Just recently I was introduced to Dorotheos of Gaza by Professor Emeritus Roberta Bondi from Chandler School of Theology. I find his words an additional treasure trove of desert wisdom that I will be blogging on from time to time. Irvin
In His loving-kindness God has given us purifying commandments so that, if we wish, we can by their observance be cleansed not only of sins but also of passions themselves. For passions are one thing and sins another. Passions are: anger, vanity, love of pleasures, hatred, evil lust and the like. Sins are the actual operations of passions, when a man puts them into practice, that is, performs with the body the actions to which his passions urge him. For it is possible to have passions and yet not to act from them.
Doretheos of Gaza
——-Dorotheos of Gaza
At first glance Dorotheos seems to be implying that we can approach God with behavior modification. That is not the base point of the teaching. We can dig far deeper by gaining the insight of the undeniable relationship between passion and sin. If we can come to understand that God is seeking to guide us to recognize our passions without allowing them to control us like puppets on a string, we can arrive at a peace that is currently beyond our grasp. Passions and sins are not one in the same. Passions are the root of sin, but passions are not an excuse for sin. The father clearly points out that we can have passions without sin. There are two keys: to observe the commands of God and avoid sin, and to understand that our passions drive us in the direction of sin. With that knowledge, it will be possible to have passions and not sin.
Additionally, I believe that passions allow us to live our lives to the fullest. Our deepest passions are one way we were created in the “image and likeness” of God. We are to go to God and ask Him to gift us with deep passion to live, to love, and to serve. With these passions, we become great servants and productive people. The acknowledgement of evil passions as the root of sin is the beginning of the road to glorification.
O woods and thickets,
Planted by the hand of my Beloved!
O green meadow,
Coated, bright, with flowers,
Tell me, has he passed by you?
—–Canticle of John of the Cross Stanza 4
In John’s words he refers to the woods and thickets as all of creation. As the soul searches for its place, it acknowledges the hand of God in all of creation. The emerald green meadow and the flowers that make it alive with color are all part of the creator’s eye. Then he asked nature if it is aware of the work of the creator? The struggle is to find the soul which is the very center of our being. This center is where God dwells. For we were created in His image, and we are called to reflect on the beauty that God has created in us.
Shepherds, you who go
up through the sheepfolds to the hill,
if by chance you see
him I love most,
tell him I am sick, I suffer, and I die.
—-Canticle of John of the Cross Stanza 2
In this second stanza of the Canticle, the soul cries out for intercessors who have not lost their way-people, angelic beings who can touch the garment of God. Is it so strange to feel this type of distance from God? Have you ever felt this way? When we are in our darkest times, we need others to speak to God for us; others who care for us, and seek the best for us. We need intercessors who are living in union with God and feel his presence John expresses his separation from God, and his utter inability to rediscover Him. Perhaps, with just a little help from others we can find God. We can learn from John to lean on others as we travel through our darkness. Perhaps it is with their light that we can find the God we have lost.
- What do you turn to in your times of darkness?
- Who are some guides for your life?
- Do you seek intercessors when in darkness?
- Food for Thought… (3in1gpnprayer.wordpress.com)
Drawing of the Crucifixion by St. John of the Cross
Where have you hidden,
Beloved, and left me moaning?
you fled like the stag
after wounding me;
I went out calling you, but you were gone.
—-Canticle of John of the Cross Stanza 1
God has hidden His true self from us is the first cry of the soul. Indeed every seeker of God longs for the mystical presence because in such a presence we can touch the hand of God. John tells us in his canticle that such a presence is hidden from us. The long journey of the believer is to find that level of the spiritual which is concealed from us by asking God to manifest His divine essence to us. The search for the divine leaves us moaning. We are left in a state of grief because the quest is so elusive. Victory does not come to he who prays the most or the loudest.
The mere wisp of the touch of God flees from us us as quickly as the cautious deer when he sites a man. We get a little glimpse of God, and it wounds us because we want so much more of Him. We call after Him and we cannot find Him. All manner of prayer and sacred reading is this search for the essence of God in the here and now. In John’s canticle I feel a sense of urgency and determination that are vital elements to a true relationship with God.
Abba Mark said to Abba Arsenius, ‘Why do you avoid us?’ The old man said to him, ‘God knows that I love you, but I cannot live with God and with men. The thousands and ten thousands of the heavenly hosts have but one will, while men have many. So I cannot leave God to be with men.’
—–sayings of the desert
The heavenly hosts have but one will, but men have many directions. At first glance it seems Arsenius is advocating total isolation, with further thought, there is perhaps a deeper meaning. Men are so scattered and confused when attempting to follow after God. We search in many directions, and fail to find peace with God. Constant discussion and speculation dominate our lives, and no truth is found. For thousands of years men have discussed and debated the meaning of miracles, healings, suffering, and have found few answers. The Abba calls us to put God first, and with that decision, we can have the freedom to find His will. Putting God first can be as simple as beginning each day in prayer, or having a time of silence to keep our focus. The Abba warns that we must not abandon God to be in the world.
One day Abba Daniel and Abba Ammoes went on a journey together. Abba Ammoes said, ‘When shall we, too, settle down, in a cell, Father?’ Abba Daniel replied, ‘Who shall separate us henceforth from God? God is in the cell, and, on the other hand, he is outside also.’
——-Sayings of the Desert Fathers
When John Wesley began to preach outside it was seen as an innovation in his time. And yet some 1000 years earlier we see this Abba saying that God is outside as well. It is amazing that these men of the desert were so far ahead when it comes to seeing God in all His ways and places. Today we live in a time of conflicting styles of worship and even of questions about the presence of God. We may want to take the words of Abba Daniel to heart and realize that God is always with us. God is not trapped or confined to a building or a place. He is our ever-present God