Saturday, March 3, 2012

Spiritual Work in the Desert: Suggestions for Lent

Lent is a time of the desert.  In the desert, we lack what we previously thought we needed but truly did not: in the desert, we are stripped of excess.  Yet the desert is not just a place of aridity and ascesis: it is also a place of God. 

"Spiritual work is essential, it is for this that we have come to the desert."

Countless holy men and women went to the desert to be united with the Triune God: St. Anthony the Great, St. Mary of Egypt, Sts. Barsanuphius and John, the great Desert Fathers and Desert Mothers, St. Pachomius, St. Hilarion, and innumerable others.  The desert is a place where we can find Tabor and encounter Christ: in the desert we can become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pt 1:4).

During this holy season of Lent, let us not just strip ourselves of distractions and worldly goods, but let us enter deeper into our relationship with Jesus Christ, and let us fight harder in our spiritual battle.

Below is a list of suggestions for making this time in the desert a time of union with Christ, not just a time of ascesis.  They are not suggestions of what to give up: these are suggestions of what to add to our lives.
  • Daily Mass (or in the Byzantine Rite, the Liturgy of Pre-Sanctified Gifts on Wednesdays and Fridays)
  • Daily Rosary
  • Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer of the Divine Office (and extra Hours are always encouraged)
  • Daily additional Scripture reading (I highly recommend the Psalter reading group at Adventures of an Orthodox Mom, which you can still sign up for, even though it has already begun)
  • Daily spiritual reading (there are countless amazing works, though in this desert time of Lent, maybe the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, St. Athanasius' Life of St. Anthony, or the Letters of Sts. Barsanuphius and John would be apt suggestions; to focus more on spiritual warfare, Dom Lorenzo Scupoli's The Spiritual Combat or St. Catherine of Bologna's The Seven Spiritual Weapons may be useful)
  • Daily Examination of Conscience
  • Daily time for silent, contemplative prayer
  • Frequent listening to sacred chant (Gregorian, Ambrosian, Mozarabic, Greek, Russian, Slavic, Byzantine, Armenian, etc.)
  • Daily Holy Hour
  • Daily Akathist Hymn (to Christ, to the Theotokos, to any saint)
  • Weekly of any of these instead of daily
This list is just a skimming of some of the most prominent spiritual practices from both the Western and Eastern Church (mostly Western, since that is what I have the most experience with).  There are unimaginable depths to the Church's spiritual riches, and all of them may bring us closer to God (and if these riches are unimaginable, how much more unimaginable must the Lord of Hosts be!).  

May these suggestions help you as this holy season continues, and may you exit this sacred desert with truer faith, more certain hope, and more perfect charity.  God Bless.

St. Anthony of the Desert, pray for us!

Nota Bene: The quote is from Saying #108 of the Anonymous Series of the Apophthegmata Patrum, found in The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers, translated by Sr. Benedict Ward, SLG.

No comments:

Post a Comment