Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Wednesday 1st April 2015

"Francis Rejecting the World
  and "Embracing Christ”
Comments:



As tomorrow is Maundy Thursday, and the start of Holy Week, today marks the end of Lent.  We have spent a little time on our Lenten journey with Noah, John the Baptist, Jesus, the Desert Fathers and Mothers. It is my hope that these small moments have given you some inspiration, some sustenance and were a source of support on your Lenten journey.
While the path of our faith journey can be narrow, and at times difficult, it also brings much love and joy into our lives. I pray you all have a blessed and Holy Easter and as St Paul said to the Philippians that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

Tuesday 31st March 2015

"Francis Rejecting the World
  and "Embracing Christ”
Reflection:

It is fair, I think, to say that all desert, or periods of solitude, will end.  The end will come with both a sense of completion, and probably a touch of sadness.  Hopefully we will approach the end of the experience with a renewed sense of purpose, maybe a revitalised, or deeper prayer life and perhaps a new perspective of humility, or perchance a subtle combination of all.  Which of these that we have explored in the last six weeks has been the most apt for you?

Monday, 30 March 2015

Monday 30th March 2015

"Francis Rejecting the World
  and "Embracing Christ”
Reflection:

When Noah, John the Baptist & Jesus ended their desert experiences they all started a new life.  We would probably describe it as a new ministry. An integral part of their preparation was prayer and Abba Isaac reminded us to keep our intercessory prayers are filled with fervour of Spirit; while Amma Syncletica distinguished between outer and inner space.  As we approach the end of our six week desert experience, do we have a sense of a new ministry, or of some changes within our outer and inner space?

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Sunday 29th March 2015



"Francis Rejecting the World
  and "Embracing Christ”
Reflection:

Noah, John the Baptist and the desert fathers and mothers all knew that it takes time and effort to obtain the fruit of our desert experience.  It seems to me that in today’s world this knowledge has been silenced, if not forgotten.  Indeed patience appears to be rare, people always seem to want an instant response to their desires and demands and go elsewhere when they do not get what they expect.  Does this describe someone you know?

Saturday 28th march 2015



"Francis Rejecting the World
  and "Embracing Christ”
Reflection:


Cleansing and change can happen in the desert experience.  It can also happen in the periods after the desert.  But we have to be open for, and prepared to make and sustain, the changes we seek.  When we focus and dwell on the past, our change will falter and fail.  Amma Syncletica reminds us the Kingdom of Heaven is closer than we think, and so we would be foolish to give into the past and to temptation and thereby surrender the fruit of our desert experiences.

Friday 27th March 2015



"Francis Rejecting the World
  and "Embracing Christ”
Reflection:

Our journey through the spiritual desert can be long and arduous.  Even though we may know that this will not help, but hinder our journey, we may be tempted to try short cuts and hope to reach the end of the desert quicker.  Yet we are strengthened when we put aside our egos and with humility and honesty, like Jesus before us, draw comfort and support from the scriptures.

Thursday 26th March 2015


"Francis Rejecting the World
  and "Embracing Christ”
Reflection:

Spending time in a desert requires preparation and support.  We know that prayer is an integral part of both our preparation and our support.  As Abba Isaac reminded us, there are different types of prayer.  We realise that prayer opens, develops and sustains our relationship with God, and this knowledge will help us, as it did Noah, John the Baptist and Jesus in their times of solitude.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Wednesday 25th March 201



"Francis Rejecting the World
  and "Embracing Christ”
Reflection:

We go to the desert for a variety of reasons. Although we are not invincible and our deeds are seen, we, like Noah, go prepared for the journey.  Part of our experience will (similarly to John the Baptist & Jesus) probably involve prayer, meditation, perhaps fasting and possibly temptations.  While we may go with a specific purpose, like Abba Moses when we keep the components in balance and adopting Amma Theodora’s holistic approach, we may find our time has been beneficial and then we like Elizabeth and Zechariah can sustain our journey and see the fruit of our prayers.

Tuesday 24th March 2015


"Francis Rejecting the World
  and "Embracing Christ”

Amma Syncletica said: "Just as one cannot build a ship unless one has some nails, so it is impossible to be saved without humility."

Reflection:

Amma Syncletica reminds us that humility is an integral component of our lives as Christians.  Humility is not something we can put on and take off like a cloak. It has be part of our being, without it we lose sight of Christ’s life and message.


Monday 23rd March 2015

"Francis Rejecting the World
  and "Embracing Christ”



Amma Syncletica said, "There are many who live in the mountains and behave as if they were in the town, and they are wasting their time. It is possible to be a solitary in one's mind while living in a crowd, and it is possible for one who is a solitary to live in the crowd of his own thoughts."



