Today we begin the second half of Lent. As I rededicate myself to Lenten discipline, and by extension, the discipline of Christian living, I am reminded of how herky-jerky the spiritual path can be. It often seems like a two steps forward/one step back affair. We commit, we fail, and we recommit. We find ourselves returning again and again to some of the same sin. We can become discouraged by our own spiritual intransigence. We are tempted to give up or give in.
It is good to remember that this is - and has always been - standard fair for those seeking to live into holiness. It is also good to remember that our call to live lives of disciplined faithfulness comes within the context of the amazing grace we know in Jesus Christ. That discipline in the context of grace is demonstrated in this story from the early church:
Dorotheos of Gaza was a monk in the sixth century who, among other things, oversaw the infirmary at his monastery. Dorotheos had an assistant whose name was Dosithy. Dosithy was an earnest monk who desired to please Dorotheos and God. But Dossithy sometimes became impatient with his patients and would get angry and abuse them verbally. One time in particular he had done that and after he had gotten over his anger and was convicted of his sin, he began to weep and despair. Some of the other monks went to Dorotheos and told Dorotheos. Dorotheos called Dosithy to him and he asked him what was wrong. Dosithy said, “Father, I have sinned. I have abused my brother.” Dorotheos said, “So, Dosithy, you took it upon yourself to judge your brother? You got angry at your brother and abused him? Did you forget that he is Christ? And, when you cause him to suffer you cause Christ to suffer?” Dosithy, continuing to cry, said, “Yes.” Dorotheos said, “There, there Dosithy. You are forgiven. Get up. Let us begin again from now and let us be more attentive and God will help us.” Dosithy wiped his eyes and went back.
Some time later, Dosithy in tears comes again to Dorotheos and, again, Dorotheos says, “Up now, Dosithy. Get up. Start again. You are forgiven.” And again and again Dosithy fell and Dorotheos said, “Get up. You are forgiven.”
Dorotheos of Gaza: Discourses and Sayings
When asked what about life in the monastery, a monk answered, “We fall down and we get up, we fall down and we get up.”
Bernard of Clairvaux said once, “The difference between the damned and the saved is that everyone, except the damned, gets up and stumbles on.”
Up now! Let us begin from now and let us be more attentive and God will help us.