Rule of Life derives from the Latin ‘regula’ which means ‘rhythm, regularity of pattern, a recognizable standard’ for the conduct of life. “Rule” is also connected to the Greek word for “trellis,” that which upholds a plant and helps it to grow. A Rule of Life is a structure or rhythm for our lives that enables us to pay attention to God in everything we do. It serves our desires to abide in and experience His love all day long, not compartmentalizing our spirituality. Our goal is live in communion with God. All of us have a Rule (Way) of Life but it is mostly unconscious. The purpose of developing a conscious Rule is to more effectively structure our time in order to be open to God in all aspects of our daily lives.

Establishing a spiritual life is a beautiful journey, and Orthodox Christianity offers a rich tradition of spiritual disciplines to aid in this endeavor. The following list is intended to help order our lives around a life of fellowship with the Holy Trinity. Remember, spiritual growth is a gradual process, and it is essential to approach these disciplines with humility, sincerity, and a willingness to learn and grow. With a rich tradition of discipleship, the Orthodox Church also teaches that it is important to be under the direction of a spiritual father in developing and periodically adjusting a Spiritual Rule. Here is a list to consider:

  1. Prayer: In addition to offering personal prayers, having regular, structured prayer is foundational. The Orthodox tradition includes set prayers such as the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”) and the Agpeya (the Coptic Orthodox Book of Hours).
  2. Fasting: Observing fasts as prescribed by the Church calendar, especially during Lent and other fasting periods, is a common practice. This includes abstaining from certain foods and sometimes from specific activities.
  3. Liturgy Attendance: Attending Divine Liturgy regularly is central to Orthodox spirituality. It’s where believers participate in the sacraments and commune with God and the Church community.
  4. Reading Scripture: Daily reading and meditation on the Bible, particularly the Gospels and Psalms, provide spiritual nourishment and guidance.
  5. Spiritual Reading: Supplementing Scripture with the writings of the Church Fathers, lives of saints, and spiritual classics can deepen understanding and inspire growth.
  6. Confession: Regularly confessing sins to a priest allows for spiritual healing and growth.
  7. Community Involvement: Engaging in the life of the Church community through participation in parish activities, volunteering, and supporting fellow believers.
  8. Iconography: Meditating on icons, sacred images representing Christ, the saints, and biblical events, can aid in focusing prayer and fostering a sense of the divine presence.
  9. Silence and Solitude: Making time for quiet reflection and prayerful solitude helps cultivate a deeper connection with God.
  10. Almsgiving: Practicing generosity by tithing to the Church and giving to those in need reflects Christ’s teachings and fosters spiritual growth.
  11. Orthodox Hymnody: Listening to or singing Orthodox hymns, such as hymns from the Divine Liturgy or hymns dedicated to specific feasts and saints, can uplift the spirit and foster devotion.
  12. Obeying Church Traditions: Following the liturgical calendar, observing feast days, and participating in other Church traditions helps align one’s life with the rhythm of Orthodox spirituality.

 

“The greatest and most perfect thing a man may desire to attain is to come near to God and dwell, in union with Him. There are many who say that the perfection of Christian life consists in fasts, vigils, sleeping on bare earth…others say that it consists in saying many prayers at home and in attending long services in Church. And there are others who think that our perfection consists entirely in mental prayer, solitude, seclusion and silence. But the majority limit perfection to a strict observance of all the rules and practices laid down by the statutes, falling into no excess or deficiency, but preserving a golden moderation. Yet all these virtues do not by themselves constitute the Christian perfection we are seeking, but are only means and methods for acquiring it.”[1]

[1] Unseen Warfare, 77-78