Monthly Archives: January 2020

Temptation

Abba Anthony said to Abba Poemen, “This is the Great Work of a man: always to take the blame for his own sins before God and to expect temptation to his last breath.” He also said, “Whoever has not experienced temptation cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” He even added, “Without temptation, no one can be saved.”

▪▪▪▪Anthony of the Desert


Temptation is something we all struggle with our entire lives and regularly pray that God will remove this battle from our lives. Jesus said to us in His prayer, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” Yet Anthony states, “Without temptation, no one can be saved.” Those divergent ideas seem to clash and frequently our spiritual lives are loaded with contradictions and conflict. This is one of those times. These conflicting ideas are a real source of growth and cause us to increase in strength ,knowledge, and spiritual awareness.Temptation

The prayer that Jesus taught us pleads that we are not led into temptation, but more importantly we ask to be delivered from evil. I believe that it is through real temptation that we begin to recognize evil. Once evil is recognized it becomes possible to resist. Such resistance is our key to being saved, because the temptation we suffer throughout our lives leads us to seek the Savior we so desperately need.Post 4

The challenge that we must face and embrace is the permanence of temptation in our lives. We can experience great trouble if we seek a magical formula to deliver us from all temptation, because it is an unattainable goal. That journey is wrought with peril and evil and leads us to be self-righteous, judgmental and harsh. We will find ourselves chasing false hopes and heretical ideas. If we allow the advice from the desert to lead us, we can face our temptation without feeling defeated. Let me offer a few ideas that are found in this desert wisdom.

We must grow to own our temptations. They were not thrust upon us by someone or something, but they dwell in us. Having accepted that fact, we can then move forward. Each day brings with it ways that we are led away from the path that we know is the one that leads to unity with God. We can spend our lives assigning blame, making excuses or we can spend our lives learning.

Temptations are not the road to hell but the pathway to the kingdom. “Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” These dynamic words of Jesus are words of hope and victory. When we recognize them we begin to understand our earthly existence and then are able to welcome his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. His kingdom has already arrived, but we are tempted to ignore it or drift so far away that we never see it. Our temptations help us to see His here and now kingdom.

No one likes to deal with troubles, but dealing with trouble allows us to know what to do as well as what not to do in trying times. Our everyday temptations bring us closer to the Kingdom and help us better understand the concept of God’s grace. Once we grasp the concept that temptation is our ever-present companion, we can begin our kingdom journey in earnest. “Thy Kingdom come on earth, as it is in heaven.” That is our goal, and temptation is an element of the journey.


Prayer

Lord, give me the grace and understanding to deal with temptation without despairing. Allow me to see your work in every struggle I face. Keep me mindful that it is You that I must depend upon in the times of weakening. You Lord are my strength and deliverer.

Amen

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Benedictine Wisdom 1

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January 28, 2020 · 8:00 am

The Best of New Seeds of Contemplation 1

Merton 1

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January 27, 2020 · 5:44 am

Three Precepts

Someone asked Abba Anthony, “What must one do in order to please God?” The old man replied, “Pay attention to what I tell you: whoever you may be, always have God before your eyes; whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of holy scripture; in whatever place you live, do not easily leave it. Keep these three precepts and you will be saved.”

++++Anthony of Egypt


— Always have God before your eyes

Thomas Merton said,” The spiritual life is first a matter of keeping awake to God ” This echoes the words of Anthony when he tells us to always have God before us. To live in constant awareness of God is more than most of us really accomplish. We say prayers or have prayer time but then God is set aside. The goal of the contemplative should be to live awake to the presence of God no matter what surroundings we are in at the time. In being awake we know that God is always with us. He lives in us and introduces himself through us to others in the world. This precept allows us peace in our lives and gives us the blessing of helping others find that peace as well. Let us practice keeping God before our eyes. Perhaps the best way to keep God before our eyes is to practice meditation every day. We can live a life of presence.

Post 3 1—Live the testimony of Holy Scripture

Many of you have been reared in churches that often refer to the scripture as a sword, authority or light. The Psalmist tells us, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” These terms and that verse indicate that holy scripture will lead us where we must go. The Bible is a beacon or guide that allows us to defeat enemies and find our way. Holy scriptures light our dark paths so that we might not stumble. Anthony conveys to us one of the keys of a life well lived is to perform in accordance with holy scripture. In order to perform in accordance with scripture, we must read and study the word with consistency. Let us never allow ourselves to step away from the habit of regular reading of the scriptures so that we may live as they instruct.

—Have stability of place

Today’s monks take a vow of stability. Most of you who read this will never become a part of a monastic community. Many of us will not only not live in community but will be required to move to make our living. HowStability poast 3 do we find stability? We begin to find it by not always believing that the next job, the next house is where we need to be. We must develop a sense of blooming where we are planted. There is another way. Scriptures say, “That we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error.” (Ephesians 4:14) By reading and studying scripture we can develop a stability of belief. We can be longstanding in our belief because we know why and what we believe. We can all have stability.

