words of St. Paul (1 Timothy 2:8): “I will therefore that men pray in every place, lifting up pure hands”, the early Christians made it a rule to wash their hands even before private prayer, as many passages of the Fathers attest (e.g. Tertullian, “Apolog.”, xxxix; “De Orat.”, xiii).”
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15557b.htm
lavabo church 1
Mediaeval lavabo in the right-hand transept of Saint Mark’s Church in Milan

Ritual washing of the hands, the Lavabo, has long been part of the Divine Liturgy:
church lavabo 2
“The name Lavabo (“I shall wash”) is derived from the words of Psalm 26:6-12 (KJV—in the Septuagint it is Psalm 25), which the celebrant traditionally recites while he washes his hands: “I will wash my hands in innocency, so will I compass thine altar, O Lord”. The washing of hands during the recitation of these psalm verses is of very ancient usage in the Catholic Church.
ewer
In the third century there are traces of a custom of washing the hands as a preparation for prayer on the part of all Christians; and from the fourth century onwards it appears to have been usual for the ministers at the Communion Service ceremonially to wash their hands before the more solemn part of the service as a symbol of inward purity.
church lavabo 3
In many early and medieveal monasteries, there would be a large lavabo (lavatorio) where the brethren would wash their hands before entering church. This practice was first legislated in the Rule of St. Benedict in the 6th century, but has earlier antecedents.

St. John Chrysostom mentions the custom in his day of all Christians washing their hands before entering the church for worship.

In the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches, the priest says the last six verses from Psalm 25:
I will wash my hands in innocency and I will compass Thine altar, O Lord, that I may hear the voice of Thy praise and tell of all Thy wondrous works. O Lord, I have loved the beauty of Thy house, and the place where Thy glory dwelleth. Destroy not my soul with the ungodly, nor my life with men of blood, in whose hands are iniquities; their right hand is full of bribes. But as for me, in mine innocence have I walked; redeem me, O Lord, and have mercy on me. My foot hath stood in uprightness; in the congregations will I bless Thee, O Lord.
lavabo 3
After vesting, he goes to the thalassidion (piscina) as washes his hands before approaching the Prothesis (altar of preparation), where he will prepare the bread and wine for the Divine Liturgy. This lavabo takes place quietly, outside of the view of the congregation.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavabo

“The hand and face washing that precedes ritual prayer is no invention of Moslems. Islamic followers adopted it in the seventh century based on Christian prayer practices. Christians used to wash themselves, or at least their hands, before praying. A water fountain stood in the forecourt of churches precisely for this purpose. In the atrium of St. Peter’s in Rome, there stood the famous stone pine fountain.
st peters fountain
A sarcophagus from Ravenna portrays such a washing bowl: a cantharus (deep bowl) adorned with peacocks.

This washing concerned an attitude of purity and integrity in prayer. Precisely because one’s hands were raised to heaven while praying, they had to be clean. The believer wanted to be seen by God. So, persons who prayed would show washed hands as a sign that they were not stained with blood. For Christians, washed hands were supposed to express that one entered into God’s presence with a pure conscience. “The clean of hand and pure of heart” may go up to the mountain of the Lord, was a Psalm sung by those traveling to the temple in Jerusalem (Ps 24:4).

This explains this prayer posture in the early Church: a person’s hands were held relatively close in front of one’s face with the palms turned outwards, as is the custom in the Dominican rite even today.
dominican hands
It was a way of saying: “Here, God, look at my hands! No blood and no injustice cling to them. And only in this manner do I dare to pray and raise my voice to you.” St. John Chrysostom addressed his followers by saying that it was not enough to raise washed hands to God; these hands must also be made holy through works of charity. So, in the forecourt of the church, one should not only go to the fountain for hand washing, but also use the opportunity to give alms to the poor who begged there.

What remains of this rite of hand washing, previously practiced by all of the faithful, is the priest’s ritual hand washing before the Eucharistic prayer. The faithful no longer wash their hands, because they also no longer raise their hands when they pray. In its place, people bless themselves with holy water at the church entrance, reminding themselves of their baptism.

These rituals of the past retain their meaning even today. Christian prayer presupposes “clean hands.” A person who has sinned against his neighbor also sins against God. In refusing to be reconciled with his neighbor, a person should not approach the altar of God. The act of faith does not simply erase all past and future sins. Our behavior and actions create new obstacles on the way to God, weakening the effectiveness of our prayer. The priest is reminded of his own inadequacy every time he holds up his hands. This automatic gesture should provoke in his mind a serious examination of conscience: what makes you worthy that you alone can raise your hands in prayer? Have you done everything in your power to enable you, with pure hands and full transparency of spirit, to bring before God the gifts and prayers of the people?”
http://www.hprweb.com/2012/01/cross-altar-and-the-right-way-of-praying/

hand washing 2
Suggested practice: Prior to morning prayer, bathe or shower and brush the teeth. Then, when dressed, ritually wash both hands by pouring water over the right hand and then the left hand (three times each), and then dry the hands. A bowl and towel set aside for the purpose should be used. Before other times of prayer (where possible), again wash the hands ritually.

a history of prayer
See further: Roy Hammerling (ed) “A History of Prayer: The First to the Fifteenth Century” Volume 13 of Brill’s Companions to the Christian Tradition [Brill, 2008]

