I was talking with a priest-acquaintance the other day, and he was sharing with me various trials and hardships in his ministry. He’s a holy man (in my estimation) and a rad witness to finding Christ in all things. He shared with me some insights that I found extraordinary and very colorful, and gave me permission to share them sans his name (again, as ever, preserved as close to his original language as possible in my sum-language). So enjoy this collage of his many thoughts!
Too many people want drive-through faith, where they can order what they want, get some facsimile food fast, in excess and cheap, bolt it down and then move on to their own interests. You know, the desert fathers had two traditions of ascetical eating: one was to eat savory food quickly to renounce the pleasure, the other was to eat bland food very slowly. And they stopped eating before satiety set in. They ate slowly because it required self-control, it allowed them to eat with prayerful gratitude and, when they ate in common, food became an opportunity for both generosity and fostering brotherly love. They also believed that the way one ate, and what one ate, affected the passions for better or for ill. And they not only ate slowly, they made certain the labor of gathering and preparing food and drink was strenuous — they cultivated their desert gardens, they walked great distances to gather water. The point? Receiving the good things of God in a way that allows them to nourish you takes patient determination, self-control, moderation and hard work…I also see so many earnest faithful who want to be orthodox and love the church and God, but they want it on their terms; without the messiness. But faith isn’t about antiseptic living, it isn’t a controlled substance, but it leads us into wildernesses and deserts, down dirty roads into the junk-heap of inner-city life, and not into insular, suburban worlds where life is clean, gated, controlled, pacific, without ambiguity and free of trials. Even those desert fathers, when they fled into the wilderness, knew that they were not escaping into a peaceful spiritual oasis, but rather were marching straight into the heart of a bloody desert war with the rebel angels whose vengeful mission is the total destruction of humanity. The desert call to “flee the world!” is not a call to abandon the fallen world for an earthly paradise, but a call to flee collusion with the world’s darkness and join Christ in loving the world in the world by shining His indestructible light into it. I always say to new converts that their real change is to go from being crucifiers whose way of life kills God, to being crucifers whose way of lifts high the cross. When people of faith say to me, “Father, why are these bad things happening to me when I am trying to do what God wants?” I try to communicate to them — with great reverence and compassion: spiritual depth only comes with falling into the pit; the disciple’s love gets real only when it’s faced with its opposite; and saving faith requires learning to see God in thickest darkness. But I tell them: the anchor of hope is always there in the belly of the pit, in the mire of hate, in the darkest night — Jesus already went that way, and conquered, revealing the via crucis [way of the cross] to be the via lucis [way of light]. Our culture is lulling us Christians to sleep by convincing us that our happiness requires exchanging the cross for a Sealy Posturepedic Matress, so that everything conforms to your pleasure and wishes, and anything that doesn’t fit your comfort can simply be undone with a button, a shot, a pill, a drink, an orgasm, a gun. A church that embraces that vision ceases to be a church of tireless martyrs and becomes a Church asleep.
What more could I ever add?
Rockin’ stuff, amazing analogies. Like the priest I wrote about the other day, this priest bears what I call an “earthy mysticism.” Boss.