Reflection:


Amma Syncletica makes a stark, contrasting, distinction between physical outer space and inner space.  Do you agree with her?

Monday, 23 March 2015

Sunday 22nd March 2015




Francis Rejecting the World
  and "Embracing Christ”
Amma Syncletica said: “In the beginning the labor and toil is difficult for those who come to work for God in stillness and silence; later it becomes indescribable joy. Just as those who wish to start a fire are at first filled with smoke and shed tears, but they cannot reach the goal in any other way; so too are those who desire to start within themselves the divine fire — they ignite it with tears and toil, in stillness and silence.”








Reflection:


Amma Syncletica reminds us that it takes time and effort to obtain the “indescribable joy”.  Something which those who have bought into today’s ‘instant gratification’ world will fail to understand.


Sunday, 22 March 2015

Friday 20th March 2015



Francis Rejecting the World
  and "Embracing Christ”
Amma Syncletica said: “If in any fall you say with humility: “Forgive me,” then it will be forgiven you.”

Reflection:

Before we can begin seeking forgiveness, we first have to recognise a fall. Then we need to be humble enough to acknowledge it.  How easy do you find it to acknowledge a fall?

Thursday 19th March 2015



Francis Rejecting the World
  and "Embracing Christ”
Amma Theodora said: “If you think upon that which is good, you will be disposed to it. Human thought is not hidden from God. For this reason your thoughts must always be clean of all evil.”

Reflection:

Perhaps it is because we think that our thoughts are concealed in the darkness of our minds, they are hidden from all, including God. Amma reminds us that this is not the case. How do you feel, knowing that God knows your thoughts?




Saturday 21st March 2015



Francis Rejecting the World
  and "Embracing Christ”
Amma Syncletica said: “May your mind always be in the Kingdom of Heaven, and soon you will inherit it.”

Reflection:


We often, or perhaps tend to, think that the Kingdom of Heaven is some distant or future place.  Amma Syncletica, reminds us it is closer than we realise.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Wednesday 18th March 2015


Francis Rejecting the World
  and "Embracing Christ”
Amma Theodora said: “Fasting humbles the body, vigils cleanse the mind, prayer unites us with God.”

Reflection:


Amma Theodora has a simple, holistic approach to a relationship with God. How comfortable are you with her three approaches?

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Tuesday 17th March 2015


Francis Rejecting the World
  and "Embracing Christ”
St. John Cassian: The First Conference of Abbot Isaac on Prayer: Chapter 14


Of Thanksgiving. Then in the fourth place there stand thanksgivings which the mind in ineffable transports offers up to God, either when it recalls God's past benefits or when it contemplates His present ones, or when it looks forward to those great ones in the future which God has prepared for them that love Him. And with this purpose too sometimes we are wont to pour forth richer prayers, while, as we gaze with pure eyes on those rewards of the saints which are laid up in store hereafter, our spirit is stimulated to offer up unspeakable thanks to God with boundless joy.

Reflection:


Abba Isaac says thanksgiving prayers are said for past, present and future “benefits”.  I wonder if this is the pattern of our thanksgiving prayers.  Do we mix then in with other prayers and do we allow “our spirit to be stimulated to offer up unspeakable thanks to God with boundless joy”?

Monday 16th March 2015


Francis Rejecting the World
  and "Embracing Christ”
St. John Cassian: The First Conference of Abbot Isaac on Prayer: Chapter 13

Of Intercession. In the third place stand intercessions, which we are wont to offer up for others also, while we are filled with fervour of spirit, making request either for those dear to us or for the peace of the whole world, and to use the Apostle's own phrase, we pray “for all men, for kings and all that are in authority.” 1 Timothy 2:1-2.

Reflection:

We are all familiar with intercessory prayer and are often asked pray on behalf of/or for others. But Abba Isaac says “while we are filled with fervour of Spirit”. Is this your experience of praying intercessions?


Sunday 15th March 2015



Francis Rejecting the World
  and "Embracing Christ”
St. John Cassian: The First Conference of Abbot Isaac on Prayer: Chapter 11


Of Supplications. "I EXHORT therefore first of all that supplications be made." Supplication is an imploring or petition concerning sins, in which one who is sorry for his present or past deeds asks for pardon.

Reflection:

Notice Abba Isaac says past deeds? Sometimes we don’t see our past deeds as sins, especially if they are something we are not sorry about.  Do you agree with Abba Isaac?