Franciscan Third Order Rule

Posted in Uncategorized on March 24, 2014 by citydesert

“Saint Francis of Assisi (Italian: San Francesco d’Assisi, born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, but nicknamed Francesco (“the Frenchman”) by his father, 1181/1182 – October 3, 1226) was an Italian Catholic friar and preacher. He founded the men’s Order of Friars Minor, the women’s Order of St. Clare, and the Third Order of Saint Francis for men and women not able to live the lives of itinerant preachers followed by the early members of the Order of Friars Minor or the monastic lives of the Poor Clares. Though he was never ordained to the Catholic priesthood, Francis is one of the most venerated religious figures in history.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_of_Assisi
francis
Saint Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy: an oil painting by Jusepe de Ribera (1642)

“The preaching of St. Francis, as well as his own living example and that of his first disciples, exercised such a powerful attraction on the people that many married men and women, even hermits, wanted to join the First or the Second Order. This being incompatible with their state of life, St. Francis found a middle way: he gave them a rule animated by the Franciscan spirit. In the composition of this rule St. Francis was assisted by his friend Cardinal Ugolino, later Gregory IX. As to the place where the Third Order was first introduced nothing certain is known. Of late however the preponderance of opinion is for Florence, chiefly on the authority of Mariano of Florence, or Faenza, for which the first papal Bull (Potthast, “Regesta Pontificum”, 6736) known on the subject is given, whilst the “Fioretti” (ch. xvi), though not regarded as a historical authority, assigns Cannara, a small town two hours’ walk from Porziuncola, as the birthplace of the Third Order. Mariano and the Bull for Faenza (16 December 1221) point to 1221 as the earliest date of the institution of the Third Order, and in fact, besides these and other sources, the oldest preserved rule bears this date at its head.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_Order_of_Saint_Francis
secular franciscan order
“The Secular Franciscans, or the Third Order, are laity, diocesan priests, hermits and even groups of religious who follow the Rule that St. Francis wrote primarily for lay people or for those not part of the First or Second Order. The Third Order Rule, sometimes referred to as the Order of Penitents, is capable of being adapted to just about any way of life. Many diocesan hermits chose it as their Rule to profess. There are scores of diocesan priests who have professed the Third Order Rule, like St. John Marie Vianney, Kings and Queens such as St. Louis of France and St. Elizabeth of Hungary (both patrons of the Third Order), nobleman and statesman like St. Thomas Moore. Most have been your average workman and housewives who lived this Rule in the quiet of their homes or in their work places.”
http://www.franciscanbrothersminor.com/FBM/Confraternity_of_Penitents.html
francis gives rule
Saint Francis giving the Rule to Blessed Luchesio and Buonadonna first members of the Third Order of Franciscans, now referred to as the Secular Franciscan Order.

The following are extracts from The Third Order Rule which can be found in full at http://www.gloriana.nu/tor.html

“1. The form of life of the Brothers and Sisters of the Third Order Regular of Saint Francis is this: to observe the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ by living in obedience, in poverty and in chastity. Following Jesus Christ after the example of St. Francis, let them recognise that they are called to make greater efforts in their observance of the precepts and counsels of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Let them deny themselves (c.f. Mt 16:24) as each has promised the Lord.

2. With all in the holy Catholic and apostolic Church who wish to serve the Lord, the brothers and sisters of this order are to persevere in true faith and penance. They wish to live this evangelical conversion of life in a spirit of prayer, of poverty, and of humility. Therefore, let them abstain from all evil and persevere to the end in doing good because God the Son Himself will come again in glory and will say to all who acknowledge, adore and serve Him in sincere repentance: “Come blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world” (Mt 25:34).

4. Those who through the Lord’s inspiration come to us desiring to accept this way of life are to be received kindly. At the appropriate time, they are to be presented to the ministers of the fraternity who hold responsibility to admit them.

5. The ministers shall ascertain that the aspirants truly adhere to the catholic faith and to the Church’s sacramental life. If they are found to have a vocation, they are to be initiated into the life of the fraternity. Let everything pertaining to this gospel way of life be explained to them, especially these words of the Lord: “If you wish to be perfect (Matthew 19:21) go and sell all your possessions and give to the poor. You will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” And, if anyone wishes to follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

6. Led by the Lord, let them begin a life of penance, conscious that all of us must be continuously and totally converted to the Lord. As a sign of their conversion and consecration to gospel life, they are to clothe themselves plainly and to live in simplicity.

7. When their initial formation is completed, they are to be received into obedience promising to observe this life and rule always. Let them put aside all attachment as well as every care and worry. Let them only be concerned to serve, love, adore, and honour the Lord God, as best they can, with single-heartedness and purity of intention.

8. Within themselves, let them always make a dwelling place and home for
the Lord God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so that, with undivided hearts, they may increase in universal love by continually turning to God and to neighbour (John 14:23).

9. Everywhere and in each place, and in every season and each day, the brothers and sisters are to have a true and humble faith. From the depths of their inner life let them love, honour, adore, serve, praise, bless and glorify our most high and eternal God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. With all that they are, let them adore Him “because we should pray always and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1); this is what the Father desires. In this same spirit let them also celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours in union with the whole Church.

The sisters and brothers whom the Lord has called to the life of contemplation (Mk 6:31), with a daily renewed joy, should manifest their special dedication to God and celebrate the Father’s love for the world. It was He who created and redeemed us, and by His mercy alone shall save us.

