Another time, two old men, great anchorites, came to the district of Pelusia to visit her. When they arrived one said to the other, ‘Let us humiliate this old woman.’ So they said to her, ‘Be careful not to become conceited thinking to yourself: “Look how anchorites are coming to see me, a mere woman.” ‘But Amma Sarah said to them, ‘According to nature I am a woman, but not according to my thoughts.’
—Amma Sara of the Desert
The idea of people of power and prestige trying to dishonor someone they see as their inferior is not a new phenomenon. Here these many years ago we see such injustices being perpetrated. The wise Amma outdid herself with her answer. She refused to be defined by others or by her gender. Rather, she said that her thoughts would define her.
The concept defining ourselves by our thoughts is most important to anyone who seeks to live the contemplative life. Our secular world is very quick to define us by their criteria, and our challenge is to refuse their characterization. This resounding NO says we know who we are in the Lord, and that He formed us and created us as persons of value. Let us determine today that we will not be defined by the prejudices of others, but by the gifts and graces that God has bestowed upon us, even the least of us.
- Who Is a Woman? Am I One? (sreelakshmipv.wordpress.com)
In her book, The Cloister Walk, Protestant author Kathleen Norris writes about the ways that the Catholic monastic tradition provides a rhythm and depth for spirituality that many Protestants have never explored. When she says that the life of prayer works “the earth of the heart,” she means that prayer is like the act of cultivation. In order to work the soil, we must break up the hardened dirt clods, water the ground, free it from weeds and then plant a crop. Prayer is the way to “loosen up” the heart. During the natural course of our lives the “earth of our hearts” becomes parched, weed-infested and hard as stone. Unless we take care to break it up, to run our fingers again through the rich soil that we know is there, our lives become as dry and sparse as a desert.
Desert sparseness is the place we can open ourselves to God in very special ways. We not only breakup the hardened soil of our soul, but we discover true insight into our essence. God created us for good. He created us to love and serve, and we find our spiritual nature as we turn away from the busyness of life to nourishment of the spirit. By living the monastic rhythm we find time to tend our souls.
- Prayerful Contemplation (lifereference.wordpress.com)
People have long known the story of Francis of Assisi. He turned from a life of luxury to one of voluntary poverty with the intention of sharing his possessions with the poor. Francis became an example to his fellow townspeople of the biblical assurance that God does provide.
Francis attracted others to his way of life and began the Order of Mendicant Friars. A sister order was established by Clare, to whom Francis was both friend and mentor. In the hymn of praise attributed to Francis, God is exalted for creating all of the elements of the world of which, according to Francis, humans are only one part. Francis placed people in the perspective of God’s whole creation and asserted a kinship among all the elements. The example of his impoverished life drew others to him and increased the numbers of the Franciscan Order. He began the first of the Monastic groups to develop a spiritual life that included a life lived as much in the world as it was a life of contemplative solitude.
Easter Sunday is past, but the story remains. The mystical story of life over death gives us hope and victory and rests our souls.
Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!
Harry Emerson Fosdick tells this story: Some years ago a little church on the coast of England was ruined in a hurricane. The congregation thought themselves unable to rebuild. Then one day a representative of the British Admiralty came to the clergyman to ask if they intended to reconstruct the church. The clergyman explained why they could not do it. “Well,” said the representative of the British navy, “if you do not rebuild the church we will. That spire is on all our charts and maps. It is the landmark by which the ships of the seven seas steer their course.” A true parable, that! Never more than now, when the souls of men need divine help, stable and secure, strong, sustaining, and empowering, is the church’s message needed.
Though the hurricane of hell brought the sins of the world down upon the body of Christ, crushing the life from Him, that body was rebuilt on Easter. Today, the spire of the cross stands as our chart and map. Calvary’s cross is the landmark by which the church and its followers steer their course.
Some monks of Scetis came one day to visit Amma Sarah. She offered them a small basket of fruit. They left the good fruit and ate the bad. So she said to them, “You are true monks of Scetis.”
So the last will be first, and the first will be last.
—-Parables of Jesus
The clarion call of all followers of Jesus is self-denial. Without self-denial we are in a constant state of grabbing and competition for the chief seats. Over and over again Jesus the teacher told His disciples to be self-sacrificing and humble. One of the great sayings of the scripture is, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Is a person who calls himself a Christian but always puts self-interest first really legitimate?
