Many people living secluded lives on the mountain have perished by living like people in the world. It is better to live in a crowd and want to live a solitary life than to live a solitary life but all the time be longing for company.
Many people yearn for a place apart, our own little corner of the cosmos where we can discover our true selves and touch the hand of God. Our first inclination is to “get away” to a place of solitude and surely God would be there. The wise desert mother tells us that solitude is first and foremost a matter of heart. Many people have sought to escape only to find that they are trapped by their own fallen nature no matter where they find themselves.
We all seek our Creator and feel that if we could just be relieved of the pressures, bothers and interferences of everyday life we would find Him. Not so says Amma Matrona. Solitude is a state of mind that begins long before we escape to our desert. The real key is to empty ourselves and allow that void to be filled by God. No amount of social interaction or physical isolation can bring us close to God. This is achieved as a matter of heart.
- Is anger a sin? (rector42.wordpress.com)
‘Let us strive to enter by the narrow gate, Just as the trees, if they have not stood before the winter’s storms cannot bear fruit, so it is with us; this present age is a storm and it is only through many trials and temptations that we can obtain an inheritance in the kingdom of heaven.’
We all look toward the gate of deliverance. Our lives are full of turmoil and confusion. We find hard to believe that all of our sufferings are really God’s way of making us ready. All of us would prefer a life that is absent of pain, guilt, stress and those unrestrained emotions that cause us to lay awake night after night. God seems to put us on a “spiritual fitness” routine to prepare us for our ultimate destination. We must understand the evil that is around us before we can see the ultimate good of God. That understanding make us aware that God’s grace is our only hope.
Lord I surrender myself to you this day. May you use all my trails to turn my face towards you. Amen
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.
I found this article and thought it might be helpful to those who read this blog for information on the Desert Fathers. Click on the link below.
The Ancient Fathers of the Desert: Introduction and Commentary — Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
One nun came to Blessed Sarah and said to her: Pray for me, my lady. – The blessed one said to her: Neither will I have mercy on you nor will God unless you have mercy on yourself, fulfilling the virtues as the Fathers have commanded us.
——-Amma Sarah of the Desert
The ability to forgive yourself is key to your psychological well-being. Unforgiveness of self causes a wide range of problems. Suicide, addictions and depression are just a few of the many things associated with self-condemnation. Psychologists struggle to develop creative ways to address this issue. Many suffer from a lack of awareness of their problem with this issue. Behavioral professionals, religious and irreligious, know the importance of self-forgiveness. Many corporate hours are spent in seminars that stress the necessity of learning the importance of forgiveness. This endeavor is tremendously costly for the corporate world.
Amma Sara knew about such forgiveness 1500 years ago, and said it was the place to start. God is a God of forgiveness and grace, and we must forgive ourselves in order to receive forgiveness. Our problem with self-forgiveness is that we don’t really believe in grace – that marvelous property of God that allows Him to forgive us even though we are most undeserving. Amma Sarah called the forgiving of ourselves a fulfillment of the virtues that were bestowed upon us by the Creator. Forgiveness, even of our own faults, is a virtue.
- Adventures in Forgiveness (matterofprayerblog.wordpress.com)
- Deep Roots of Unforgiveness (saranortonsanner.com)
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
The 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.
- Who Is a Woman? Am I One? (sreelakshmipv.wordpress.com)
Some monks of Scetis came one day to visit Amma Sarah. She offered them a small basket of fruit. They left the good fruit and ate the bad. So she said to them, “You are true monks of Scetis.”
So the last will be first, and the first will be last.
—-Parables of Jesus
The clarion call of all followers of Jesus is self-denial. Without self-denial we are in a constant state of grabbing and competition for the chief seats. Over and over again Jesus the teacher told His disciples to be self-sacrificing and humble. One of the great sayings of the scripture is, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Is a person who calls himself a Christian but always puts self-interest first really legitimate?
Sara of the desert gives us some insight here. She lived the life of a desert monk, and a real monk knows the meaning of true sacrifice. She entertained some fellow monastics in her cell and offered them fruit, and they ate the bad fruit first. Her reaction was to call them “true monks.” Amma Sara knew that there were true and false monks, and declared that true monks don’t grab for the best but leave the best for others.
In this same way, true followers of Jesus must be willing to take a “back seat’ so that others may thrive and go forward. That sort of thinking is contrary to the norm of our day, but brings us closer to an understanding of the nature of God and His grace. By living out a life of self-sacrifice, we find the divine peace that surpasses all understanding.
9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.10He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
‘Let us strive to enter by the narrow gate, Just as the trees, if they have not stood before the winter’s storms cannot bear fruit, so it is with us; this present age is a storm and it is only through many trials and temptations that we can obtain an inheritance in the kingdom of heaven
——- Amma Theodora
Prayer Starter — Lord help me to see the light that you shine upon me.
March 8 — Day 4
7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
There were two old men who dwelt together for many years and who never quarreled. Then one said to the other: “Let us pick a quarrel with each other like other men do.” “I do not know how quarrels arise,” answered his companion. So the other said to him: “Look, I will put a brick down here between us and I will say ‘This is mine.’ Then you can say ‘No it is not, it is mine.’ Then we will be able to have a quarrel.” So they placed the brick between them and the first one said: “This is mine.” His companion answered him: “This is not so, for it is mine.” To this, the first one said: “If it is so and the brick is yours, then take it and go your way.” And so they were not able to have a quarrel.
—-Sayings of the Desert
Prayer Starter — Lord help me to be a peacemaker above all else.