10. The brothers and sisters are to praise the Lord, the King of heaven and earth, (c.f. Mt 11:25) with all His creatures and to give Him thanks because, by His own holy will and through His only Son with the Holy Spirit, He has created all things spiritual and material and made us in His own image and likeness.

11. Since the sisters and brothers are to be totally conformed to the Gospel, they should reflect and keep in their hearts the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ who is the word of the Father, as well as the words of the Holy Spirit which “are spirit and life” (John 6:63).

12. Let them participate in the sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ and receive His Body and Blood with great humility and reverence remembering the words of the Lord: “He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life” (John 6:54). Moreover, they are to show the greatest possible reverence and honour for the most sacred name, written words and most holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ through whom all things in heaven and on earth have been brought to peace and reconciliation with Almighty God (John 6:63).

17. As poor people, the brothers and sisters to whom the Lord has given the grace of serving or working with their hands, should do so faithfully and conscientiously. Let them avoid that idleness which is the enemy of the soul. But they should not be so busy that the spirit of holy prayer and devotion, which all earthly goods should foster, is extinguished.

18. In exchange for their service or work, they may accept anything necessary for
their own temporal needs and for that of their sisters or brothers. Let them accept it humbly as is expected of those who are servants of God and seekers of most holy poverty. Whatever they may have over and above their needs, they are to give to the poor. And let them never want to be over others. Instead they should be servants and subjects to every human creature for the Lord’s
sake.

21. All the sisters and brothers zealously follow the poverty and humility of Our Lord Jesus Christ. “Though rich” beyond measure (2 Corinthians 8:9). He emptied Himself for our sake (Philippians 2:7) and with the holy virgin, His mother, Mary, He chose poverty in this world. Let them be mindful that they should have only those goods of this world which, as the apostle says, “having something to eat and something to wear, with these we are content (1 Tim 6:8). Let them particularly beware of money. And let them be happy to live among the outcast and despised, among the poor, the weak, the sick, the unwanted, the oppressed, and the destitute.

22. The truly poor in spirit, following the example of the Lord, live in this world as pilgrims and strangers (c.f. 1 P 2:1). They neither appropriate nor defend anything as their own. So excellent is this most high poverty that it makes us heirs and rulers of the kingdom of heaven. It makes us materially poor, but rich in virtue (c.f. John 2:5). Let this poverty alone be our portion because it leads to the land of the living (Ps 141:6). Clinging completely to it let us, for the sake of Our Lord Jesus Christ, never want anything else under heaven.

25. Following the example of Our Lord Jesus Christ Who made His own will one with the Father’s, the sisters and brothers are to remember that, for God, they should give up their own wills. Therefore, in every kind of chapter they have let them “seek first the kingdom of God and His justice,” (Mt 6:33) and exhort one another to observe with greater dedication the rule they have professed and to follow faithfully in the footprints of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Let them neither dominate nor seek power over one another, but let them willingly serve and obey “one another with that genuine love which comes from each one’s heart” (c.f. Galatians 5:13). This is the true and holy obedience of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

32. Let the sisters and brothers always be mindful that they should desire one thing alone, namely, the Spirit of God at work within them. Always obedient to the Church and firmly established in the Catholic faith, let them live according to the poverty, the humility and the holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ which they have solemnly promised to observe.”

see further Christopher Shorrock OFM Conv. “A Brief History of the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order at http://sfo.franciscans.org.au/sfo04/2sforule.htm

For The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order Approved and Confirmed By Pope Paul VI on 24 June, 1978 see http://www.francescanitor.org/resources/OFS/English/OFS_Rule.EN.pdf

