By Metropolitan Panteleimon of Koroneia
Saint Anthony the Great is one of the greatest ascetics to come out of our Church. He is called the "professor of the desert". This is because he teaches the centuries old value of asceticism.
But what is the point of asceticism for people today? First, it is necessary in relation to ourselves. Through it we keep our desires, inclinations and instincts in check. Our "governing" mind, logic or reason, must be "the charioteer" that guides the "horses" of our inclinations and instincts. Otherwise the "chariot" will be disturbed and the horses, or instincts, will lead the charioteer, the rational man, into danger.
Asceticism is needed in our relationships with people. No human relationship, friendship, couple or cooperation can stand without asceticism. Asceticism means to tolerate "with love" whatever bothers us about others. We all have characteristics or defects that annoy others. Without asceticism these annoyances will lead to the dissolution of every human relationship.
Asceticism, therefore, is necessary to alleviate our faults, to struggle for the Grace of God. And we need asceticism to see with tolerance and indulgence the defects and weaknesses of others. And in our relationship with God we also need asceticism.
We are living in a time when we are bombarded daily with images, impressions and thoughts that want to remove us from God. Asceticism means finding time for prayer, for studying the word of God, and attending church. It is to keep alive and conscious our incorporation in the Body of Christ, the Church. Without asceticism we become relaxed in these things and our relationship with God weakens. And suddenly we are in limbo without internal support, needy and fearful in a world that frightens and frustrates us.
To have a proper, strong and healthy relationship with ourselves, others and God without asceticism is impossible and doomed to failure.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.