Posts Tagged ‘Desert Mothers’

November Magazine

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Stay in your cell and your cell will teach you everything

Abba Moses

I write this as many of the clergy in Winchester are preparing to go on retreat; with some of the time spent in silence. From the earliest times, retreat has been an important part of the Christian life. It is an opportunity to withdraw from the usual round of tasks and the familiar environment, to spend time in contemplation and reflection. It is a sort of spiritual 10,000 mile service.

Withdrawing to find time in prayer and solitude was the pattern modeled by Jesus and sometimes followed in extreme ways by his early followers. Simeon Stylites spent 37 years living alone on the top of a pillar! There was a tradition of desert mothers and fathers who renounced everyday comfort to live in harsh conditions but who also received visitors and shared insights into the spiritual life. Abba Moses, quoted above, was a desert father who reminded people not to rush around looking for answers but to slow down and become rooted in one place, where a new perspective can be granted.

A desert mother, Amma Syncletia, shows the struggle of persevering in a relationship with God. She likens this to starting a fire, “If you want to light a fire you are troubled at first by smoke, and your eyes pour water. But in the end you achieve your aim. Now it is written: ‘Our God is a consuming fire.’ So we must light the divine fire within us with tears and struggle.”

It is a privilege to have both the time and a good leader for retreat. However, retreat is not the same as escape or withdrawal. It is about finding time to engage more deeply with God and God’s purposes in the world. In this sense, I hope that many of you find time for retreat. Time for a few hours of solitude where you can engage with purpose and meaning both for your life and the lives of those around us. For a person of faith, purpose and meaning are found in God and the words of St. Augustine ring true, “You created us for yourselves O God and our hearts are restless until they rest in you”.

With love and prayers Paul