For The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order was approved and confirmed by Pope Paul VI on June 24, 1978, and delivered over to the Order on October 4, 1978, by the four Ministers General of the Franciscan Family see http://www.ourladyofthepearl.com/documents.htm and http://www.franciscanfriarstor.com/archive/theorder/Holy%20Rule/index.htm
Handbook francis
“Handbook of the Confraternity of Penitents: Living the Original Third Order Rule of Saint Francis as a Lay Person in the Modern World” [CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2010]
“The Confraternity of Penitents is an international, private Catholic Association of the Faithful whose members are living, in their own homes, a modern adaptation of the rule for lay people, given by Saint Francis of Assisi to the Brothers and Sisters of Penance in 1221. Bishop Thomas Tobin, Bishop of the Diocese of Providence, stated, on 11 February 2009, “I wish to affirm my support of the Confraternity of Penitents (CFP), specifically its members’ commendable efforts to live according to the First Rule of the Third Order of Saint Francis of 1221, as outlined in the CFP’s own Constitutions.” All the information needed for anyone to learn about the Confraternity of Penitents and its way of life is found in the Handbook of the Confraternity of Penitents. The Handbook contains: A copy of Bishop Tobin’s letter The Rule of 1221 for the laity Modern Constitutions to the Rule of 1221 Directory of Governance Canon Law as it relates to the Confraternity Background information Question and Answer Section Inquiry Reflections Four years of Postulant and Novice Lessons Three lessons prior to pledging Lessons for On-Going Formation taken from writings of the saints Induction into formation ceremonies Pledging Ceremony Applications Reproducible Handouts and Brochures Articles on a life of penance (conversion) Confraternity Prayers and Psalms A Sample Day’s Prayer from the Divine Office”
franciscan companion
Marion Habig O.F.M (ed) “The Secular Franciscan Companion” [Franciscan Media; Revised edition , 1987]
A simple, beautiful compendium of prayers by and about Saint Francis and other Franciscan saints. It includes a short history of the Secular Franciscan Order, its Rule, and a long list of daily prayers including morning and evening prayers, devotions, litanies, and a calendar of Franciscan saints. This is truly a companion for Secular Franciscans and others devoted to Saint Francis.
franciscan ritual
Benet A. Fonck O.F.M. (Editor) “Ritual of the Secular Franciscan Order” [St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1986]
Secular Franciscans and their spiritual assistants will appreciate this little booklet—an English translation of the approved Latin text of the Ritual for the Secular Franciscan Order. The Preface provides background on the history and purpose of the Ritual and helpful guidelines for its use. Part 1 contains the rites for celebrating the various stages of admission to the Secular Franciscan Order. Part 2 contains prayers for use at the various meetings of Secular Franciscan fraternities. An Appendix includes appropriate Scripture readings, Franciscan readings and prayers of St. Francis.
For the Ritual of the Secular Franciscan Order approved by the Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship, 1985, see http://franciscan-sfo.org/ofcdocs/rt85enos.pdf
to live as francis
Leonard Foley O.F.M., Jovian Weigel O.F.M., and Patti Normile S.F.O. “To Live as Francis Lived: A Guide For Secular Franciscans (The Path of Franciscan Spirituality)” [St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2000]
Whether you are a professed Franciscan of many years or someone just beginning to seek a spiritual understanding of Francis and Clare of Assisi, To Live as Francis Lived will lead you to a closer life with Jesus Christ. Through a process of prayer, reflection, study texts, questions and connections to Scripture, you will be formed in the Franciscan way of life as Francis lived it in his own time

For more resources on the Secular Franciscan Order, see http://franciscanresources.com/

Aids to Prayer

Posted in Uncategorized on March 23, 2014 by citydesert

Prayer should be, and for those truly holy women and women is, a spontaneous communication (even communion) with God – even a continual and continuous process: “Pray without ceasing” [1 Thessalonians 5:17].. . For us less worthy human beings it is not always so spontaneous or so natural. Or even always easy.
monk_praying_among_rocks
Prayer, in the Desert Tradition, was not an abstract mental or verbal process. It involved the whole body, and made use of postures and gestures, words and signs, objects (like prayer-ropes and hand-crosses), “visual aids” (like Icons and lamps or candles) and even olfactory stimulation (like incense).
MIDEAST ISRAEL JEWISH SUN BLESSING
Some of the “aids to prayer” had their origins in Jewish tradition: see, for example, Uri Ehrlich “The Nonverbal Language of Prayer: A New Approach to Jewish Liturgy” [Mohr Siebeck, 2004]
nonverbal prayer
The whole person was at prayer, not only in communal or liturgical contexts, but in private prayer as well. None of these aids to prayer should ever be seen as more than that: “aids to prayer”. They are not forms of “magic” to make prayer more efficacious! They are symbolic and psychologically significant actions intended to assist the body, the heart and the mind in preparation for prayer. They assist in focussing attention, and refocussing away from the worldly to the heavenly. We must not become dependent on the “aids”; they must not become “crutches” or “talismans” without which we cannot pray effectively. They are “aids:”, no more, no less.

A series of postings will begin shortly looking at traditional “aids to prayer”, and considering:
hand washing
Washing [if only the hands]
Posture [Standing, Bowing, Kneeling, Prostration, Sitting]
sign of the cross
Hand positions [including the Sign of the Cross]
Facing East
Removing Shoes
Vestments [including head covering]
hand cross
Using a Hand Cross
???????????????????????????????
Using a Prayer rope
Wearing a Pectoral cross
Icon corner
Icons
menorah
Candles or Lamps
Incense
Agpeya 2
Using a Formula first [The Agbeya, The Jesus Prayer]
Vocal and Non-vocal Prayer
Breathing
Praying in a Special Space
Praying at a Special time

Numbers of recent psychological studies have shown that rituals can be powerful in changing and establishing both emotional, psychological and even physical states. This is not about “magic”! It is about inducing a psychological, emotional and physical state appropriate for the occasion (in this case, prayer).

“Recent research suggests that rituals may be more rational than they appear. Why? Because even simple rituals can be extremely effective. Rituals performed after experiencing losses – from loved ones to lotteries – do alleviate grief, and rituals performed before high-pressure tasks – like singing in public – do in fact reduce anxiety and increase people’s confidence. What’s more, rituals appear to benefit even people who claim not to believe that rituals work….. Despite the absence of a direct causal connection between the ritual and the desired outcome, performing rituals with the intention of producing a certain result appears to be sufficient for that result to come true….”
Francesca Gino and Michael I. Norton “Why Rituals Work”, “Scientific American”, May 14, 2013

