The journey to become a warrior for the Faith begins with the man or woman conquering the interior passions. Just as the last entry in this series discussed working towards physical health and physical fitness, one of the most important steps on the walk of Faith and becoming a Legionnaire is embracing the importance of prayer and fasting in our everyday lives. Living life without frequent prayer and fasting is like going into battle without your sword or your armor. Both prayer and fasting are the fundamentals of the Christian life and give us the strength, courage and dedication to face all Satanic opposition both corporeal and incorporeal.
When the Apostles found themselves unable to cast a demon out of a possessed man they came to Christ who was able to free the man from the Satanic affliction he was suffering from. The Apostles questioned Christ as to why they were unable to do the exorcism and Christ told them in Matthew 17:21 that “this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
The role of the physical body in regards to the supernatural and incorporeal element of our lives and our struggle cannot be underestimated. When you train the body through self discipline and develop a strong prayer life and one where you are free from gluttony, drunkenness and the other afflictions of the flesh, you are strengthened spiritually and physically to be able to be a warrior for Christ and for His Church.
St. Gregory Palamas said that “The outward man perishes through fasting and self-control, but the more he does so, the more the inward man is renewed.” The outward man is the face that we all present to the world. We all try to one degree or another to fit in to the world around us and find a way to synthesize our beliefs and values with living in what can only be called a Satanic and depraved society.
The continual indulgence in food, drink, pornography and pleasure is pushed on all of us from a young age as the ultimate expression of what it means to be alive. The devotion to Faith, folk and family is not easy nor does it always make you happy, but service to others and living a righteous life gives you something greater than happiness, bliss.
It is tragic that even in the modern Church, the message of Modernity of chasing the high of happiness infects so many of the faithful. How many marriages have ended in divorce because one of the spouses just “wasn’t happy.” Living the Legionnaire life is not easy and it isn’t always fun, but it is the surest way to have a blissful and fulfilling life because when a man or woman is connected to God on an intimate level and living a holy life, that is a bliss that no worldly high can take away.
Honor, duty and self-restraint are thought to be antiquated virtues of ages gone by and instead we are supposed to replace the values of the Church and our ancestors with unrestrained hedonism. To truly rebel against the modern world and reject liberalism, you must counter the anti-Christ vices of the world and replace them with the holy and righteous calling to self-restraint.
The world tells us to live for ourselves, the calling of the Church and of Avalon is to live for your Faith, family and folk. There can be no compromise with the fallen world, because the world only wishes to bring death to those who do not reject it.
Beginning a life of prayer is following the command given to us by Saint Paul when he said to “Pray without ceasing.” The classic Orthodox book The Way of the Pilgrim notes that there are three levels of prayer. The final and ultimate stage of prayer is continuous and truly of the heart, but first just as children must crawl before they can walk, believers must begin praying in modest amounts to build this life of prayer.
Every Legionnaire is called to do both morning, midday and evening prayers as he or she is able. To begin and end every day with prayer reorients the Legionnaire to focus his or her life on the importance of living a Christian life in humility, love and utter dedication to our God and to our Cause.
Praying has the ability to strengthen individuals but also families. Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica said “It is of great significance if there is a person who truly prays in a family. Prayer attracts God’s Grace and all the members of the family feel it, even those whose hearts have grown cold. Pray always.” To pray is to open up yourself and your home to the working power of the Holy Spirit and to better align your household and family into a devoted Christian life.
The home is often referred to in Orthodoxy as being a “little Church” and we should treat it as such. Spouses who pray together stay together, as shown in a recent poll from Gallup that “among married couples who attend church together regularly, the divorce rate is one out of two. That is the same statistic for marriages outside the church. However, among married couples who pray together daily, the divorce rate drops to one out of 1,153.” A spiritually healthy home leads to a healthier marriage and a more positive environment to raise children in.
Strong families with both a mother and a father are the building blocks of a healthy civilization and nation, so to be dedicated to both Faith and folk it is in all of our best interests to set aside time to pray and worship together with our significant other and our children. Without a healthy life of prayer inside the home it is as if the father and mother are leaving the door of their home open to the influences of the devil. Prayer is a powerful weapon to keep the Satanic wolves outside of our homes and to help us all to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
Everything given to us in our lives is a gift from God, and the Legionnaire understands that we should give thanks for every blessing bestowed upon us. Saint Basil the Great told his flock that “When you sit down to eat, pray. When you eat bread, do so thanking Him for being so generous to you. If you drink wine, be mindful of Him who has given it to you for your pleasure and as a relief in sickness. When you dress, thank Him for His kindness in providing you with clothes. When you look at the sky and the beauty of the stars, throw yourself at God’s feet and adore Him who in His wisdom has arranged things in this way. Similarly, when the sun goes down and when it rises, when you are asleep or awake, give thanks to God, who created and arranged all things for your benefit, to have you know, love and praise their Creator.” Prayer is instrumental in helping us appreciate everything that God gives us and working to make us free from the siren song of materialism and greed.