The constant awareness of the presence of God, a consistent pattern of living in accordance with the scripture and a stability of mind will carry us in a direction that charts toward the kingdom of God. Anthony gave us these precepts almost 2000 years ago and they are as true now as they were then. Let us strive to keep these precepts before us as we attempt to navigate the challenges that this life sends our way. These three simple ideas will improve our lives beyond our expectation.



PRAYER

Lord, allow me to see you as I seek you this day. Lead me to study your word enough so that it may truly guide me and bless me with the stability of mind that allows me to be capable of having stay power. In these things I ask your spirit to guide and protect me. May all my attempts to find you and connect with you end as I see your face. I pray this and all else in the name of Jesus my Messiah.

Amen



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Rhyme or Reason

 

When the same ABBA Anthony thought about the depths of the judgments of God, he asked, “Lord, how is it that some die when they are young, while others drag on too extreme old age? Why are there those who are poor and those who are rich? Why do wicked man prosper and why are the just in need ?” He heard a voice answering him, “Anthony, keep your attention on yourself; these things are according to the judgment of God, and it is not your advantage to know anything about them.”

…..Anthony of the Desert


 

Man has struggled for generations with the prosperity of the wicked and the lack of suffered by the just and humble. You don’t have to look very deep to see injustices in the world. It wouldn’t take you long to discover a very cruel and dishonest person who lives a life of luxury. In the same way, you would not have to go far to find someone who wishes the best for all but seems to lack the necessities ofdoesevilprosper life. This dichotomy was a source of confusion for Anthony. He saw young, vibrant people being stuck down and those who could not care for their basic needs lingering on. All these things were a source of frustration for a man who sought the perfection of God.

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Have you ever wondered what was the “rhyme or reason” of a confusing event in the world? Anthony did, and he wanted a solution that would solve such problems. Instead, he got an answer that would only fit Him. God told him, “Anthony, turn to your own perfection and leave the perfection of the world to me.” Many of us, like Anthony, spend an undue amount of time and anxiety trying to fix the world and forget that we are broken as well. God wants to make you whole so that you may spread that wholeness to the world. How do we become whole?

When I was in formation to become a United Methodist Elder, my mentor shared a truism from Native American Culture. He spoke of how the Tribal Council sat in a circle surrounded by their personal hoops. The moral was that they had to “tend their own hoops’ before they had anything to say to the council. Nothing they said was of any value unless they began with themselves. That’s interesting, because it is the very same thing that the monk is hearing from God when he says, “Anthony, keep your attention on yourself.” Those words ring as loudly for us as they did for Anthony those many years ago. We must accept the reality that the only person we can really change is ourselves and hope that that change will profit those that surround us. Our change becomes an inspiration for their change.

In spite of that reality, it can get very frustrating to watch the many apparent inequities and injustices that surround us, but we must remember that we are marching on to perfection. We are praying every day I hope, “Thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.” We strive for that intersection of heaven and earth to come in our own lives so that we might understand why things are as the are and leave it to God.

The rhyme or reason is not for us to know. We are called to leave it with God.


 

Prayer

Lord, help me this day to see to the shortcomings of my walk. Allow me to outstretch a hand of understanding and grace to all you send my way. Relieve me of the torture of the many “whys” of life and give me the peace that comes with striving to be one with you.

Amen.

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A Way to Begin

AthanasiusIn the coming months I will be writing devotionals from the sayings of Anthony of Egypt as translated by Benedict Ward and scholars of the Coptic Church. Because of these two sources I can offer the sayings of Anthony and the comment that I write. These sayings tell us something about the great monk but not all we might want to know. One of his early followers was Athanasius of Alexandria, a Father of the Eastern Church. Athanasius took upon himself to write a biography of Anthony. In this work we can learn a lot more about the monk and how he ordered his life.

I thought it might be helpful to share some of the details of the life of Anthony as I comment on his sayings. The sayings of the Monk can be guides for life and the life of the monk can serve as the same. Writings on the life of Anthony will give us further seeds for thought and perhaps some handle that can help our spiritual journey. By using the work of Athanasius, I will attempt to make Anthony’s life one we could use as a leaning model for our own spiritual development.

A Way to Begin

Anthony found himself an eighteen-year-old moderately affluent man who had, by the death of his parents, been given the responsibility of the care of a younger. Because of his upbringing he was keenly aware of his responsibility and eager to carry out the task that had come his way. He was a very devout man who always sought guidance from the church. One day while pondering om the writings of Matthew on the calling and ministry of the apostles, he was struck with a divine message. With further study that message led him to the conclusion that He must sell all his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor just as the apostles had left everything and concentrated on following Jesus.