“In recent years, a number of fine books have been published in the popular press which explore the relationship between prayer and the body, and which advocate, in different ways, the worthiness–sometimes even the primacy–of the body as a place of revelation about and communion with the Divine. For anyone who has struggled with an ambivalent relationship to the body (and who hasn’t?); for anyone who has pondered our ambiguous Christian heritage, which on the one hand proclaims the goodness of God’s creation and the resurrection of the body, but on the other hand has too often promoted a disembodied, even body-hating notion of holiness; for anyone who has wondered how to listen to one’s body in prayer and how to find God in and through our bodily selves; books such as Flora Slosson Wuellner’s “Prayer and Our Bodies”, Nancy Roth’s “The Breath of God and A New Christian Yoga”, Tilden Edwards’s newly reissued “Living in the Presence”, and Martin
Smith’s “The Word is Very Near You” (with its marvelous section on “The Body at Prayer”) are valuable resources, indeed.
embodied prayer
Celeste Snowber Schroeder’s “Embodied Prayer: Harmonizing Body and Soul” [Liguori, Missouri: Triumph Books (An Imprint of Liguori Publications), 1995] is a worthy contribution to this burgeoning literature, exploring in simple and straightforward language the ways in which we can enlarge the capacity of our bodies to become a sacred space for prayer. The book draws on the author’s experience as a liturgical dancer and educator who, according to the book’s end-notes, frequently leads workshops for various churches and conferences in the areas of embodied prayer, dance, and spirituality and the arts. A work of frank and impassioned advocacy, the book invites us to learn to listen to our bodies, rather than simply (as many of us were taught) either to ignore or to control and dominate them. A truly biblical spirituality, the author argues, is one which encompasses the body as well as the mind and the spirit, one which invites us to heal our estrangement from our bodies and to welcome them as friends, as places of encounter with God.”
Extracted from http://www.holyhunger.com/articles/Review%20-%20Embodied%20Prayer.pdf

Living on Hope While Living in Babylon

Posted in Uncategorized on March 22, 2014 by citydesert

“Living on Hope While Living in Babylon: The Christian Anarchists of the 20th Century” by Tripp York [Wipf and Stock, 2009]
York.LivingInBabylon.56858
“Fred “Tripp” York is a professor of religion and a prolific Mennonite writer (B.A., Trevecca Nazarene University; M.T.S., Duke University; Ph.D., Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary). His writings span a wide range of genres and subjects including: animals, martyrdom, politics, violence, religious satire and comics. His most popular work is his satirical search for Satan in “The Devil Wears Nada”. He is the co-creator and co-editor of The Peaceable Kingdom Series. York belongs to the Mennonite tradition that has a 500 year history of Christian pacifism. He has written extensively on the North American Christians’ complicity with power and suggests a return to a more diasporic understanding of Christian practice. He emphasizes the witness of Christian anarchists such as Dorothy Day, and Daniel and Philip Berrigan. He teaches at Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk, VA. He previously taught at Elon University and Western Kentucky University.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tripp_York

“Christian anarchy, the belief that in Jesus’ teachings may be found an inherent opposition to systematic secular rule and an inclination towards war and oppression, is a credence that dates back as far as Christianity itself. York focuses on the movement’s modern manifestations and their potential as models for contemporary Christian life. The author examines a few twentieth century Christians from varying religious traditions who lived such a witness, including the Berrigan brothers, Dorothy Day, and Eberhard Arnold. These witnesses can be viewed as anarchical in the sense that their loyalty to Christ undermines the pseudo-stereological myth employed by the state. While these Christians have been labeled pilgrims, revolutionaries, nomads, subversives, agitators, and now, anarchists, they are more importantly seekers of the peace of the city whose chief desire is for those belonging to the temporal cities to be able to participate in the eternal city, the city of God.”
living on hope 2
“The publication of Tripp York’s “Living on Hope While Living in Babylon” marks a significant contribution to the recently re-emerging interest in the connection between Christianity and anarchism and for that reason should be celebrated. Very little scholarship exists regarding these questions, and the less these concerns remain marginal to political theology the better….
Christian anarchists enjoy calling themselves by that name as a distinguishing marker: distinguishing themselves from “politics as usual” as well as from “mainstream” Christianities. But Christian anarchists need to begin to become accountable for their use of the term “anarchism,” not simply appropriating it with no intention of engaging actual anarchism and actual anarchists. I’d like to see Christian theological engagement with anarchism that takes a more “C/catholic” approach rather than the either/or approach that has dominated the discussion so far.
What we need is an anarchist political theology that has learned from anarchism because it has been in real dialogue with it and has even been challenged by it. Thankfully there are some emerging Christian theologians who are doing just that: I am thinking of Alexandre J. M. E. Christoyannopoulos who has published several articles on Christian anarchism and has edited an interreligious collection called “Religious Anarchism”, Lee Griffith (see his “Called to Christian Anarchy?” in “God and Country?: Diverse Perspectives on Christianity and Patriotism”, ed. Michael G. Long and Tracy Wenger Sadd [New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2007]) and Andy and Nekeisha Alexis-Baker’s impressive academic work and online Jesus Radicals project/community. The latter is especially rooted in a real personal identification with anarchism and a praxis of dialogue and openness to intellectual and praxial conversion. These scholars represent the kind of engagement with anarchism that is needed for the twenty-first century, an engagement that leaves the triumphalism of the past behind and seeks first the Kingdom wherever it is emerging, both inside the church and outside of it.
http://religionatthemargins.com/2010/11/living-on-hope-review/

see also
http://peacenews.info/node/5174/tripp-york-living-hope-while-living-babylon-christian-anarchists-20th-century
jesus_radicals_by_sangokyu-d3bzsrc
for Jesus Radicals, see http://www.jesusradicals.com/
christian anarchism
for M. E. Christoyannopoulos see https://sites.google.com/site/christoyannopoulos/

Hermits as Anarchists

Posted in Uncategorized on March 22, 2014 by citydesert

In recent years there has been an increasing interest in spiritual, and specifically Christian, anarchism.

