Saturday, January 14, 2017

The desert is calling.

I was fourteen and starting my sophomore year in high school. We were given the assignment in one of our classes to write a paper on the career we wanted to pursue after we graduated high school. Some wanted to be doctors, other veterinarians. We even had some that though a career in the military was in their future. I wanted to be a hermit. My paper was returned to me ungraded with a note to rewrite it. Hermit was not a career and no one seriously wanted to be a hermit.

Here we are thirty years later and I still find myself figuratively drawn to the desert. I have always enjoyed my solitude. Growing up it was not uncommon to find me outdoors foraging for stuff to eat. My mother would often come home from work to find me cooking up the day’s harvest. Plants and berries from the yard or nearby field, fish and crayfish from the creek; if it were edible and I could find or catch it I wouldn’t hesitate to eat it. This lead to my love of gardening and hunting I still enjoy today.

I have been all over this planet. I have dove the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and been in many countries in Asia. I have traveled through the United Kingdom from Wales to Scotland. I have never had a problem boarding a plane and coming home, that is, until I went to Alaska. I spent two weeks one mid November traveling between Anchorage to just north of Fairbanks. It averaged about eighteen below zero with over two feet of snow. At times my coworker and I were the only two people to be found for five-hundred square miles. It was the most isolated place I had ever been and I was in heaven. If I didn’t have a family at home that I dearly love I would probably be there still today.

In studying the Desert Fathers many in my class struggle to understand why anyone would choose such a lifestyle. Who in their right mind would choose to live alone? Silence is a treasure few people know the real value of. One is never truly alone if they are in communion with God. Obi Won explained God best when he tried to explain the force to Luke.

                It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together."

God speaks to us in a small, still voice. Knowing this the devil has filled our lives with as much noise and clutter as he possibly can. Those he can’t make bad he makes busy. You can no more hear the voice of the Lord any more than you can feel the soft breeze blowing through the field when you are inside sitting in your favorite recliner watching the big game. We become so accustom to the noise that we cannot function without it. Many who have lived their entire lives in a big city find it very unnerving to spend a night in the country. It is too dark, there are no alarms or sirens, there is no bright blinking neon and what is that? Crickets chirping?

The Desert Fathers did not like the path society was following. They sought to isolate themselves from society to be alone with God. Looking at the path modern society is on it is hard to argue with their idea. This is why it is so important to find time to be alone with God. If the devil had his way we all would be swept away in the current of the culture, knowing that current ultimately flows over the falls and leads to doom. Spending time alone with God allows us to stay safely tethered to the shore as others float speedily by. This is even more important for the clergy. If they become so busy that they begin to neglect their prayer life it is only a matter of time before they begin to neglect God as well.

On the day of his ordination venerable Fulton Sheen made a resolution to spend a holy hour each day alone with God. He gave three reasons doing so. These are taken from his autobiography Treasure in Clay.

First, the Holy Hour is not a devotion; it is a sharing in the work of redemption. Our Blessed Lord used the words "hour" and "day" in two totally different connotations in the Gospel of John. "Day" belongs to God; the "hour" belongs to evil. Seven times in the Gospel of John, the word "hour" is used, and in each instance it refers to the demonic, and to the moments when Christ is no longer in the Father's Hands, but in the hands of men. In the Garden, our Lord contrasted two "hours" - one was the evil hour "this is your hour" - with which Judas could turn out the lights of the world. In contrast, our Lord asked: "Could you not watch one hour with Me?". In other words, he asked for an hour of reparation to combat the hour of evil; an hour of victimal union with the Cross to overcome the anti-love of sin.

Secondly, the only time Our Lord asked the Apostles for anything was the night he went into his agony. Then he did not ask all of them ... perhaps because he knew he could not count on their fidelity. But at least he expected three to be faithful to him: Peter, James and John. As often in the history of the Church since that time, evil was awake, but the disciples were asleep. That is why there came out of His anguished and lonely Heart the sigh: "Could you not watch one hour with me?" Not for an hour of activity did He plead, but for an hour of companionship.

The third reason I keep up the Holy Hour is to grow more and more into his likeness. As Paul puts it: "We are transfigured into his likeness, from splendor to splendor." We become like that which we gaze upon. Looking into a sunset, the face takes on a golden glow. Looking at the Eucharistic Lord for an hour transforms the heart in a mysterious way as the face of Moses was transformed after his companionship with God on the mountain. Something happens to us similar to that which happened to the disciples at Emmaus. On Easter Sunday afternoon when the Lord met them, he asked why they were so gloomy. After spending some time in his presence, and hearing again the secret of spirituality - "The Son of Man must suffer to enter into his Glory" - their time with him ended and their "hearts were on fire."

“Not for an hour of activity did He plead, but for an hour of companionship.”  The Desert Fathers longed for this companionship more than anything else in the world. They were not content with just an hour. They wanted a lifetime. When you truly love someone you seek to spend every minute you can with them. Couples young in love can sit for hours on the telephone with each other without saying a word content knowing that the other is on the other end of the line.

Ask yourself, is spending an hour in silence adoring the Blessed Sacrament a joy or a burden? Do you find it rewarding or boring? Do you find time to sit in silence and listen for that small, still voice? Do you answer the Lord’s plea for companionship or do you allow the devil to reign by filling every moment with noise and distraction?

No comments:

Post a Comment