Pope Benedict taught the Church so much about "participation"; man's participation in the divine life, through faith, through the openness of the human person, through the Liturgy, through the Scriptures, a dynamic brought about by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on humanity. Only through this gift do human beings participate in the Redemption. "Participation" then, characterises Christian attitude.
Karol Wojtyla in Sources of Renewal speaks about five attitudes of the Christian; "participation", he says, is the first and most formative Christian attitude. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit we participate in the life of Jesus Christ. In Him, rather than in us, the Redemption has been fully accomplished, and in His life, rather than in ours, is the fullness of what it is to be human. The reality of our lives take place in Him. Being apart from Christ means that we live our own individual lives, lives which are a part of fallen humanity and in which the tendency of independence is always present.
Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, in Baptism, we are joined to Christ. Now the full potential of our lives is possible, precisely because it has been lived by Jesus Christ. The Christian life then, is not our personal human lives lived now with a Christian 'flavour', but is the actual Risen life of Christ and our access to it, our entry or participation in it. Christian attitude is formed in each one of us through the consciousness which we have of this mystery. We have exchanged the living of our own independent human lives for the life of Christ, which takes us up, confirming and building our personal identity, but essentially (ontologically) our lives are no longer simply our own because now we live in Christ. We have been given a new life. At the end of our earthly existence our fallen human lives will come to an end and, in God's mercy, we will then live the life of Christ in an unencumbered and perfect way in Heaven.
Christian attitude then, flows from our knowledge of Christ, not merely an informative knowledge, but a personal and intimate knowledge. Friends know one another, to an extent. Spouses know one another in a fuller way. Knowing Jesus Christ however, has more potential. No one is more accessible than He, no one is more open than He, no one is more self-giving than He. Unlike Him, we are all exhaustible, to one degree or another; we get tired, bored, or find that we have nothing more to give. Indeed, friendship with Jesus Christ is the most transformative human experience, and Christian attitude continues to flow out into Christian witness, as it has done since day one.
In comparison with "participating in Christ', secular asceticism teaches the possibility of establishing your life on the autonomous self; free, resourceful and decisive. The secular ascetic overlooks the fact of a fallen human nature, suffering and death; it also overlooks the fact of Revelation and the witness to grace; it overlooks the testimony of history. "Try it, you'll like it", it declares as it urges us on the dehumanising road of self-affirmation. It is an ephemeral project. The life of Christ has always been, it always will be; He is inexhaustible, the progress He leads His followers in keeps getting better.