Most writers considering Christian anarchism, after brief reflection on the Gospels and the earliest Christian community, go to figures like Adin Ballou (1803–1890), Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) and Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) some eighteen hundred years later. And yet the earliest Hermits were clearly anarchists. They sought to separate – usually physically – from the institutions of both Church and State. Thomas Merton in his introduction to a translation of the “Sayings of the Desert Fathers” describes the early Hermits as “Truly in a certain sense ‘anarchists,’ and it will do no harm to think of them as such.” [Thomas Merton “Wisdom of the Desert” Abbey of Gethsemane Inc. 1960. p.5]
desert fathers 2
The Hermits were, originally at least, radical individualists, with little, if any, interest in the bureaucratic rules and structures that came increasingly to characterise the Christian Church. They reflected, in practice if not in formal theology, the view later taken by Nikolai Berdyaev:
“There is absolute truth in anarchism and it is to be seen in its attitude to the sovereignty of the state and to every form of state absolutism. … The religious truth of anarchism consists in this, that power over man is bound up with sin and evil, that a state of perfection is a state where there is no power of man over man, that is to say, anarchy. The Kingdom of God is freedom and the absence of such power… the Kingdom of God is anarchy.” [Nikolai Berdyaev, “Slavery and Freedom” (1939), p. 147]

It was probably inevitable, given the nature of governments, religious and secular, that Hermits came to be increasing pressured out of their anarchistic state and into formal institutions, like monastic communities and orders, where individualism was the exception, if not defined as “sin”. With the resurgence of the (individual) eremitical life in modern times, churches have struggled to find appropriate responses. The incorporation of the eremitical life into current Roman Catholic Canon Law [Code of Canon Law 1983, Section on Consecrated Life, Canon 603] may be seen as long overdue recognition – or an attempt by the “State” to exercise power.
religious anarchism
“The original message of the great religious teachers to live a simple life, to share the wealth of the earth, to treat each other with love and respect, to tolerate others and to live in peace invariably gets lost as worldly institutions take over. Religious leaders, like their political counterparts, accrue power to themselves, draw up dogmas, and wage war on dissenters in their own ranks and the followers of other religions. They seek protection from temporal rulers, bestowing on them in return a supernatural legitimacy and magical aura. They weave webs of mystery and mystification around naked power; they join the sword with the cross and the crescent.”
Peter Marshall in Alexandre Christoyannopoulos, ed. “Religious Anarchism: New Perspectives” [Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011] p. xx. “Introduction”

“We Christian anarchists sometimes exude an unhealthy cynicism. As anarchists our cynicism is justified. But as Christians we are also creatures of hope. Living in the creative tension of those two equally legitimate dispositions shapes our political discipleship. Anarchism need not be seen as merely political. As practiced by Christians, anarchism can become an essential spiritual practice that not only directs our engagement with the world, but also powerfully forms and develops our own spiritual maturity. How is this so?

The practice of anarchism calls us to the critique of false absolutes. The first commandment is a fundamental Christian anarchist principle: no other gods. But of course other gods are always arising, always being promoted, always holding forth, always shanghaiing new slaves to injustice. We remain constantly aware that even our own Christian anarchist hearts are prone to the worship of false idols and the false worship of the one true God. Anarchism as spiritual practice keeps reminding us of our own potential for self-deception.

The practice of anarchism, more than any other political philosophy, forces us to take responsibility for our own actions. Moses declared “Choose you this day whom YOU will serve.” There is no getting around that necessity. The existential reality of choice is not reserved for a few twentieth-century French philosophers. “Repent” is a prerequisite for the “kingdom” that the Hebrew prophets, John the Baptist, Jesus, and the early church preached about. It is a recognition, an invitation, and a command to keep turning and moving into the right direction – moving into the freedom of God. Because self-deception is a constant trap repentance is a constant necessity. Indeed, repentance becomes the escape hatch to renewed freedom as we leave the seeming determinism of an ill-chosen present and move into the undetermined, still open, and therefore hope-filled future of God. Anarchism as spiritual practice keeps reminding us that there is always something we can do.