Sara of the desert gives us some insight here. She lived the life of a desert monk, and a real monk knows the meaning of true sacrifice. She entertained some fellow monastics in her cell and offered them fruit, and they ate the bad fruit first. Her reaction was to call them “true monks.” Amma Sara knew that there were true and false monks, and declared that true monks don’t grab for the best but leave the best for others.
In this same way, true followers of Jesus must be willing to take a “back seat’ so that others may thrive and go forward. That sort of thinking is contrary to the norm of our day, but brings us closer to an understanding of the nature of God and His grace. By living out a life of self-sacrifice, we find the divine peace that surpasses all understanding.
The day of resurrection?
Earth, tell it out abroad;
The Passover of gladness,
The Passover of God.
From death to life eternal,
From this world to the sky,
Our Christ hath brought us over
With hymns of victory.
Now let the heavens be joyful,
Let earth her song begin;
Let the round world keep triumph,
And all that is therein;
Let all things seen and unseen
Their notes in gladness blend,
For Christ the Lord hath risen,
Our Joy that hath no end.
——John of Damascus
Filed under Easter, Poetry
About 2000 years ago, God sent us the perfect love gift – Jesus Christ. From His miraculous birth to His miraculous resurrection, the life of Jesus tells humankind the greatest love story of all time. The heart of God and His awesome love for us is clearly revealed in the image of His perfect Son in a crude feeding trough and on a crude wooden cross. The forgiveness and freedom He accomplished there exacted a price that only God could pay. The extraordinary thing about God’s gift, is that it is freely given to all people – no favorites, no exclusions. Your name is on God’s gift list! You are included!
All that Jesus accomplished for you and me was intended to bring the abundance and delight of God’s love and grace into our lives. For Christians, every day should be a unique opportunity to revel in that freedom and show that grace to others.
Christ should bring to mind love images for those of us who are believers. An innocent virgin-born baby in a manger with the glow of heaven on His face. A savior – healing with His gentle touch, calming a storm with His mighty words, playfully cuddling children on His lap.
During this season of Lent, we must also see Christ heartsick and weeping in a garden, hanging broken and bleeding on a cross, and gloriously alive after the resurrection.
In response to this great gift of love, Christians should bring to mind love images to the world. Non-judgmental people with our hearts and arms open to all. People who practice peace and scatter hope. People who understand forgiveness and look for the good.
Jesus Christ – God’s perfect gift for all people, for all time. You are on the gift list.
PRAYER: Father – Thank you for the perfect gift of Christ. Thank you for including us all.
- Living for Christ (catholicdevotionalforyouth.wordpress.com)
Many are familiar with the beautiful poem, “Footprints.” In this story, a man dreams that he has a talk with Jesus about his life. Like all of us, this man had a life full of triumphs and tragedies, love and loneliness, happiness and sadness. And like all of us, he had a lifelong relationship with God that was at times close and committed and at times distant and unclear.
The man and Jesus were walking along a sandy seashore and having a conversation that reviewed that man’s life. The man noticed that many times there were four footprints in the sand as the walk of life progressed. Jesus explained, “These are the times when we walked together. The times you shared your life with me, and I stood beside you every step.” But the man became troubled when he noticed that in his most painful, dark times of life there was only one set of footprints. He questioned the Lord as to why he had been abandoned and left to walk those times alone. Jesus explained these times, also. “My child, the reason that you see only one set of footprints is because those were the times I lifted you into my arms and carried you because you could not walk alone.” All was explained to the man except the occasional places along life’s walk where there seemed to be many footprints going in all directions in a hectic pattern in the sand. Jesus smiled and replied, “My son, these are the times when we danced!”
On this God Friday, remember those marvelous occasions when you have rejoiced in life. Those overwhelmingly happy moments of life when your Lord “danced” with you! Take every opportunity to put on your dancing shoes!
PRAYER: Father – Help me to remember with joy marvelous moments in life, and help me now to “dance” with wonder at the blessings you give me.
- The dance goes on (catchjohnfischer.wordpress.com)