Fire purifies. Desert fire purifies mercilessly. Silence pierces. Desert silence pierces incessantly. Solitude strips bare. Desert solitude strips bare to the bone.
The Desert Fathers knew all this. They knew that the Lord your God is a consuming fire (Dt 4:24), and they threw themselves into that fire with all the confidence of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. There in the midst of the flames they were purified, pierced to the heart by the silence of the Word of God, and stripped bare of their sinfulness by solitude. There in the desert they saw God—and themselves—and lived.
Young monks flocked to join them. From far flung places, men and women came to beg their counsel. These men were terrifying in their purity, alarming in their austerity, disquieting in their discernment. Theirs was not a sweet but a shocking sanctity.
It was like talking to a burning bush.
The teachings of the Desert Fathers were rarely long. Their words, like their souls, had been purified, stripped of all that was unnecessary. They packed their brief sayings with divine intensity.
Imagine traveling miles on foot, sweating, sun-burnt, and hungry, you come to a cave and shout a greeting. Out comes the old man with penetrating eyes. Those eyes strike you. He says nothing. You awkwardly ask.
“Abba, give me a word.”
Giving such a word is the whole purpose of this blog. I simply seek to find a short word from these desert monks –and others as well- that might speak to us today. The sayings themselves are many times shorter that a tweet, but can have such great meaning.
- Power, Fear and Glory: a Meditation on Daniel 3 (littlefaithblessedgrace.wordpress.com)