The word mortification is a terrifying one. It literally comes from the Latin mortificare that means “to put to death”, specifically, in traditional understanding, “the desires of the flesh”. It was considered essential for salvation back in the day and it conjures images of self-flagellation, monks in hair shirts holding skulls, and all manner of other creepy and unpleasant things. The thought of it has almost single handedly fueled the rampant hatred of traditional Religion. To 99% of the population it seems to suggest that mankind is bad, God’s gifts should be rejected, and that the world and this life are evil. Such a view of mortification fuels a vision of God who is cruel and bloodthirsty rather than a gentle and loving good shepherd. We all know the vision of an egotistical and masochistic God couldn’t be farther from the truth, therefore, it “stands to reason” that we should also reject everything that supports this vision – hence the word has become all but taboo, and anyone who dares contemplate it is automatically considered crazy, even by themselves.
But what if mortification is more than this? What if we’ve rotundly rejected an essential spiritual practice because of misunderstanding, and rediscovering it might be the forgotten secret to the spiritual vibrancy we can only dream about.