Abba John the Dwarf said, ‘If a king wanted to take possession of his enemy’s city, he would begin by cutting off the water and the food and so his enemies, dying of hunger, would submit to him. It is the same with the passions of the flesh: if a man goes about fasting and hungry the enemies of his soul grow weak.
—sayings of the Desert Fathers
The old man makes a really good practical argument for fasting. We seldom think of self-denial in our world, because it is so contrary to our culture. When put in a wartime context it makes good sense. To have as your goal to starve your adversary into submission is a plausible plan. The real challenge is how do we apply this to our lives? I would venture to say that if you fasted once a week and turned your hunger into prayer, you would feel closer to God and more distant from the world. John is saying that a man who is fasting has little time for temptation, but he who is full has energy and desire for sin. This may be a way that you can turn your attention away from some of the less desirable aspects of your life
- A Living Flame (everydayasceticism.com)
Shepherds, you who go
up through the sheepfolds to the hill,
if by chance you see
him I love most,
tell him I am sick, I suffer, and I die.
—-Canticle of John of the Cross Stanza 2
In this second stanza of the Canticle, the soul cries out for intercessors who have not lost their way-people, angelic beings who can touch the garment of God. Is it so strange to feel this type of distance from God? Have you ever felt this way? When we are in our darkest times, we need others to speak to God for us; others who care for us, and seek the best for us. We need intercessors who are living in union with God and feel his presence John expresses his separation from God, and his utter inability to rediscover Him. Perhaps, with just a little help from others we can find God. We can learn from John to lean on others as we travel through our darkness. Perhaps it is with their light that we can find the God we have lost.
- What do you turn to in your times of darkness?
- Who are some guides for your life?
- Do you seek intercessors when in darkness?
- Food for Thought… (3in1gpnprayer.wordpress.com)
I find this to be a very thought provoking proposition. Perhaps we should all give it consideration.
Contemplative in the Mud
The longer I travel these roads, the more I’m convinced that God shows to contemplative souls many shortcuts. I don’t know if it’s because I am weak or because I have realized I’m weak; but I know that I’m weak and that I cannot do certain things.
For example, I can’t properly evaluate my actions in the light of the life to come and eternity, so Jesus comes to this weakness and will let me perceive the Church of Heaven present in this world, in some way of another.
Or again, I can’t treat my neighbours properly. I sin so much. I look the wrong way. I don’t want to rise from my bed to help. I pass by on the other side of the road. So Jesus comes to this weakness and will let me perceive his own self in and behind my neighbours. How much easier things…
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“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”
It seems as though the most elusive truth of religion is that it is not really an opiate, but a sometimes uncomfortable commitment. This is the truth that Lewis gives us in his words. Think about it!
While very ill, John Knox, the founder of the Presbyterian Church in Scotland, called to his wife and said, “Read me that Scripture where I first cast my anchor.” After he listened to the beautiful prayer of Jesus recorded in John 17, he seemed to forget his weakness. He began to pray, interceding earnestly for his fellowmen. He prayed for the ungodly who had thus far rejected the gospel. He pleaded in behalf of people who had been recently converted. And he requested protection for the Lord’s servants, many of whom were facing persecution. As Knox prayed, his spirit went Home to be with the Lord. The man of whom Queen Mary had said, “I fear his prayers more than I do the armies of my enemies,” ministered through prayer until the moment of his death.
For several years now I have been on a pilgrimage of prayer-an excursion that has brought me to many different places and ideas, but in the end the greatest inspirations come from the fathers of the faith. Some of these fathers, like John Knox, come from the reformation. Others are from the desert or monasteries, but all have testimonies of the power of prayer to transcend all barriers. The mere fact that Queen Mary, enemy of all things protestant, would have a good word about the prayers of John Knox speaks volumes about the power of prayer.
Have you neglected prayer in your life? Have you limited the nature and scope of your prayer? Do you fail to spend time simply in the presence of God? If you answered yes to any of those questions you are not allowing God to bless you as fully as He might. Set aside a place, a time, a manner of prayer that is yours and yours alone. I’m afraid that the corporate prayer of worship is not enough to truly feel the complete awe and majesty of God in your life. Besides, if you come to worship primed and ready, the blessings will flow like a torrent rather than a gentle stream.
Abba Poemen said of Abba John the Dwarf that he had prayed God to take his passions away from him so that he might become free from care. He went and told an old man this: ‘I find myself in peace, without an enemy,’ he said. The old man said to him, ‘Go, and beseech God to stir up warfare so that you may regain the affliction and humility that you used to have, for it is by warfare that the soul makes progress.’ So he besought God and when warfare came, he no longer prayed that it might be taken away, but said, ‘Lord, give me strength for the fight.’
—-sayings of the desert
Our society cries out that a relationship with God is all about prosperity, victory and success. The wise men of the desert voice a different view, and we have much to learn from them. Abba John the Dwarf prayed for all passions to be extinguished from his life so that he might be carefree, but the pastor (poeman means pastor) tells him that struggle is part of the journey. In our struggles we learn the important lesson of humility, which turns us away from self and toward others, especially the ultimate other-God. Humility teaches us the need to be silent, to pray, to worship, and to understand the greatness of God. Then we can know that we must pray, ‘Lord, give me strength for the fight.’
I posted part 1. This is part 2,and I recommend a reading.
Drawing of the Crucifixion by St. John of the Cross
Where have you hidden,
Beloved, and left me moaning?
you fled like the stag
after wounding me;
I went out calling you, but you were gone.
—-Canticle of John of the Cross Stanza 1
God has hidden His true self from us is the first cry of the soul. Indeed every seeker of God longs for the mystical presence because in such a presence we can touch the hand of God. John tells us in his canticle that such a presence is hidden from us. The long journey of the believer is to find that level of the spiritual which is concealed from us by asking God to manifest His divine essence to us. The search for the divine leaves us moaning. We are left in a state of grief because the quest is so elusive. Victory does not come to he who prays the most or the loudest.
The mere wisp of the touch of God flees from us us as quickly as the cautious deer when he sites a man. We get a little glimpse of God, and it wounds us because we want so much more of Him. We call after Him and we cannot find Him. All manner of prayer and sacred reading is this search for the essence of God in the here and now. In John’s canticle I feel a sense of urgency and determination that are vital elements to a true relationship with God.
I first wrote this over four years ago, and wanted to share it with you today. Emma is eight years old now , the Ragin Cajun relic has bitten the dust,the old beach is now closed to visitors, but the message is as clear today as it was then. IB
Most of us who grew up in New Orleans can remember Pontchartrain Beach. It was a place of fun and wonder for kids and adults alike. The Zephyr, Wild Mouse and, of course, the Beach are gone. The “Beach” bit the dust more than two decades ago. There is, however, a small remnant of the fun that still exists, and that’s where the treasure is found.
It is located across Lakeshore Drive from UNO. The small strip of sand and crumbling relic of what’s left of the “Ragin Cajun” still remain. A few days ago my grandaughter, Emma, wanted to go to the beach and collect some treasures- just little pieces of sea shells and even rocks that she considers pretty. It seems that long ago I stopped collecting treasures, but it is amazing what a three year old will motivate you to do. Our adventure called for the finest of supplies, a shovel, bucket, beach towel and some water so we wouldn’t die of thirst. We searched for an hour and excavated many unknown areas and found a jar full of treasures.
It’s real simple.There are people everywhere who need a treasure in their lives . Treasure is time you spend with them,kind words you say to them and small things you do for them. The real key is not what we do, but why we do it ? Jesus said, ”I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. My suggestion for today is to create a treasure for someone.