Thursday, September 2, 2010

Flagellation does not produce godliness

Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules:
"Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"?
These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings.
Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
Colossians 2:20-23 (NIV)

Some of the old mystics were really mistakes. They tried to be more saintly by hiding in caves. Living in a hole never made anybody holier. Vance Havner, Pepper 'n' Salt (1966), p. 24

Self-imposed worship and harsh treatment of the body didn’t produce godliness in the 1st Century, didn’t produce godliness in the flagellants of the Middle Ages, and won’t produce godliness in the 21st Century. As reported by Rebecca Hardy in the Daily Mail:

Sarah Cassidy is the sort of no-nonsense, capable woman you might expect to find as headmistress of a primary school. But Sarah doesn’t do children, and she doesn’t do husbands either.

No. Sarah is 43, single and celibate — and determined to remain so. Each night she fastens a wire chain, known as a cilice, around her upper thigh.

The device has sharp prongs that dig into the skin and flesh, though generally it does not draw blood. To most women, it sounds a peculiarly ­masochistic practice.

Yet Sarah says it serves a very different purpose: suppressing her desires and atoning for her sins.

Quite what those sins might be it is hard to imagine. For Sarah is not just good, but very, very good. She doesn’t drink, abhors drugs and has never had sex.

More than that, she is a senior female figure in Opus Dei, one of the most controversial forces in the Roman Catholic church. Portrayed as shadowy and sinister in Dan Brown’s international bestseller The Da Vinci Code, the group has been accused of obsessive secretiveness, elitism, misogyny and criticised for its methods of recruitment.

But it is the ‘mortification of the flesh’ — a ritualistic form of self-harming practised by many Opus Dei members — that has attracted most widespread condemnation...

...Mortification is part of their daily routine, including use of the cilice and periods of fasting.

So every evening, just before she does the washing up, Eileen, 51, straps her strand of barbed wire round her leg and leaves it there for two whole hours, scratching at her skin and digging into the flesh.

It sounds agony, but she insists it’s ‘less painful than a bikini wax’. And besides, pain is the whole point.

‘It’s an easy way of knowing you’re doing penance,’ says Eileen, who lives in an Opus Dei centre in Ealing, West London. ‘I wear mine above my thigh. If you go swimming, you don’t want to leave a mark from where it has been.

‘To be honest, it’s the fasting I find most difficult.’...

...‘Of course, it’s a huge sacrifice from day one to make the decision. But you’re doing it for the Kingdom of Heaven, which promises to reward you a hundredfold.’...

...I cannot get over the small matter of the cilice — surely it’s a seismic leap from eschewing promiscuity to self-harming in this way?
Sarah was 20 when she started wearing it. ‘The first time you do anything that’s not particularly pleasant, you don’t like it. But over time it’s just something that’s there. The result of doing it is that you should be a much nicer person afterwards.’

Eileen adds: ‘We live in such a materialistic, hedonistic society that people can’t understand you’d actually make yourself a little uncomfortable to help you be more mindful of God.’...

...I can’t help feeling that most women would consider it a strange God who requires them to do the washing up wearing a chain of barbed wire.

Let’s pray that these ladies will discover the true freedom that comes only from trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ’s work on the cross for salvation and sanctification.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9

But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: I Corinthians 1:30

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