Monday, 16 March 2015

Saturday 14th March 2015

Francis Rejecting the World
  and "Embracing Christ”
Conference of Abbot Pinufius on the end of penitence and the marks of satisfaction. 

Chapter 10: How the recollection of our sins should be avoided.







Wherefore we must endeavour to rouse ourselves to this praiseworthy contrition, by aiming at virtue and by the desire for the kingdom of heaven rather than by dangerous recollections of sins, for a man is sure to be suffocated by the pestilential smells of the sewer as long as he chooses to stand over it or to stir its filth.

Reflection:

The colourful description aside, Abbot Pinufius is suggesting there is nothing to be gained by agonising over our sins.  Do you agree?

Friday, 13 March 2015

Friday March 13th 2015

Francis Rejecting the World
  and "Embracing Christ”
The opinion of Abbot Antony on the condition of prayer.


And that you may see the character of true prayer I will give you not my own opinion but that of the blessed Antony: whom we have known sometimes to have been so persistent in prayer that often as he was praying in a transport of mind, when the sunrise began to appear, we have heard him in the fervour of his spirit declaiming: Why do you hinder me, O sun, who art arising for this very purpose; viz., to withdraw me from the brightness of this true light? And his also is this heavenly and more than human utterance on the end of prayer: That is not, said he, a perfect prayer, wherein a monk understands himself and the words which he prays. And if we too, as far as our slender ability allows, may venture to add anything to this splendid utterance, we will bring forward the marks of prayer which are heard from the Lord, as far as we have tried them.

Reflection:


Abbott Anthony reminds that our egos are not important when we pray.

Thursday 12th March 2015

Francis Rejecting the World
  and "Embracing Christ”
St. John Cassian: The First Conference of Abbot Isaac on Prayer: Chapter 9


Of the fourfold nature of prayer.

And therefore, when we have laid this down with regard to the character of prayer, although not so fully as the importance of the subject requires, but as fully as the exigencies of time permit, and at any rate as our slender abilities admit, and our dullness of heart enables us—a still greater difficulty now awaits us; viz., to expound one by one the different kinds of prayer, which the Apostle divides in a fourfold manner, when he says as follows: “I exhort therefore first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings be made.” (1 Timothy 2:1) And we cannot possibly doubt that this division was not idly made by the Apostle. And to begin with we must investigate what is meant by supplication, by prayer, by intercession, and by thanksgiving. Next we must inquire whether these four kinds are to be taken in hand by him who prays all at once, i.e., are they all to be joined together in every prayer—or whether they are to be offered up in turns and one by one, as, for instance, ought at one time supplications, at another prayers, at another intercessions, and at another thanksgivings to be offered, or should one man present to God supplications, another prayers, another intercessions, another thanksgivings, in accordance with that measure of age, to which each soul is advancing by earnestness of purpose?

Reflection:


Abbot Isaac challenges us to think about the type of prayers we are praying and when and how we pray. Do you tend to focus on one type of prayer or practice all four?

Wednesday 11th March 2015



Francis Rejecting the World
  and "Embracing Christ”
St. John Cassian: Second Conference of Abbot Moses, Chapter 22

What is the usual limit both of abstinence and of partaking food?
But this is the usual limit of abstinence; viz., for everyone to allow himself food according to the requirements of his strength or bodily frame or age, in such quantity as is required for the support of the flesh, and not for the satisfactory feeling of repletion. For on both sides a man will suffer the greatest injury, if having no fixed rule at one time he pinches his stomach with meagre food and fasts, and at another stuffs it by over-eating himself; for as the mind which is enfeebled for lack of food loses vigour in praying, while it is worn out with excessive weakness of the flesh and forced to doze, so again when weighed down with over-eating it cannot pour forth to God pure and free prayers: nor will it succeed in preserving uninterruptedly the purity of its chastity, while even on those days on which it seems to chastise the flesh with severer abstinence, it feeds the fire of carnal desire with the fuel of the food that it has already taken.

Reflection:


Abbot Moses rightly says there is a balance to be maintained.  Sometimes in our zeal we lose the balance and our experiences are diminished.

Tuesday 10th march 2015


Francis Rejecting the World
  and "Embracing Christ”
After saying farewell to them, he went up on the mountain to pray

Scripture: 


Reflection:

We see this pattern repeated, Jesus withdraws alone, often to a mountain, to pray.  When we enter a period of solitude, we are following the example shown by Jesus.  Scripture tells us, Jesus prayed during these periods. How do you spend these periods?