In the Orthodox Church fasting is a common part of the Church calender. On most Wednesdays and Fridays, believers give up eating animal products and drinking alcohol in remembrance of the day that Christ was betrayed and the day of His crucifixion. To not fast is not a sin in the Traditional sense because the Church Fathers make it clear that fasting is in the best interests of the believer. Prayer and fasting work hand-in-hand to slowly build up the believer’s temperance and to not value the pleasures of the flesh above our faithfulness to God.
Saint Theophan the Recluse wrote that “Although there are a slew of demons and all the air is packed with them, they cannot do anything to one who is protected by prayer and fasting. Fasting is universal temperance, prayer is universal communication with God; the former defends from the outside, whereas the latter from within directs a fiery weapon against the enemies. The demons can sense a faster and man of prayer from a distance, and they run far away from him so as avoid a painful blow.”
Christ Himself, the perfect model for all Christian believers, engaged in frequent fasting in order to be able to commune with the Father and to purge His human flesh of temptation. Legionnaires are called to be warriors of the Cross in everything that we do. So many political movements to fight for folk have fallen due to ignoring the crucial importance of the spiritual element of our struggle. This battle is not simply one of the flesh in which might and military means is the solution. If we do not rehabilitate every man and woman on a spiritual level to reject the materialism and secularism of the modern age then how can we ever truly rebel against Modernity? The struggle for our civilization begins inside the heart and soul of every Legionnaire.
Corneliu Codreanu said that “Prayer is the decisive element of victory. Wars are won by those who have managed to attract from elsewhere, from the skies, the mysterious forces of the invisible world and to secure their support. These mysterious forces are the souls of the dead, the souls of our ancestors, who once were, like us, linked to our clods, to our furrows, who died for the defense of this land and are still linked today to it by the memory of their lives and by us, their sons, their grandsons, their great grandsons. But, above the souls of the dead, there is God. Once these forces are attracted, they are of considerable power, they defend us, they give us courage, will, all the elements necessary to victory and which make us win.” We must call upon the intercession of the Saints, the blessed Theotokos and the Holy Trinity to help us overcome our own sinful shortcomings and be able to be the soldiers that we need to be to win this victory over our foes.
Frequent prayer, fasting and attending the Divine Liturgy and other religious services should be the foremost actions of a Legionnaire. We must build a new type of man and woman who is totally opposed to the secular world in all things. We must put service to others ahead of self, prayer above our passing fancies, humility ahead of pride and Christ above all.
In order to work towards embracing the Legionnaire lifestyle I call upon all Legionnaires to participate in fasting and prayer as much as one is able, especially during this holy season of Lent. Work with your spiritual Father to find the best way to steadily increase your fasting and prayer and begin waging the inner crusade to be the strongest both spiritually and physically that you can be.
All Legionnaires should build a prayer corner in their home with icons in order to better meditate and engage in our morning and evening prayers. The burning of blessed incense also can be a useful way to offer up a sacrifice to God and focus on the prayers at hand. While working, traveling or engaging in normal pursuits in the world, the use of a prayer rope and frequent use of the Jesus Prayer is a good step to begin growing in a frequent life of prayer as told to us by Saints and Church Fathers throughout the ages. All of these elements come together to strengthen our Faith and our resolve to truly walk the Christian walk as Christ told us to. The heroic and venerable Saints that came before us who fought for the Church and their nation did so with a prayer in their hearts and on their lips, an example we all should follow.
Let us not grow lazy in our Faith because, as Saint Nikon of Optina said “Do not forget prayer─it is the life of the soul” and with that, brothers and sisters, let us all engage in frequent prayer and fasting, it is our shared duty and calling. May God keep all of you as you grow in your spiritual journey and may we pray for one another to have the dedication and strength to die to ourselves and engage in this ascetic life no matter what our calling or situation. Whether you are a soldier in the trenches, a housewife with children, a college student, or anything in between we are all called to this life of prayer and fasting.
May you my brothers and sisters also remember me in your prayers, for I am chief among sinners. God bless you all.