As mainstream Christianity declines in numbers and vitality, there has been a quiet global resurgence of the practices of the early church and the desert fathers and mothers. These practices aim to take the individual beyond matters of ‘assent to doctrine’ or ‘good behaviour’ into the world of actual personal transformation. What does it mean if Christianity goes beyond what you ‘believe in’ or the things you ‘don’t do’ into a life of ‘walking the walk’? The ancient Christians had a clear idea of what such a life looked like. Irenaeus said it was ‘a human being fully alive.’ Athanasius said “God became as we are so that we might become as God is.” This process of ‘becoming like God is’ is the ‘divinisation’ of the human being, or what the early Christians called theosis. Theosis is like the ‘nirvana’ or ‘enlightenment’ of the East, in its recognition of a total change of the person. This change begins to occur through commitment to Christianity as practice.
And ‘practice’ means that one is embarking on a process. There are no claims of ‘arrival.’ Just the steady, patient engagement in allowing the Word progressively to ‘become flesh’ in us.
It is easy to assume from this that the early Christians meant a religion of ‘works’ not ‘faith.’ Nothing could be further from the truth. A Christianity of practice means simply that one moves towards letting Christianity affect one’s actual life, not just one’s opinions.
There are a number of transformational practices we are attempting to explore here.
No one is required to do them all. Pick one that seems like a good fit for you and try it out for a while. See where it leads you and what you learn as you go.
They are listed in no particular order, although the first three are probably the easiest options to try for starters. For those which are in bold type, you can click on a title to reach a page introducing the practice.
- Centering Prayer
- Christian Meditation
- Lectio Divina
- Chanting the Psalms
- Praying with Icons
- The Canonical Hours
- Gregorian Chant
- The Enneagram
- Presence, Mindfulness or Mindful Labour
- Welcoming Prayer
- Divided Attention
- Sacred Movement
- Active Imagination