The practice of anarchism is a call into recognizable communities, where alliances and coalitions are formed around shared commitments, in-depth dialogue and conversation, and corporate decision-making that keeps our ambitions and projects small, real, and therefore more effective. Anarchism has no room for personal grandiosity or totalizing metanarratives. It is if anything a politics of finitude, but not therefore a politics without vision or even (dare we say it?) ambition. Because it is the most open-ended perspective on politics it is also the most open to hope. Anarchism as spiritual practice keeps reminding us that wherever two or three are gathered God is there as well. And wherever God is there is no telling what might happen!”
http://www.jesusradicals.com/anarchism-as-spiritual-practice/
CHRISTIAN_ANARCHIST.svg
For an introduction to Christian anarchism, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_anarchism :
“Christian anarchism is a movement in political theology and political philosophy which synthesizes Christianity and anarchism. It is grounded in the belief that there is only one source of authority to which Christians are ultimately answerable, the authority of God as embodied in the teachings of Jesus, and thus rejects the idea that human governments have ultimate authority over human societies. Christian anarchists denounce the state as they claim it is violent, deceitful and, when glorified, idolatrous.”
tolstoy 4
Probably the best known Orthodox Christian anarchist was Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (Russian: Лев Никола́евич Толсто́й) (1828-1910), also known as Leo Tolstoy. See “Tolstoy the peculiar Christian anarchist” at http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_Archives/bright/tolstoy/chrisanar.htm
berdyaev
Another eminent Orthodox Christian anarchist was Nikolai Alexandrovich Berdyaev (Russian: Никола́й Алекса́ндрович Бердя́ев) (1874 –1948). a Russian religious and political philosopher: see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikolai_Berdyaev Berdyaev’s philosophy has been characterized as Christian existentialist. He was preoccupied with creativity and in particular with freedom from anything that inhibited creativity, whence his opposition to a “collectivized and mechanized society”.
See further http://www.berdyaev.com/
solitude and society
Nicolas Berdyaev (Author), George Reavey (Translator), Boris Jakim (Foreword) “Solitude and Society” [Semantron Press; Enlarged edition , 2009]
“In this work, Berdyaev tells us that man’s “I,” his consciousness, is thrust up against a world of impersonal objects (the “objectified” world) and thus finds itself in a condition of alienation and isolation. In five ontological and epistemological meditations Berdyaev clarifies this condition of “objectification” and suggests ways it can be overcome, based on his “personalistic,” “existential” philosophy. He shows how this philosophy can serve to counteract objectification and human isolation. Emphasis throughout is placed on modes of human communion and solitude in society. The Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev (1874-1948) was one of the greatest religious thinkers of the twentieth century. His philosophy goes beyond mere thinking, mere rational conceptualization, and tries to attain authentic life itself: the profound layers of existence that are in contact with God’s world. Berdyaev directed all of his efforts, philosophical as well as in his personal and public life, at replacing the kingdom of this world with the kingdom of God. According to him, we can all attempt to do this by tapping the divine creative powers which constitute our true nature. Our mission is to be collaborators with God in His continuing creation of the world. This is what Berdyaev said about himself: “Man, personality, freedom, creativeness, the eschatological-messianic resolution of the dualism of two worlds – these are my basic themes.””

Desert Spirituality in an Urban Context

Posted in Uncategorized on March 22, 2014 by citydesert

“One of the earliest, and clearest, examples of the attempt to apply the spiritual tropes of desert spirituality to the urban context is in an anonymous hagiographical source, written around the sixth and seventh centuries, titled Life of St. Alexis the Man of God. The origins of the legend are somewhat shrouded in mystery, but it seems it had its origins in Syria, at the height of desert monasticism’s greatest growth in the fifth and sixth centuries, making its way into the west around the tenth century.
alexis1
The legend has all the stock elements of a traditional hagiography steeped in imitatio Christi: a childless couple of noble lineage (paralleling Christ’s royal lineage) who pray for a child, and their prayers are answered. The child’s father, Euphemian, wants him to inherit his power and wealth, and grooms him for such a moment when he will pass on all his worldly power and goods. He chooses a wife for the young man, but Alexis is more concerned with chastity and prayer than he is with power, wealth and marriage, so he, on the day of his marriage, talks his wife into adopting a life of chastity, after which he takes his leave of his father’s house and sails for Laodicea, and then Edessa, “because of an image he had heard talk of, made by angels at God’s command on behalf of the Virgin who brought salvation.”

It is here that the story takes on an unusual turn, because rather than join a monastery, he goes throughout the streets of Edessa, distributing his wealth to the poor, and once he has divested himself of all his possessions, simply “sits down with the poor.” He spends his time with the poor, collecting enough alms to sustain himself, and gives all else to the poor. Leading his life in such a way, he avoids monastic engagement, and at the same time, he lives out his spiritual commitment to poverty in the city of Edessa, also choosing not to live as a hermit.

Withdrawal, for Alexis, means adopting a life of poverty, a way of life that rejects the privilege, power and wealth of his upbringing. As Euphemian’s servants sail to Edessa to look for Alexis, they find him, but do not recognize him. The story drives home the new reality, where Alexis is no longer identified as a powerful heir to a powerful dynastic family, but as a simple beggar. What Euphemian’s servants find is a man who is now dependent on them. He, who was once “their lord, now is their almsman.” This, we are told, brings him great joy, since his exchange was thorough and complete: wealth and power for complete poverty.
alexis life
How did Alexis live out his poverty? The anonymous poet tells us that he lived seventeen years in Edessa, living in the steps of a church that contained a miracle-working image of the Virgin Mary, “serving his Master with ready will,” with his enemy (i.e. the devil) unable to deceive him..” Like Anthony in the desert, and for that matter, like Christ in the wilderness, Alexis has his own unspecified conflicts and fights with the devil where he comes out victorious. He “punishes his body in the service of the Lord God,” rejects “the love of man or woman,” and turns down “honors that might have been conferred on him.” His commitment to his chosen life of poverty is unwavering, not wanting to “turn aside from it, as long as he has to live.” He is content to live in the city, laboring in prayer and, presumably, ascetic discipline. The chief temptation is to return to his former life of wealth and privilege, and the sight of powerful, wealthy men he sees every day might contribute to that temptation. Nothing, however, can move him from his choice of life, nor from the city of Edessa, which has become his own arena of spiritual struggle…that is, until a rather strange series of events compel him to return to Rome.
AlexisManOfGod
Alexis, purposed never to leave Edessa, is prompted to leave when the image of Christ at the altar instructs the priest to bring him into the church. After bringing him into the church, word got out that the “image spoke for Alexis.” Everyone began to flock to the church to honor him as a living saint. This caused a great deal of distress for Alexis, not wanting “to be burdened again by this honor.” Wishing to stay in the anonymity that he enjoyed, he wanted to maintain this state of affairs which brought much by way of opportunities to engage in ascetic self-denial and identification with the poor of the city. This would all change, as people would want to honor him and venerate him above his fellow poor. At this point, he knows exactly what he needs to do: leave Edessa, head straight for Laodicea, from there to Tarsus, and then to Rome.

