Ego Vs. Martyrdom



a person who willingly suffers death rather than renounce his or her religion.

a person who is put to death or endures great suffering on behalf of any belief, principle, or cause:a martyr to the cause of social justice.

a person who undergoes severe or constant suffering:a martyr to severe headaches.

a person who seeks sympathy or attention by feigning or exaggerating pain, deprivation, etc.

The notion that you can create the context and content of a martyrdom by supplanting tyranny and death with a voluntary ascetic, monastic life, is, in the least hubris by accident and at worst a complete reconfiguring of the very definition. Martyrs are made, one does not choose to be a martyr. Although one may willingly walk to their own death or suffering, in order for either one to be achieved one must first be an unwilling subject to the will of another or condition. In fact, to assert otherwise is to do violence to the sacrifice and triumph of faith and fortitude that martyrs represent. It is unfortunate that monastic orders see their self-imposed mental and sometimes physical self-flagellation as suffering for their savior when it is more reasonable to see it — whether done consciously or not — as a glory of the ego in pursuit of publicly recognized “humility”, even if that public is their own community.

Humankind is such, that we love declarations to causes; not content with the pursuit of humility and holiness in the mundane, in vocations and family, not content with the mystery and humility that is found in the presence of the sublime power of the Holy Spirit, sanctification has to become concrete and rigid, almost purely immanent in order for it to be attainable. That is what I believe to be one of the fundamental and if not primary flaws of monasticism. It is an anthropocentric, often formulaic, pursuit of holiness, though albeit one of noble intent, it is nonetheless a construct that seeks to grapple and consign the Holy Spirit to submission to the will of man in order to reward and validate the works of man as not only meritorious but also as a sufficient atonement for the imperfect condition of the will.