Athletes of the Spirit
Physical exercise has value as far as this life goes, but spiritual exercise has value for both this life and the next. 1 Timothy 4:8
Probably a majority of us enjoy taking part in or watching sport. There is:
the enjoyment of a strong or supple body
the thrill of pitting oneself against the odds
the pulsing juices
the sweat, the brawn, the skill, the brain.
Cuthbert, who was agile and acrobatic as a youth, went on to become, in Bede’s words ‘our athlete of God’. The Fathers and Mothers of the deserts, as well as the Celtic saints, were known by this title of ‘athletes of the Spirit’. Why?
Built in to their lives was disciplined training and daily exercise of body, mind and spirit. That was part of the monastic ideal. They looked for a prize – an eternal prize. Their chosen way of life involved pitting themselves against opponents, though their opponents were spiritual forces within and without. It was a race, a race against encroaching apathy, unbelief, or arrogance; and it took all that they had.
Wondrous the warriors who lived in Iona
Thrice fifty in monastic rule
With their boats along the main sea
Three score men a -rowing.
From The Book of Lismore
Bless to me my body
Bless to me my brain
Bless to me my training
Bless to me my game