Monday, September 10, 2007

Martyrdom of the Alarm Clock

We sometimes think of martyrdom in a strict sense--"worship the beast or die!"--that kind of situation. But martyrdom is broader than that, encompassing all witness to Christ and suffering with him, and the so-called martyrdom of the desert, the martyrdom of asceticism. The latter 16th Century Lutherans criticized as a false kind of martyrdom in the western monastic movement. While the Lutheran Reformers had good things to say about specific ascetics, like St. Anthony the Great [citation needed], the Lutheran Confessions look askance at asceticism in general. Of course there were grave problems in western monasticism at the time, with all kinds of propaganda about vows being a second baptism and so forth.

Yet in a sense Lutherans use a different version of the martyrdom language when we speak of "putting to death the Old Adam," or "daily drowing in baptismal repentance" and the like. What else is this than asceticism? Of course, for some reason the Lutherans left it vague and amorphous, much like Luther's direction that fasting before the Eucharist is good, but nowhere do those early Lutherans discuss how to do it (I realize that for them they knew how to do it, and if it wasn't detailed the assumption would be to continue practicing as they had received from their former tradition, but that certainly doesn't help their children or grandchildren learn).

Here's some specifics: from another blog, I read the following advice about waking up:

Getting out of bed quickly is often very unpleasant for our flesh, because our flesh, like a lazy servant, always likes to lie and sleep or to luxuriate and remain idle. Every single morning act against the base desires of your flesh. Let this opposition to the flesh be your first sacrifice to the Lord God.
I loved this advice. Even at the moment of waking up we are engaged in battle with ourselves, denying ourselves, and when understood spiritually, getting out of bed takes on significance as yet another opportunity to join with St. Paul, "No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize" (1 Corinthians 9:27). Rising early, forcing oneself out of bed when done out of discipline gets the day off to a good start, with the first action forcing the body to submission to your sanctified will, making it "your slave," not to do its bidding, the things opposed to the Spirit, but to be submissive to you and the Spirit you have received from God.


  1. Doorman-Priest said...

    I am currently suffering from 3am wakefulness. I like the idea of making this my first sacrifice of the day. Is God telling me I am not making enough time to talk to him? When I don't use this time to pray I remain tired all day, but when I do pray, the pay-back is physical, emotional and spiritual refreshment.


  2. Christopher D. Hall said...

    That's never hit me too much...except when worry strikes.

    And in the interest of full disclosure: the reason I appreciated the advice on waking so much is that it is usually a difficult, painful thing for me. I've never really every awakened feeling refreshed and ready to get out of bed.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!