Reflections on The Desert Fathers

An interesting blog providing short comments on the sayings of the Desert Fathers is http://ijboudreaux.com/category/desert-fathers/ published by Irvin Boudreaux, currently in the Spiritual Director Certification program at Perkins School of Theology of Southern Methodist University and serving as Senior Pastor of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in New Orleans.
boudreaux
Some recent posts:

Call to Perfection

“While still living in the palace, Abba Arsenius prayed to God in these words, ‘Lord, lead me in the way of salvation.’ And a voice came saying to him, ‘Arsenius, flee from men and you will be saved. ‘Having withdrawn to the solitary life he made the same prayer again and he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Arsenius, flee, be silent, pray always, for these are the source of sinlessness.’ “
arsenius
Threefold is the call to perfection. First we must flee. We flee from the slavery of the demands of the world. We are no longer obedient vassals to what “everyone else” is doing and saying. Second, we must practice silence. The call to silence is a call to be attentive to the voice of God. God speaks loudest when we are silent . The third call is to pray always. In the practice of constant prayer ,we open ourselves to the will of God, and we draw closer to Him. These three concepts are a path to perfection.

What Does this Mean?

If a monk does not think in his own heart that he is a sinner, God will not hear him. The brother said, ‘What does this mean, to think in his heart he is a sinner?’ Then the old man said, ‘When someone is occupied with his own faults, he does not see those of his neighbor.’
desert fathers
This type of theme of careful introspection resonates very loudly in our grudge filled and judgmental society. The poet Anne Currin writes, “You’re so devoted to all your grudges, You cherish them like they’re a prize; You hold them with pride on your pedestal Bursting with bliss as your relationships die.” Many years before the poet wrote those words the people of the desert were pondering how to deal with such things. In this saying the Abba points us directly to our awareness of personal sin and its effect on our behavior toward others.
His advice is quite simple. We are called to believe in our hearts that we are sinners, and sin is our nature. Until we can recognize our nature, it is very difficult to improve our lot. When we turn our energies toward self – improvement we steer away from judgment of others, and towards unity with God. That unity, after all, is our primary goal. Own your sins and ask God to give you the grace to overcome.

Some Advice About Living

It was said of Abba Theodore of Pherme that three things he held to be fundamental were: poverty, asceticism, flight from men. He also said, ‘The man who remains standing when he repents, has not kept the commandment.’
abba theodore
The advice from the monk is to have your life characterized by some fundamental attitudes that lead us closer to God. He goes on to tell us that true repentance is manifested in outward humility. The words poverty and asceticism can be summed up by just saying that we are called to a life of simplicity. This type of simplicity allows us to put God first in our lives. Such a simplicity keeps us away from many temptations. Those that live the simple life are generous, compassionate and without greed or envy. The expression “flight from men “can be summed up by saying, put aside the things of the world and spend time with God. This life is designed to keep us constantly distracted and occupied with the things of the world. Such a state of affairs gives us little time for the things of God. We all want to get to a place where we find peace and harmony with ourselves and the rest of the world. That was the Abba’s goal and ours, too.
Striving towards that simplicity demands repentance, not just a casual confession, but true repentance. That repentance is one of depth and conviction, and it brings about conversion. Such a conversion will affect us greatly. There are too many professing Christians who can simply “remain standing” surrounded by their sin. All of us are called to a repentance and conversion of heart that brings us to our knees, helpless without the grace of God.

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