Abba Xanthias said, “A dog is better than I am because a dog also has love but, unlike I myself, the dog does not pass judgment.”
Abba Sarmatas said: “I prefer a person who has sinned if he knows that he sinned and has repented, over a person who has not sinned and considers himself to be righteous.”
Humility and contemplation are the invisible twins of the spiritual life. One without the other is impossible. In the first place, there is no such thing as a contemplative life without the humility that takes us beyond the myth of our own grandeur to the cosmic grandeur of God. In the second, once we really know the grandeur of God we get the rest of life – ourselves included – in perspective. Reaching the moon told us how really insignificant we were in the universe. We begin to rethink all our dearly held notions of human consequence. Humility leads directly to contemplation. Continue reading “Desert Day 35: Humility And Contemplation …”
But there is this too. Respite. Rest. Letting the desert be the desert, without feeling compelled to bulldoze our way through it.
I think of a long stretch when I found myself in a soul struggle that had caught me entirely by surprise. Consumed by the wrestling and working and searching, I felt exhausted. After a time, my spiritual director, Maru, gave me this phrase: holy absence.
There are times, she said, sometimes seasons, for removing ourselves from the struggle. Time for sabbath. Time for rest. Continue reading “Desert Day 34: Holy Absence …”
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
— 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Forgiveness is simply the religious word for letting go. To forgive reality is to let go of the negative story line, the painful story line that you’ve created for it. If that story line has become your identity, if you are choosing to live in a victim state, an abused consciousness, it gives you a false kind of power and makes you feel morally superior to others. But let me tell you, it will also destroy you. It will make you smaller and smaller as you get older. You will find that you have fewer and fewer people you can trust, fewer and fewer people, if any, that you can love. Life itself becomes a threat. Your comfort zone becomes tinier and tinier. Continue reading “Desert Day 33: Forgiveness Is Letting Go …”
To forgive our brother is to forgive
We abandon our revenge;
Our lives have seen suffering enough.
We are tired and worn out with
If we take revenge, it will be the cause;
The effect will follow me into my next life.
Look into the mirror; see the compassion
in your heart.
Avoid all resentment and hatred for Mankind.
— Le Ly Hayslip from A Grateful Heart
“Time heals,” people often say. This is not true when it means that we will eventually forget the wounds inflicted on us and be able to live on as if nothing happened. That is not really healing; it is simply ignoring reality. But when the expression “time heals” means that faithfulness in a difficult relationship can lead us to a deeper understanding of the ways we have hurt each other, then there is much truth in it. “Time heals” implies not passively waiting but actively working with our pain and trusting in the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation. Continue reading “Desert Day 32: To Forgive Others Is To Forgive Ourselves …”
“The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust.” —Isaiah 32:17
Loving Your Enemies
Probably no admonition of Jesus has been more difficult to follow than the command to “love your enemies.” Some men have sincerely felt that its actual practice is not possible. It is easy, they say, to love those who love you, but how can one love those who openly and insidiously seek to defeat you? Others, like the philosopher Nietzsche, contend that Jesus’ exhortation to love one’s enemies is testimony to the fact that the Christian ethic is designed for the weak and cowardly, and not for the strong and courageous. Jesus, they say, was an impractical idealist. Continue reading “Desert Day 31: Love Your Enemies …”
You have an idea of what the new country looks like. Still, you are very much at home, although not truly at peace, in the old country. You know the ways of the old country, its joys and pains, its happy and sad moments. You have spent most of your days there. Even though you know that you have not found there what your heart most desires, you remain quite attached to it. It has become part of your very bones. Continue reading “Desert Day 28: Enter The New Country …”
Jesus answered her, “Everyone who drinks this water will become thirsty again. But those who drink the water that I will give them will never become thirsty again. In fact, the water I will give them will become in them a spring that gushes up to eternal life.
— John 4: 13-14
And the well runs dry. It’s one of the most common experiences in the spiritual life. A practice that we have cherished, a habit that has deepened us and drawn us closer to God, a discipline that we perhaps have engaged in for years no longer seems to work. Gradually over time or overnight with no warning, its familiar contours turn foreign, dull, perhaps even painful.
These times call us to some of our deepest discernment. They dare us to ask, Am I being called to go deeper in this practice, to persist, to keep digging toward the wellspring that surely must be here somewhere? Am I being invited to wait and to listen? Or is God leading me toward a different practice than the one I have known? Continue reading “Desert Day 20: When The Well Runs Dry …”
The Spirit of God breathes everywhere within you, just as in the beginning, filling light place and dark…green earth and dry…. God’s love grows, fullness upon fullness, where you crumble enough to give what is most dear. Your earth.
— Joan Sauro from Whole Earth Meditation
Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness.
The season of Lent calls us into a landscape. Though the imagery of wilderness is dominant in Lent, this is not the primary terrain that this season invites us to enter. Continue reading “Desert Day 12: Where The Breath Begins …”
The spiritual journey is not a career or a success story. It is a series of humiliations of the false self that become more and more profound. These make room inside us for the Holy Spirit to come and heal. What prevents us from being available to God is gradually evacuated. We keep getting closer and closer to our Center. Every now and then God lifts a corner of the veil and enters into our awareness through various channels, as if to say, “Here I am. Where are you? Come and Join me.” Continue reading “Desert Day 11: The False Self … “