Word from the Pastor-Jan. & Feb. 2018

Jan 14, 2018 by

The early Christian monastics who lived in the Egyptian desert in the 300-600’s A.D. understood the goal of Christian life to be to love as God loves. 1   They believed this was possible, because God, through Christ, had asked it of us – “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15;12) – and because the desire to love and be loved is a part of being human; a part of being made in the image of God. 2   A lot of the time, we don not love well, because of our fear of death, our vulnerability, and the ways we try to compensate for these.  This causes us a lot of suffering from such things as envy, gluttony, boredom, resentments, etc. 3   They called these things the “passions”, those obsessive habits, emotions, or thoughts that blind us from seeing and loving ourselves and others as God sees and loves us. 4

Roberta Bondi writes that the early desert monastics thought none of this suffering was necessary.  “God has come to us and still comes to us in Jesus to overcome our fears, to break the hold our destructive ways of being have over us, and to restore our wounded and distorted humanness if we want it and are willing to seek it.  This was the very purpose of the incarnation: we are shown the way back to the original image of God in which we were created and enabled to become really loving, truly human.” 5

The monastics believed we were to work with God’s grace to overcome our passions and to develop the Christian virtues.  They were surprisingly practical in going about this.  And they have much to offer modern Christians, as we, too, strive to find ways to open ourselves to God’s grace and grow in our ability to reflect God’s love to the world.  In the coming months, we will examine more closely some of the lessons from the desert fathers and mothers about how to love as God loves.

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1 Roberta C. Bondi, To Love as God Loves: Conversations with the Early Church (Philadelphia: Fortress Press,  1987)

2 Bondi, p. 20

3 Bondi, p. 20

4 Bondi, p. 57

5 Bondi, p. 20-21

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