There was for Anthony one great responsibility that he could not drop. His young sister was in his care and she was his first responsibility. After selling all that he had, he reserved enough to care for his sister and arranged for her to live with a group of nuns. This being settled he went about the task of seeking the knowledge that would bring him closer to God. He sought that knowledge by being aware of all those around him from whom he could learn. Athanasius said that he went like a “prudent bee” when he would hear of any good man. From one he learned graciousness, from another unceasing prayer, and from still others, he learned freedom from anger, endurance, fasting and so much more. He took all that he learned and united them in his spiritual nature. Because of this he became beloved by all.

The life of Anthony gives us some beautiful ways to pursue our beginning of the contemplative life. I believe that all contemplatives must be keenly aware that we are called to live on a higher plain than one that can be bought by money. We can never really know this unless we release the hold that our money has over us. I am not saying that we all must give it away, but we must prioritize our lives around the pursuit of God and not the pursuit of money. Then there are the ones that we are responsible like our children, grandchildren, spouses and others that God has entrusted to our care. We must make proper provision for them and cannot cast them aside and by saying that I am now following God and you are on your own. God wants us to be keenly aware that we don’t have all the answers. Every good Christian seeks guidance and knowledge from others. Every Christian contemplative must strive to unite these pieces together in their lives.

Also, it can be said that the beginning of a life that seeks after God’s heart is to be free of rivalry and competition. Many people spend undue time and effort to “top” one another. Anthony concluded and shared with us a great secret. Athanasius put it this way, “With others of the same age he had no rivalry; save this only, that he should not be second to them in higher things.”

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LORD, I WANT TO BE SAVED

When the holy ABBA Anthony lived in the desert he was beset by sloth and attacked by many sinful thoughts. He said to God, “Lord, I want to be saved but these thoughts do not leave me alone, what shall I do I do in my affliction? How can I be saved?” A short while afterwards, when he got up to go out, Anthony saw a man like himself sitting at his work, getting up from his work to pray, then sitting down and plating a rope, and getting up again to pray. It was an Angel the Lord sent to correct and reassure him. He heard the Angel saying to him, “Do this and you will be saved.” At these words, Anthony was filled with joy and courage. He did this, and he was saved.

…..Anthony of the Desert


The greatest longing of any follower of God is to be saved. Saved from the cares of this life. Saved from the sin that drags us down. Saved from the smothering nature of this world. Anthony abandoned his money and family ties looking to be saved but was soon feeling it was all in vain. His heart told him one thing, but his mind said another. He was stuck and wanted a way out. That scenario is all too familiar to us.

We begin a new year and a new decade, and we want things to go so well. Our resolution to God and ourselves is to leave behind the old and the inadequate. Like Anthony, we resolve to do better. Our heart’s desire is to live with God in our hearts and minds. The cares of the world and the requirements of life get in the way. Our cry to God is –show me the way! Perhaps the way is in front of us. Anthony saw an angelic vision of a man who was simply working. His task seemed mundane and tedious. Upon closer observation the monk noticed something. This man took numerous and brief breaks to pray. He did not allow the tasks of the world to be the sole dominance of his life.

The problem is not whether we will have to do the tasks of the world and live with the world as it is, but how we will respond to this journey? There have been numerous books and articles written on how to be a Monk (Christian) amid our post Christian era. These writers all have good suggestions and disciplines that will bring us closer to a serene relationship with God. I applaud them for their contribution to the conversation. I would suggest that we can note that all of them in one way or another point to the lives of the earliest of the Desert Monastics and Anthony was the first.Post 1

I don’t know why Bendicta Ward chose to make the saying quoted today the first in her book “Sayings of the Desert Fathers.” As I read these sayings once again, it just struck me that this is where it all began. The feeling Anthony was experiencing was the key to finding peace with God. He found that peace by linking the tasks of everyday life to prayer. Perhaps we can say it this way. Work is prayer and prayer is work. Most of us want to put God in one box of our lives and enter that box at prescribed times, but Anthony broke that mold. As he watched the man work and pray seamlessly it was a eureka moment. He realized that prayer is a natural part of life. It is work. Prayer is the work of the Christian but not to the neglect of everything else.

Most of us live driven, divided lives that cause division in our souls. The secret of the monk was to make them one. I don’t have to have a special time or place to pray, but I can be about my task and take time to offer all that I am to God. Your decision may be that you have that time and place that you meet God. If so, I am happy for you. For the many in this world that are looking, I urge you to look to the advice of the old Monk who heard the voice of the angels say, “Do this and you will be saved.” Work is prayer and prayer is work.

 


Prayer

Lord free my heart to be able to recognize you in the simple tasks that I am given every day. Give me the strength to see you when I am happy and to feel your presence when I am down and defeated. Let every day, moment and experience be an experience with you. Allow the tasks of this day to be melded together by your presence. That presence is my solace and salvation. Amen.

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