Secular asceticism happens in response to sin and sets about building a culture which limits human experience, a culture which is defensive against the mystery of God and the whole mystery of human life itself. Thus, secular asceticism channels human energy into independent activity, independent in the sense of disassociated from man's real life. It is a busying of oneself as a distraction from subconscious fear. Secular asceticism is well represented by the Sunday newspapers: matters of marginal importance being presented as central to human life.
Spoken of in these terms, we can see why today there is a call for a new evangelisation. The mystery of man without the proclamation of Christ is virtually unbearable; like the woman bent double after forty years of pain, with nothing but herself to gaze at. Sin is not reality for just some of us; without Christ our best option is probably secular asceticism.
The Christian attitude happens in response to being offered a new life. In contrast to the secular ascetic, the Christian attitude unfolds before a wide open field. The openness, availability and inexhaustibility of Jesus Christ is radically transformative of the person. Quite simply, the reality of love, when encountered in person, sets in motion a whole new project in life: answering love with love. So much is this the case that the greatest way we have of understanding or describing humanity, once it is set on its true course, is 'the Church': man's real life is his connection with the inner life of the Holy Trinity.
The Christian attitude then, places the encounter with Jesus Christ, and the possibility of really engaging with Him, as the most important human event. So, prayer and the sacraments hold first place, alongside that of witnessing to Him, so that others can encounter Him.
I will continue to post on this subject, introducing the moral life and Christian anthropology, enabling a fuller treatment of the daily living of the Christian attitude. I am going to be busy this coming week, so my next post will most likely be at least seven days away.