Wednesday Word: Structured for Holiness
I found an old article from The Living Church dated April 17, 2016 written by Zachary Guiliano detailing the spirituality of holy living while living in the midst of a PhD desert. In the article he describes what it was like to be sequestered away while he traveled, researched, and wrote his dissertation, and how that experience shaped his spiritual life.
In discussing Anglicanism, he quoted a saying he often heard: 90 percent of Anglicanism is just showing up (this mirrors Woody Allen who said, “80 percent of success is showing up,” and Yogi Berra who said, “90 percent of baseball is mental, the other half is physical”). What the author was getting at in that quote is that coming to church on a regular basis, participating in the liturgy, and praying at specific times – regardless of your state of mind, whether or not you are distracted, angry, depressed, happy, or joyful – has a way of shaping you and molding you into a state of holiness. The tenacity to worship on a regular basis, the patience to wait upon the Lord, the endurance to run the race to the end, all work to shape holy virtues.
To do this, though, requires a willingness to structure our lives around worship and faith. Faith and worship aren't (or shouldn't be) just something we get up and do if we feel like it or if we have time. The things in our lives that are important will find ways to make it into our calendar. But sometimes the things we feel are important get pushed to the side because “they'll always be there,” like family, relationships, worship.
When the author found himself floundering and being easily distracted from what was important (his dissertation), he discovered advice given to St. Antony of the Desert encouraging him to find a pattern, and within that pattern he would discover holiness.
And so, he says, he structured his days. From the time he woke up to morning coffee and prayers to working on the dissertation to lunch to household chores to more work to evening prayers and, finally, to bed, he structured his life. It was within that structure that he found productivity. It was within that structure that he also discovered holiness.
As we continue our life in quarantine, or sheltering-in-place, or limited activity, or whatever you want to call it, I'm hopeful that, by now, you have found a structure to your days. That structure may be what keeps you productive. That structure may be what keeps you sane. That structure may just lead you to a state of holiness.
The advice given to St. Antony of the Desert is certainly applicable now: “Work, pray, rest, repeat. This is the way to quell temptation. Do this, and you will be saved.”