Intro: Wellness as spiritual practice

PraXis might be a strange concept to some Christians because it brings the idea of spiritual life into how you approach your fitness, your food, and even your thoughts and emotions. But these are the three elements that have comprised spiritual practices all around the world and throughout time. The word praxis is just Greek for practice. The idea of spiritual practice distinct from liturgical worship was foundational to the early Christian Church. The idea and tradition of the right practice went hand in hand with moral living and faith as part of the way Christians lived in ancient times. These practices included worship, going to church, and the scriptures, but also things like fasts (abstaining from meat, cheese, wine, etc.), vigils (staying up all night), pilgrimages, and other rituals that deepened one’s relationship with God outside of Sunday service.

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Today there is a hunger for spiritual practice—something that many Christians have lost touch with. Research has shown that only 52% of Christians in the United States are making efforts—exerting discipline—to grow spiritually. Meanwhile other forms of spirituality like Buddhism and other Asian religions that offer concrete spiritual practices are gaining popularity. For more on this, we recommend the book The Cultivated Life, by Susan Phillips.

It’s a shame we’ve overlooked Christianity’s rich history of spiritual practices. That’s why we will look back to the early Church tradition known as the Great Church for inspiration. The Great Church period, from Christ’s resurrection until about 1,000 CE, is part of the common heritage of all Christians, regardless of denomination. 

In order to address the current health crisis among Christians today, we look back to ancient history to find a uniquely Christian approach to mind, body, and spirit practices that won’t divide us along denominational lines. There will be no pleasing some people, for sure. But this system of exercise, diet, and mindfulness should also be flexible enough that once you get the point, you can adjust it in light of your own denominational needs. We just need to remember that Christianity is the original mind, body, and spirit practice. We are unique in our view that the body and soul are ONE—we do not see a division between our bodies and our souls. In Christianity the human is a psyche (soul or mind) and soma (body) joined with the pneuma (Spirit). Our spiritual praxis (practice) should involve all three.  

Not a replacement for Church 

PraXis is ultimately an experiment in integrating physical and mental well-being into our prayer life. It is intended to enhance church life, not replace it. Nor are these practices in any way salvific in nature. PraXis is not about your spiritual Salvation. We are highlighting practices that might bring you better health, while deepening your existing relationship with God.

We hope you explore this unique approach to wellness. We think you’ll find it enriching and challenging. And remember, if you want to get better, praxis, praxis, praxis.

Published by Cornelius Swart

Masters Candidate, Vancouver School of Theology

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