Daily Archives: April 29, 2014

Defined by God

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

Amma TheodoraThe 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.

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A Rhythm for Life


Prayer in Church

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.

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Filed under Kathleen Norris, Monasticism, Prayer