My beloved brothers and sister in Christ God,
Christ is in our midst! He was, is, and ever shall be.
TRAVERSING THE SPIRITUAL DESERT IN THE WORLD AND
When we speak or mention a desert, all kinds of images appear in our minds. Some of them are quite frightening. We realize immediately the many dangers we would face in the desert such as immense heat, sandstorms, mirages, scorpions, snakes, contaminated water, lack of food, no shade from the sun, no place to rest and/or sleep, sunburn, eye irritation, and overall climatic stress. We definitely know that we have neither the knowledge nor the ability and the skills to survive the desert, and that is why we are terrified to even thinking of that possibility.
In our Orthodox Christian tradition and history we have devout men and women who are known as Desert Dwellers, ascetics who became known as the Desert Fathers and Mothers of our Church and who founded Monasticism in the desert i.e., Saint John the Forerunner and Baptist, Saint Anthony the Great, Saint Pahomius, Saint Mary of Egypt, Amma (Mother) Syncletike, Amma Sarah, etc.
Through their faith, prayers and tears were able to transform the desert to a spiritual oasis, a place of repentane, of ascesis, of cleansing, of communion with God, of Wonders (miracles) and healing, and finding the way to our Savior Jesus Christ, the Living Water. Through Orthodox Monasticism the Holy Church was infused with genuine spirituality at times of crisis, protected from heretics and heresies, corruption, interference from secular power, interference in theological matters, and lack of spirituality, prayer, modesty, fasting, confession, and repentance. Our Ascetics provided a spiritual transfusion to the Church and many times revived her to continue her Divine Mission according to her Head and Founder Jesus Christ. Milions of Christian believers have been saved from evil and death because of the spiritual nourishment, guidance and prayers of our Holy Fathers and Holy Fathers of the Desert.
While the majority of these early Christian Desert Dwellers were men praying in solitude to God in the rough desert caves and terrain, there were woman as well who withdrew into the desert, seeking to truly live the command of our Lord Christ. Both the male and female ascetics have left us a treasure of spiritual wisdom in their writings or apopthegmata-short sayings. They taught by example and by a true and humble virtuous and pious life. The harsh environment, their admirable inner stillness, their constant and many temptatins from the devil, their real purity of soul and body, was and still is our most treasured inspiration and example.
We who live in the world, the city dwellers, live in a different kind of spiritual desert. This desert, believe it or not, poses similar threats and dangers not only to our bodies but specifically to our souls. Although they may not look the same, they are just as forecious and dangerous. These dangers are usually disguised and insidious, they are deceptive, posing as good and beneficial while they are exactly the opposite, full of poison just like a scorpion or snake. They are filled with anxiety and greed, manipulative and unpredictable, using sinister methods to achieve their adgenda, killing all inocence of children, and worshipping death and not life. There is no peace, unity, nor love for one another. There is no justice and respect of human life. They create an atheistic world and society. A spiritual wasteland, Godless and without love.
I wonder if we were to compare the deserts which of the two, you would think, is more hazardous? Undoubtedly the desert, of course, in which the people ceased to believe in God. Wondrously, however, the people of faith, the ascetics, were not only enlightened by the grace of the Holy Spirit but their communion with God was strengthened there. They spoke with God and became His messengers and teachers to His people. When God is present, there is no need for anything else, you possess everything.
The foolish man, who in his corrupt and sinful mind decided in his disbelief to dethrone God, is a lost soul. He believes, in his darkened soul, that he has the power to remove the Almighty God from His own creation and universe. This kind of a human heart is more desolate than the most remote and desolate place in all the universe! There can be no salvation for a heart that is so evil and dark. You see, God, no matter who we are or what we have done, will never abandon His Creation and especially not the human race. He is always PRESENT! He will NOT ever allow mankind to destroy what He Created. Instead, when mankind reaches a state beyond redemption and has totally surrendered to evil, then he will provoke His wrath and bring down his own destruction. Do you not remember what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah? Although Abraham interceded for the righteous of Sodom, the city was so morally depraved that Lot, his nephew, was the only righteous person in the entire city. Abraham’s intercession saved him. Abraham’s entreaty was, "Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous wthin it? … Then the Lord said, ‘If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes" (Genesis 18:23-26). But God could not even find ten righteous in the city. He said, ‘I would not destroy it for the sake of the ten." (v.32) Let us pray and hope that the Almighty God will find enough righteous among us to spare us from destruction.
LORD HAVE MERCY ON US AND SAVE US. AMEN, AMEN, AMEN.
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George