Why does Alexis choose to return to the city where he had wealth and honor in his father’s house? The anonymous author answers this by relating that since seventeen years had passed since Alexis had left Rome, he was unrecognizable to his father and kinsmen. This anonymity-lived out in his father’s household-would suit him very well, since, surrounded by his father’s wealth and power, he would have the opportunity to fight the temptation to reveal himself to his father. He requests of his father (who does not recognize him) to give him lodging under the stairs, and this request is granted to him, “for the love of God and for (his) dear son.” So he spends the next seventeen years under his father’s stairs, “in great poverty (living) his noble life…loving God more than all his lineage.” Whatever food came from the house, he would eat enough to sustain his body, and the rest he would give to the poor. He dwells in the church, and does not want to depart from it, taking communion on every feast day. His greatest desire is “to work hard in God’s service; in no way does he want to be distanced from it.”
Alexis-Man-of-God
His greatest feat, however, is his dwelling under his father’s stairs, “delighting in poverty,” and enduring humiliations from the household staff, who throw their slops on his head in order to spite him, everyone considering him to be a fool. Among the many humiliations heaped upon him are water being thrown on him, so that his bedding gets soaked. His response is quite typical of him: “This most holy man does not become angry at all, instead he prays to God, in his mercy, to forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

So far, Alexis exhibits all the traits that mark a traditional desert ascetic: he eats very little food, engages in a kind of ascetic warfare against the passions, endures privations and humiliations, to the point of near martyrdom, and most importantly, exhibits that trait that is common to all martyrs and ascetics-the imitation of Christ’s sufferings. The anonymous author makes this point very clear when he puts Christ’s words on the cross on the lips of Alexis, thus identifying him as an alter Christus. In the end, Alexis has also succeeded in becoming an urban Anthony.

The story of Alexis exemplifies the impulse to live out a life of ascetic poverty in the cities as well, inspiring many imitators who would take up the fight against the passions of greed, avarice and lust in the major urban centers of the eastern empire. One way to do this would be to establish monastic communities within an urban environment, or at least in close proximity to an urban center, thus following closely the Pachomian and Antonian models. This would be the manner in which Basil of Caesarea’s monastic establishment would function, with a standard rule regulating the way his monks would interact with the “world” (i.e. the city) as part and parcel of their ascetic discipline……

The beginning of monastic endeavor in Egypt and Syria in the fourth through the sixth centuries is very instructive because it arose in the presence of a highly urban and commercial culture, giving men and women opportunities to practice spiritual struggle and to practice ascetic withdrawal. How that withdrawal was to take place varied. For Anthony and Pachomius that struggle was to take the shape of eremitic and coenobitic paths of spiritual engagement, which can take place either in remote deserts or in urban areas. For Sts. Alexis and John the Almsgiver, it was to take the shape of an intentional urban asceticism. St. Basil makes room for both kinds of spiritual endeavor, and would be influential in passing these spiritual impulses to the Latin west. For scholars like Heffernan, these works of ascetic hagiography would ride on the heels of the martyrs movements, and bequeath an idiom of sanctity that emphasizes the saint as ascetic hero from which future hagiographers would draw as they craft their arguments for the sanctity of their subjects. All saints must conform to these models of ascetic sanctity. All saints are, to one degree or another, ascetics, and the urbanization of asceticism will cement this reality for every hagiographer making the case for his particular saint.”
http://gregoriusmagnus.blogspot.com.au/2010/09/to-desert-and-back-again-from-st_24.html

See also “The “Desert” and the Latin West: Sulpicius Severus’ Life of St. Martin and St. Gregory the Great’s Dialogues”: http://gregoriusmagnus.blogspot.com.au/2010/09/desert-and-latin-west-sulpicius-severus.html and “To the Desert and Back Again: From St. Anthony’s Desert Flight to St. Basil’s Urban Monasticism, Part I”: http://gregoriusmagnus.blogspot.com.au/2010/09/to-desert-and-back-again-from-st.html
Alexis-The-Man-of-God
For “The Life of St. Alexis, an Old French Poem of the Eleventh Century” see http://www.courseportfolio.org/peer/potfolioFiles/anonF/shopkow-l-2003-1/alexis.htm and http://www.webpages.ttu.edu/joseppri/oldfrench/alexis-english.html

For Venerable Alexis the Man of God see:
http://oca.org/saints/lives/2014/03/17/100822-venerable-alexis-the-man-of-god
http://www.holy-transfiguration.org/library_en/saints_alexis.html
http://orthodoxwiki.org/Alexios_the_Man_of_God
http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/saints/alexis_manofgod.htm
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01307b.htm