Monday, April 25, 2016

The Judean Desert

Another full, and rich day in the land of the Holy One. We left St. George's College at 5 a.m. to head out to the Wadi Qelt for sunrise, followed by Holy Eucharist. It was wonderful to be asked to preside at that simple liturgy. We left there for Jericho, to the Mount of the Temptation and the Greek Orthodox Monastery there. And then on to Nazareth, where we are spending the next two nights with the Sisters of Nazareth, which is located in downtown Nazareth, just a half block from the Latin Church of the Annunciation.

Years ago I read a book by Belden Lane entitled The Solace of Fierce Landscapes. Today in the desert reminded me why I was so taken with that book. Brother Curtis' reflections today about "the stark Judean desert" also were helpful to me. I want to share a bit of what he said here along with a few pics that I think speak volumes. These words, then, from Curtis:

Just a few miles east of Jerusalem, we descend into the stark Judean desert. The word desert comes from the Latin literally meaning "abandoned." The desert is a time when we feel very much alone - a time of desertion, of silence, of stripping, of dismantling. The Trappist monk Charles Cummings says: "In the desert we go on serving the God whom we do not see, loving [the God] we do not feel, adoring [the God] whom we do not understand and thanking [the God] who has taken everything from us but God's own self]," a God whom we may be unable to even recognize."

And then these words: 

...Jesus was tempted in areas where he already 
had strength, and also for us. We are most vulnerable to temptation where we are strong. If you've been given the gift of love, you also have the power to seduce. If you are articulate, you can use language powerfully, for better or worse. If you've been given the gift of decisiveness, you have he real power to judge and condemn. If you are compassionate, you can get overwhelmed by the suffering that surrounds you. If you are young, you can be tempted with the delusion of immortality. If you are beautiful, you can be as luring as the ancient Sirens, and also as lost. If you are old, you can be tempted with resentment or despair in a world slipping through your fingers. If you are well, you can be tempted to take it all for granted: your mind, your body, your work. If you are good, you can be tempted to believe that you are never good enough We are most susceptible to be tempted in areas where we have some strength. C. S. Lewis said, "It's not our weaknesses that will keep us out of heaven." 

He continues by speaking of the grace of Jesus, who was tempted in every way as we are, and for this reason is able to meet us in our own deserts. There is redemption of the desert. Indeed. 

And then this quote, again from Charles Cummings: "The desert is the weaning process in which the child comes to love the mother more than the milk." 

That seems like a pretty good place to stop and call it a day. More on Nazareth tomorrow.

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