Asceticism has its variation, reflecting the specific age in which it is practiced, and adapted to its mentality. Our physical sensitivity has been modified by living conditions today, weighed down as we are by overwork and nervous strain. Though medical science protects and prolongs life, it also diminishes our resistance to pain and privations. Christian asceticism is never an end in itself; it is only a means or method to be put at the service of life, able to adapt itself to new exigencies.
Thus asceticism becomes close attention to the call of the gospel, to the standards of the beatitudes; purity and humility of heart are sought after with a view to saving one's fellow-citizens and bringing them back to God. Our task in this weary world, driven on by rhythms of increasing speed, burdened with so many anxieties, is to rediscover and live out the doctrine of "spiritual childhood," the evangelical freshness and simplicity of the "little way" which leads us to sit at the same table with sinners, to bless and break bread together.
Saint Dorotheus gives us a lovely image of our way to salvation by means of a circle. God is the center and all human beings are on the circumference. The more they approach the center the nearer the radii of the circle will draw to each other. Saint Isaac said to his disciple: "Look, brother, here are your orders: let mercy always weigh heaviest on your scales until you experience in yourself that mercy which God feels for you and for the whole world."
-- Paul Evdokimov, Orthodoxy, 34-35, 41; cited in A Word in Season (Augustinian Press, 2001) Vol II, pp 159-160.