Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lent: Exploring the virtue of a humble faith

A reflection for beginning the Lenten journey:

During the third century, some Christians began to go out into the wilderness, claiming a life separated from the cities and making a simple life out in the Egyptian desert.  Considered the first monks, these women and men came to be known as the Desert Fathers and Mothers.  People began seeking out these wise persons for spiritual advice, and we have wonderful collections of brief stories and sayings written down by their followers. 

One story tells of a wise monk who met up with the Devil on the roadside.  The Devil had hoped to pounce upon the monk and instead admitted that the monk was causing him no end of torment. 

The Devil claimed he was trying everything he could to harm the monk, even going to the extent of fasting and keeping vigil just like the monk. 

No matter what the Devil tried, the monk was off limits.  The Devil concluded that the monk was untouchable not because of his daily rituals. The devil could keep pace with all of these things. 

What stymied the Devil was the monk’s humility.

(As translated by Yushi Nomura, Desert Wisdom: Sayings of the Desert Wisdom, Orbis Books, 2001, 20-21).

For more about the early Desert Fathers and Mothers, read Benedicta Ward's collection The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks, revised edition, Penguin Books, 2003, or Laura Swan's The Forgotten Desert Mothers: Sayings, Lives and Stories of Early Christian Women, Paulist Press, 2003.

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