Thursday, July 10, 2014

Lessons from the Desert

At the height of Rome’s decadence, many Christians had once decided to flee to the wilderness. There, in the arid heat of the Egyptian desert, the saints had arduously sought the Kingdom of God through self-discipline and contemplation. Within caves and the oases, Christians founded monastic communities of monks so that they could practice their faith as a community of the committed.

St. Anthony of Egypt was one of the pioneers of that spiritual movement. He was called to sell all that He had, give to the poor, and focus his mind exclusively on Christ. He battled many demons and temptations, and was regarded as a wise and a godly man. When asked about the Christian life, he answered, “always have God before your eyes; whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of the Holy Scriptures.
Upon being asked about the state of the world, the monk replied, “A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, ‘you are mad, you are not like us.’”

St. Anthony of Egypt certainly knew what it was like for the Lord when He fasted for forty days in the desert (Greek, heremos). Jesus himself had experienced temptations as did Anthony after him. In fact, Anthony echoed Jesus’s sentiment as He Himself was tempted by the devil: “whoever has not experienced temptations cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

The word hermit is derived from the Greek heremos, which means, “desert,” or “wilderness.” The Spirit drove Jesus into the heremos. Those who are likewise driven to heremos themselves are “hermits.”

The three above statements come from “The Sayings of the Desert Fathers,” translated by Benedicta Ward.

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