The 8 Precepts
Everyone knows that the body needs 3 things: food, clothing and shelter. We not only meet these needs with great ease, we have a tendency of indulging in every bodily pleasure at whim giving no thought to it. However, very few people know what the soul needs, let alone few in the day and age seem to strive to meet these needs.
Our interior life has the greatest influence on everything we experience in life. When our interior life is ordered and healthy we are whole, complete and content. This applies even when difficulties and adversity strikes or when the body experiences illness and pain. There are basically eight things the soul needs to ensure the warrior is fit to strive for victory in battle. Here we will call them the 8 precepts as a precept is a general rule intended to regulate behavior or thought. If you can struggle daily to implement these eight precepts you are sure grow in your spiritual life. These are: watchfulness, spiritual reading, prayer, fasting, activity, detachment, self examination (and confession) and communion (including attending church regularly).
Reading spiritual books is essential as this is how we feed the soul. If one diminishes the amount of garbage one reads that the world vomits up, and in turn increases time spent reading scriptures, spiritual books, lives of the saints and patristics, ones spiritual health increases. The great saint and mystic of the Western Church of recent times said:
“Don’t consider me too demanding if I ask you once again to set great store by holy books and read them as much as you can. This spiritual reading is as necessary to you as the air you breathe.”
The perfect lead-up to the next precepts is found in another quote from Padre Pio: "Through the study of books one seeks God; by meditation one finds him."
““Moreover, if the Devil does not dare to enter into the house where the Gospel lies, much less will he ever seize upon the soul which contains such thoughts as these, and no evil spirit will approach it, nor will the nature of sin come near. Well, then, sanctify your soul, sanctify your body by having these thoughts always in your heart and on your tongue. For if foul language is defiling and evokes evil spirits, it is evident that spiritual reading sanctifies the reader and attracts the grace of the Spirit.” St. John Chrysostom
See --St. Ignatius Brianchaninov Arena chapter 9
“It is not difficult to get rid of material things if you so desire; but only with great effort will you be able to get rid of thoughts about them…” -- St. Thalassios the Libyan
Attending Church regularly. We have no problem standing at a concert for hours, or attending a sporting event for hours, but when the time for church arrives we are too busy, or don’t want to endure.
“And at the circus, without a roof above them to keep off the rain, the crowds stand there crazy, the rain pouring down on them, and the wind blowing it in their faces, and they think nothing of the cold or the rain or the distance, and nothing will keep them from going there, and nothing will keep them at home! But to go to the Church, a shower, or the mud on the road, is a serious obstacle!” St John Chrysostom
Receiving Holy Communion often is recommended to heal and strengthen. This naturally is always precluded by confession.
“Your faith in the holy sacrament of confession will save you; the grace of God present in the sacrament of confession will heal you. By constant and persistent attacks upon us the fallen spirits try to sow and grow in us the seeds of sin to habituate us to some form of sin by frequently reminding us of it …. Against the persistent and repeated attacks of sinful thoughts and emotions, called in monastic language conflict, there is no better weapon for a novice than confession.”
--St Ignatius Brianchaninov
"My child, do you want to crush the head of the serpent? Openly reveal your thoughts in confession. The strength of the devil lies in cunning thoughts. Do you hold on to them? He remains hidden. Do you bring them to the light? He disappears. And then Christ rejoices, the prayer progresses, and the light of grace heals and brings peace to your mind and heart."
--Elder Joseph the Hesychast
For the sake of simplicity we have reduced the teaching of the Church Fathers into 8 basic precepts that we should try to live by on a daily basis.