Saturday, July 25, 2009
The Desert Fathers and Mothers were the first Christian monastics. Originally fleeing the Diocletion persection (300 AD) and later ( 313 AD) when Constantine made Christianity the state religion, escaping the "worldiness" of the church. They inhabited the wilderness living as ascetics in solitude, in and around the deserts ofEgypt, Palestine, and Syria. Their's was a grass roots non-ecclesiastical movement, spear headed by ordinary people. They chose solitute and lives of celibacy, fasting, vigil, prayer, and poverty in simple response to the Gospel.
Paul of Thebes was the first recorded hermit to model what would become the tradition of monastic asceticism and contemplation. Pachomius of Thebaid is considered the founder of early monasticism. However, it is the revered Anthony of Egypt at the end of the third century who overseeing colonies of hermits that became the archetypal model of the deserts fathers.
By way of their example these early monastic drew sizable followings to their way of life. The desert fathers and mother were often appealed to for spiritual guidance and counsel by both those inside and out side these communities.
Originally there was no strict organization, every thing functioned relationaly. People were encouraged to find their own rule (guiding principles), Eventually two types of expression developed, hermetic ( closter) and monastic (community).
John Cassin of Bethleham spent time with the desert Fathers wrting down preserving what he learned and saw in two volumes, the "Institutes" and the Conferences. In the 4th century the Paradise or Apophthegms of the Fathers a collection of spiritual advice, anecdotes, parables, and reflections on the life of these desert pilgrims surfaced.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
BUT the contemplation of God is gained in a variety of ways. For we not only discover God by admiring His incomprehensible essence, a thing which still lies hid in the hope of the promise, but we see Him through the greatness of His creation, and the consideration of His justice, and the aid of His daily providence: when with pure minds we contemplate what He has done with His saints in every generation, when with trembling heart we admire His power with which He governs, directs, and rules all things, or the vastness of His knowledge, and that eye of His from which no secrets of the heart can lie hid, when we consider the sand of the sea, and the number of the waves measured by Him and known to Him, when in our wonder we think that the drops of rain, the days and hours of the ages, and all things past and future are present to His knowledge;
When we gaze in unbounded admiration on that ineffable mercy of His, which with unwearied patience endures countless sins which are every moment being committed under His very eyes, or the call with which from no antecedent merits of ours, but by the free grace of His pity He receives us; or again the numberless opportunities of salvation which He grants to those whom He is going to adopt--that He made us be born in such a way as that from our very cradles His grace and the knowledge of His law might be given to us, that He Himself, overcoming our enemy in us simply for the pleasure of His good will, rewards us with eternal bliss and everlasting rewards, when lastly He undertook the dispensation of His Incarnation for our salvation, and extended the marvels of His sacraments to all nations.
But there are numberless other considerations of this sort, which arise in our minds according to the character of our life and the purity of our heart, by which God is either seen by pure eyes or embraced: which considerations certainly no one will preserve lastingly, if anything of carnal affections still survives in him, because "thou canst not," saith the Lord, "see My face: for no man shall see Me and live to this world and to earthly affections.
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Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Buddists refer to this as mindfullness, being present in each moment, each breath. For followers of Christ this is known as practicing the presence God.
A 17th century Carmelite monk, Brother Lawrence considered "the practice of the presence of God' to be at the center of authentic Christian spirituality. He learned the discipline of being constanly aware of Gods presence especially in the ordinary and mundane during his forty years of doing dishes and daily tasks for his monastic community.
He wrote, "There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful, than that of a continual conversation with God. Those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it."
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. [Psalm 139:7-12]
Embracing the ordinary and cultivating the practice of becoming aware of Gods presence in each mundane moment could also be understood as learning to walk in the Spirit.
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