Tag Archives: Syria

Fasting, Medicine, Approval and Purity

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Today I share some wisdom from Desert Mother Amma Syncletica. The Desert Mothers were women Christian ascetics living in the desert of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria in the 4th and 5th centuries AD. They typically lived in the monastic communities that began forming during that time, though sometimes they lived as hermits Their writings are largely lost because of the male dominance of the church in this time period.

Most of us can relate to medicine tasting bad, and in the same breath admit to it Amma Syn1doing our bodies some good. The wise Amma brings fasting and medicine into the same conversation. Quite often I have had people approach me about the reason and necessity of fasting as a spiritual discipline. Some say that they get absolutely nothing out of fasting except pangs of hunger. Fasting, like any other discipline, must be approached in an attitude of faith. Fasting and prayer are often linked together .Too often, the focus of fasting is on the lack of food. Instead, the purpose of fasting should be to take your eyes off the things of this world and focus more completely on God. Fasting is a way to demonstrate to God, and to ourselves, that we are serious about our relationship with Him. Fasting helps us gain a new perspective and a renewed reliance upon God. With that awareness, we have received a dose of Spiritual medicine that leads us toward our goal of being “one with Him.” Might I suggest that a day of fasting and dedication to our awareness of God could do us all a bit of good.

An undue amount of time is spent byAmm Syn 2 all of us seeking the approval of one person or another. The Amma tells us that if approval of all is necessary, we will spend our lives begging for a mere earthly goal. Instead she suggests that purity of the heart should be our goal. This whole concept of universal approval is an impossibility, however, purity of heart is a difficult but reachable goal. As we seek to live the Christian life, we should learn the wisdom of seeking purity rather than approval.

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Christianity Divided by the Cross

This topic is at the heart of Christian understanding. It serves as a good starter for further thinking.

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A guest post by theologian and scholar Marcus Borg – a fitting addition to our series on Atonement. (This piece originally appeared on patheos.com)

American Christians are deeply divided by the cross of Jesus – namely, by how they see the meanings of his death. At the risk of labels and broad generalizations, “conservative” Christians generally believe a “payment” understanding of the cross: Jesus died to pay for our sins so we can be forgiven.

Most “progressive” Christians (at least a majority) have great difficulty with the “payment” understanding. Many reject it. Some insist that rather than focusing on Jesus’s death, we should instead focus on his life and teachings. They are right about what they affirm, even as they also risk impoverishing the meaning of Jesus by de-emphasizing the cross.

It is the central Christian symbol. And ubiquitous. Perhaps even the most widely-worn piece of jewelry. Its…

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Denial

All Giza Pyramids in one shot. Русский: Все пи...

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.

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Filed under anchorite, Ascetics, Christian Journey, Christian Living, Desert Fathers, Self-denial