Monday, 9 March 2015

Monday 9th March 2015


Francis Rejecting the World
  and "Embracing Christ”
Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee

Scripture:


Reflection:







Jesus’s period in the desert ended with the defeat of the temptations placed before him.  He then commences his ministry.  We have seen this before; Noah and John the Baptist both end their solitudes and begin a new phase of their lives.  Do we do this after period of solitude? Or do we simply see a period of solitude as “time out” and then go back to our old lives?

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Sunday 8th March 2015



Francis Rejecting the World
  and "Embracing Christ”
“Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’

Scripture:



Reflection:




When we try to put God to the test, we are really trying to control him and to get him to do our will.  In the process we damage our relationship with God.


Saturday 7th March 2015


Francis Rejecting the World
  and "Embracing Christ”
“Worship the Lord your God,    and serve only him.” ’

Scripture:



Reflection:




Satan tried to tempt Jesus with power and glory.  Appealing to vanity and ego.  The attempt failed. Jesus knew that only God should be worshipped.  In today’s world we are also assailed by the temptations of power and glory.  We simply look around us and see how many have fallen for the temptations and have abandoned the commandment to love our neighbour as ourselves.






Friday, 6 March 2015

Friday 6th March 2015

Francis Rejecting the World
  and "Embracing Christ”
Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.” ’

Scripture:


Reflection:


Jesus’ period in the desert was long and arduous. He did not give into the temptations placed before him. Jesus had a response from Scripture to defeat each temptation.  Do we also quote scriptures to overcome temptation?  I suspect not!

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Thursday 5th March 2015

Francis Rejecting the World
  and "Embracing Christ”
He was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
Scripture:









Reflection:


Mark tells us slightly more about Jesus’ time in the desert. He was not alone, the wild animals and the angels were with him.  When we think we are alone, if we look carefully, we are being supported, even in the desert.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Wednesday 4th March 2015

Francis Rejecting the World
  and "Embracing Christ”
He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.


Scripture:


Reflection:


Matthew tells us Jesus was led into the desert to be tempted.  But first Jesus fasted.  He was preparing for what was to come.  When we go to the desert there are many ways that we can spend that time in preparing ourselves to re-join the world at its conclusion: prayer, meditation, work and singing.  I wonder how many of us, would include fasting for the whole period on that list?

Tuesday 3rd March 2015



Francis Rejecting the World
  and "Embracing Christ”


‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’

Scripture:







Reflection:


John’s hesitation to baptise Jesus is perhaps understandable.  John was the prophet, calling people to repentance, not the Messiah.  John knew what his mission was.  He had spent many years in the desert preparing for his work.  So it would be fair to describe John’s desert experience as preparatory. Sometimes people will approach a desert experience as an escape. Which best word describes your approach: preparatory or escape?

Monday, 2 March 2015

Monday 2nd March 2015

Francis Rejecting the World
  and Embracing Christ”
Scripture:

Bear fruit worthy of repentance.


Reflection


John called to those who were simply following the law, rather than; living it, and then he castigated them.  When he pointed to the Messiah, he warned them about the consequences of their words and deeds.  We also should pay attention his words.  There is little point on a retreat in the desert, if we simply go back to our old ways when we leave the desert.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Sunday 1st March 2015



Francis Rejecting the World
  and Embracing Christ”
Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.

Scripture:


Reflection:


Matthew tells us how John lived in the desert. In the process he gives us a glimpse of the sight John must have presented to the people coming to be baptised.  Yet the people heard John’s message.  I wonder if perhaps there are times when we spend too much time focused on how we look, and in doing so we lose sight of the message.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Saturday 28th February 2015

Francis Rejecting the World
  and Embracing Christ”
Scripture:

Bear fruits worthy of repentance.



Reflection:


John is calling the people to repentance, honesty and integrity of their faith.  John’s challenges the people to examine themselves and their actions towards others.  This resonates with our desert experiences.  If we are honest in our solitude then we will examine ourselves, we look to see where and of what we need to repent.  It can be a cleansing process – like John’s baptisms – if we let it.

Friday 27th February 2015

Francis Rejecting the World
  and Embracing Christ”
Scripture:

‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,  for he has looked favourably on his people and redeemed them.





Reflection:


Luke places the proclamation of John the Baptist into its historical context.  And then he quotes from Isaiah, putting John’s words into a theological context.  We do the same thing when going to a desert. We have our accommodation and the other support structures around us, our context, and then week seek a spiritual context.  Although I suspect we don’t think about the words of an ancient Hebrew prophet when we go. Does your context help when you seek a desert experience with God?