For Eastern Catholics, Lent began last night with Forgiveness Vespers. For roughly the next 40 days we'll be in a season of repentance, fasting and abstinence. ("Abstinence" here means abstaining from certain foods like meat, dairy products, eggs, milk, cheese and butter.) Perhaps for the first time in 40+ years, I see this less as a time of deprivation and more of a time of spiritual warfare.
In fact, if I count the last 40+ years of Lents as battles, then I've been soundly beaten Every. Single. Time. Perhaps more on that another time, though.
The mindset change began when I saw the icon of St. Theodore the Commander at the local Greek Orthodox church a couple of weeks ago. (As Eastern Catholics, we are a bit like pilgrims in a strange land here in Tulsa, so we found ourselves at the closest equivalent.) During Divine Liturgy I noticed this icon of a soldier - a man in armor who carried a sword, spear and shield. I'm used to seeing St. Michael there, but this was...a human. Seemed odd. And since I'd never heard of St. Theodore before, I was intrigued. Turns out he has an amazing story. You should definitely check it out if you're interested in such things.
I think what struck me most about St. Theodore (aside from his cool armor, which I'll be making after a few level-ups), is his mastery of his situation. I mean, as an icon of spiritual warfare, he looks the part, but his story, his control of his own soul as his world was coming to an end, is most inspiring. In a situation where most people would be tempted to succumb to fear and terror (and most people would), he trolled the Emperor Licinius.
Licinius: "I hear you're a Christian who won't worship our idols."
Theodore: "I'm not NOT a Christian..."
Licinius: "I need you to come see me."
Theodore: "Can't right now. Busy. Could you come to me?"
Licinius: >< "Fine."
Theodore honored the emperor with a feast at which Licinius requested that he publicly worship the idols. It didn't go so well - for the emperor.
You have to admire the chutzpa it took for the saint to hold the line while the walls were closing in around him. How did he do it?
It's safe to say that St. Theodore was already an experienced spiritual warrior in addition to being an actual warrior. He first maintained control of his mind and soul. Oddly enough, I did a bit of reading on that this morning, and three consecutive passages all pointed to the same absolute necessity to bring your body and mind under control.
"Leading the repentant man to undertake spiritual work, the Holy Spirit, who called him to repentance...Then the body will become obedient to the dictates of the mind in all things, and the mind will masterfully determine its food and drink, its sleep and its every other action, constantly learning from the Holy Spirit to keep the body under control and bring it into subjection."
- St. Anthony the Great.
"Let us conduct this mental war in the following order. The first thing is attention; then when we notice a wicked thought draw near, let us wrathfully hurl a heart-felt curse at it. The third ting is to turn the heart to the invocation of Jesus Christ and pray Him to disperse forthwith this phantom of the demons, lest the mind run after this fantasy like a child attracted by a skillful juggler."
- St. Hesychios of Jerusalem
"Be attentive to yourself, then, to yourself, that is, neither to what is yours nor to what is around you, but be attentive only to yourself, that is, to your soul. Adorn it and take care of it...Examine what sort of being you are. Know your own nature, that your body is mortal but your soul is immortal.
- St. Basil the Great
As anyone who's ever tried to master one's thoughts and actions knows, it's a battle. "Discipline = Freedom," to quote Jocko Willink. Discipline starts with mastery of the mind.
What does any of this have to do with leatherworking custom notebooks? Well, for me, everything. I don't make these things just because they're pretty. (Definitely a part of it, though). I am obsessed with carving out mental space within which people can unlock...themselves. For me, that means the written word - the literal written word. A "think space," to quote a phrase from my least effective marketing jargon. Haha.
But also, I'm working on a St. Theodore-themed notebook. Keep an eye out for that if you're interested.
Anyway, this Lent is definitely going to be a battle for me and my family. We've moved to a strange new place and all of our comforts, our "support systems" (blech) are gone. Or at least only accessible digitally, which I'd say is one step above "non-existent." I can already hear the sounds of marching coming from Mordor. It's only a little while now before I hear an Orcish, "Look at them - what are they doing? Praying? Get 'em, boys!"
St. Theodore the Commander, pray for us.
Maker of Things, Eastern Catholic, family man, experimenting with entrepreneurship. These are my opinions. Feel free to disagree, but you don't have a right to my compliance. ;-)