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The word asceticism comes from the Greek askesis which means practice, bodily exercise, and more especially, atheletic training.The early Christians adopted it to signify the practice of the spiritual things, or spiritual exercises performed for the purpose of acquiring the habits of virtue.The "neighbour" of the Jew was one of the chosen people, and even of him rigorous justice was to be exacted; it was an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth.In the Christian dispensation the neighbour is not only one of the true faith, but the schismatic, the outcast, and the pagan.Even the works of penance to which they were subjected in the many fasts and abstinences, as well as the requirements of their ceremonial observances were much more severe than those imposed up the Christians who succeeded them.In the New Dispensation the binding force of the Commandments continued, but the practice of virtue took on another aspect, in as much as the dominant motive presented to man for the service of God was not fear, but love, though fear was no means eliminated.Finally, it fails to recognize that perfection consists in the acquisition of something more than natural virtue.It is prompted by the desire to do the will of God, any personal element of self-satisfaction which enters the motive vitiating it more or less.

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For although genuine mysticism can not exist without asceticism, the reverse is not true. Asceticism is ethical ; mysticism, largely intellectual.God was to be the Lord indeed, but He was at the same time the Father and men were His children.Again, because of this sonship the love of one's neighbour ascended to higher plane.Its object is the subordination of the lower appetites to the dictates of right reason and the law of God, with the continued and necessary cultivation of the virtues which the Creator intended man to possess.Absolutely speaking, the will of God in this matter is discoverable by human reason, but it is explicitly laid down for us in the Ten Commandments, or Decalogue, which furnishes a complete code of ethical conduct.For although the flesh is continuously lusting against the spirit, and repression and self-denial are necessary to control the animal passions, it would be an error to measure a man's virtue by the extent and character of his bodily penances.

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