At Epiphany we believe that we are welcomed into the Kingdom of God through the grace revealed to us by Jesus. We also believe that orienting our lives toward this grace is our way of saying “thank you” to God for this gift. This orientation happens through the spiritual exercises. They are ancient, time-tested exercises by which we become more and more the person God created us to be. Dallas Willard, in his introduction to the Renovaré Spiritual Formation Bible, defines the spiritual exercises this way:
“Intentionally directed actions by which we do what we can do in order to receive from God the ability (or power) to do what we cannot do by direct effort. It is not in us, as we are, for example, to love our enemies. If we go out and try very hard to love our enemies, we will fail miserably. Always. This strength, this power to love our enemies—that is to genuinely and unconditionally love those who curse us and spitefully use us—is simply not within our natural abilities. We cannot do it by ourselves. Ever.”
And so we train. We train our character so we habitually, even accidentally, love our enemy. This training is called the spiritual exercises, and it is a time-proven way of owning our citizenship in the kingdom of God, and honoring God as his beloved children.
The Seven Spiritual Exercises
We practice spiritual exercises as a way of forming our character to be the noble soul God intends it to be. Exercises at Epiphany focus on seven categories. The first five have to do with time. We manage time by how we prioritize its use. To that end, at Epiphany we encourage:
- daily prayer or meditation
- weekly worship
- the observance of Sabbath
- working toward a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to the Holy Land
- living into the rhythms of the liturgical year
The remaining two exercises have to do with the material world. We manage material life through:
These are ancient terms. We understand “fast” to mean taking control over the body, which at times may mean going without eating. We understand “tithe” to mean taking control over our possessions, which at times means giving away our money. Study and practice in community are the actions of formation that we pursue as a way of enlivening and enlightening our souls.