The desert mothers and fathers—those folks who, in the early centuries of the church, went into the wilderness to seek God—Yet in the midst of their earnest desire for God, wise ones among them recognised how seemingly holy habits could sometimes distance them from God and each other.
Abba Cassian related the following: “The holy Germanus and I went to Egypt, to visit an old man. Because he offered us hospitality we asked him, ‘Why do you not keep the rule of fasting, when you receive visiting brothers, as we have received it in Palestine?’ He replied, ‘Fasting is always to hand but you I cannot have with me always. Furthermore, fasting is certainly a useful and necessary thing, but it depends on our choice while the law of God lays it upon us to do the works of charity. Thus receiving Christ in you, I ought to serve you with all diligence, but when I have taken leave of you, I can resume the rule of fasting again. For “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them, but when the bridegroom is taken from them, then they will fast in that day.”‘” (Mark 2.19-20)
The monks’ host recognises that in even the most devoted spiritual life, God compels us to root out whatever habit stands in the way of the hospitality to which God calls us.
As we journey thorugh LENT let us consider not only ‘holy habits’ but how one anothering in the congregation and of our neighbour is what God also calls us to. What will that mean and look like as you walk this lenten journey?
I invite you to savour this song and make it your own as you go on this pilgrimage. Finally, pray daily. Here is a help:
1) ask ‘who and what am I / are we being called to pray for today?’
2) make simple prayers in your own way for these people, places and situations (perhaps just saying the name)
3) let those prayers evolve into one simple prayer repeated in time with your breathing (perhaps the Jesus Prayer - “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”)
4) gradually let go of this simple prayer, and be open to the possibility of divine presence embracing you and embracing all for whom you have prayed…