The passion came to my mind as a result of my prayers. I had a great empathy with the passion of Christ but it was clear that God could give me more through His grace.
—-Julian of Norwich
Lady Julian lived the simple life of a hermit, but she knew that she could experience limitless revelation through the grace of God. One of her great desires of life was to feel the pain and abandonment of the passion of Christ. This knowledge would allow her to better understand the depth of God’s extravagant love towards us.
Like Lady Julian, we can have more of God through His grace. Words could not adequately express how much more God wants to give to us if we only ask. We have long settled for second best, because we have depended on our ability and not his grace to take us on this quest. Julian urges us to call upon His grace.
She was keenly aware that she could never really attain her goal of viscerally experiencing the pain and sorrow of the passion of the Christ except through grace. The kind of grace that allows us to achieve beyond our ability or strength is what desire. What a sad fact it is that most people turn to “self-help” and expect to find the answers to life’s great mysteries in manmade formulas. This lesson of Julian is that grace is the way to achieve more.
An Egyptian brother came to Abba Zeno in Syria, and accused himself to the old man about his temptations. Fill with admiration, Zeno said, ‘The Egyptians hide the virtues they possess and ceaselessly accuse themselves of faults they do not have, while the Syrians and Greeks pretend to have virtues they do not have, and hide the faults of which they are guilty.’
——-sayings of the Desert
One the hardest tasks of the Christ walk is the recognition of our own faults and failures. We find ourselves so wrapped up in our journeys that we often see the sins of others and overlook our own. The humble Egyptian, on the other hand, looked directly into his own soul and made confession. Jesus states in scripture, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” This pattern of self-denial, as exhibited by the Egyptian, is the model for all Christians.
Interestingly enough Abba Zeno gives us another little morsel of truth here as well. Our inability to perceive the reality of our circumstances and the hiding of virtues is played in contrast to the overstatement of our place in life. In short, the Abba saw the “greener grass” in Egypt while giving a blanket condemnation to his home region. We must never forget that God has given all that we need, and it is our calling to live into the opportunities that surround us.
Abba Peter said this about the holy Macarius: ‘One day he came to the cell of an anchorite who happened to be ill, and he asked him if he would take something to eat, though his cell was stripped bare. When the other replied, “Some sherbet,” that courageous man did not hesitate, but went as far as Alexandria to fetch some for the sick man. The astonishing thing is that no-one knew about it.’
—–Saying of the Desert
The brother is saying that he traveled over 50 miles through the desert to get the ancient equivalent of Ensure for an ailing friend, and he told no one about his good deed. Such a willing, generous spirit is not a common thing now, or then. Yet it is the teaching of Jesus in His Sermon On the Mount. He says,” But when you do your giving, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” The practice of charity (love) is not a source of pride or accolades, it is an act of devotion to God and His creation. We learn a valuable lesson from the desert today. Become a humble and generous giver of life, not a spectacle of self aggrandizing good deeds. Even if your actions are extraordinary, as were the actions of Macarius, we must do them to the praise of God and the benefit of His creation