Meditations on the Sand

“The crowded bus, the long queue, the railway platform, the traffic jam, the neighbours’ television sets, the heavy-footed people on the floor above you, the person who still keeps getting the wrong number on your phone. These are the real conditions of your desert. Do not allow yourself to be irritated. Do not try to escape. Do not postpone your prayer. Kneel down. Enter that disturbed solitude. Let your silence be spoilt by those sounds. It is the beginning of your desert….
meditations sand
In the desert the most urgent thing is–to wait. The desert does not take kindly to those who tackle it at breakneck speed, subjecting it to their plans and deadlines. Instead, the desert welcomes those who shed their sandals of speed and walk slowly in their bare feet, letting them be caressed and burnt by the sand. If you have no ambition to conquer the desert, if you do not think you are in charge, if you can calmly wait for things to be done, then the desert will not consider you an intruder and will reveal its secrets to you.

The dialectic of searching and finding has a strange structure in the desert. The search has a surprising ending. I could not in all honesty say whether I have found what I was looking for. All I know is that I have been overtaken. Overtaken by a Voice. Surrounded by a Presence. It is difficult to define what I have found. But I know for certain that I have been seized by Someone.

The immense spaces of the desert give you at first the feeling that you are free to go where you like. But you know intuitively that someone else is going to lead you by the hand.

The desert constitutes a most paradoxical challenge. You are given a vast territory with boundless possibilities of escape. Your courage is on trial. Are you courageous enough to be captured? Are you heroic enough to offer an unconditional surrender?

Prayer, it seems to me, is an extraordinary gift of space. No one has more space at his disposal than the man who prays. But that space does not help him to flee: it makes all flight impossible. And the man of prayer knows that he has been rendered incapable of fleeing. Which, you will agree, is the happiest solution. For we never enjoy greater freedom than when we are seized by God.

Not to have an escape route. This is the quintessence of the risk we take when we pray. And how beautiful it is to fall into the hands of the living God.”
From “Meditations on the Sand” (1982) by Alessandro Pronzato, Italian Roman Catholic Priest, journalist, writer and professor.


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