Abba Poeman asked him weeping, ‘Give me a word that I may be saved.’ But the old man replied, ‘What you are looking for has disappeared now from among monks.’
— Abba Macarius the Great
Sometimes it can be stunning how many things have disappeared from a church or a culture. As a United Methodist I am keenly aware of my church’s decline over the past 40 years. The decline has been steady and damaging. The recent Pew Study finds: “The decline of Christians in the U.S. has corresponded with the continued rise in the share of Americans with no religious affiliation (religious “nones”).” Upon hearing this news many that are predicted the fall of Christianity in America. We Americans are so short sited that we assume that such a time of decline has never happened before. Do not misunderstand, American Christianity has some deep wounds.
I am always astounded at the “back door” messages that I receive from my study of the fathers and mystics. Abba Poeman goes to the great monk and seeks a word of salvation, and the great monk says that such words have disappeared from the community. I can just imagine the discussion about the good old days and how they wish to return to that wonderful time during the social hour of the monastery. Additionally, I hear the cry that monastery will soon have to shut its doors because of a multitude of troubles.
Hard times are not exclusive to our era; they have plagued the church throughout its existence. The answer for such woes is always the same, ”work and pray.” Those of us who believe that God will be faithful are compelled to do the work of the church as if we believe He is faithful. We must never neglect our prayer and even ramp up our prayers in this time of need. In taking these simple steps, we have opened the way for God to give us understanding and maybe growth.
- To the Holy Mountain (christianitytoday.com)