to walk worthily of the Lord, pleasing him in all respects

Monday, March 08, 2010

Lent, Day 17: And what did you go to the wilderness to see?

If you live it, they will come.

  • Simon Stylites ended the remaining years of his life standing (!) on a pillar more than 40 feet above the ground.
    And people came to see him.

  • Anthony moved further and further into the desert of Egypt.
    And people came to see him.

  • Mother Theresa lived among the most destitute of this earth, a human wilderness, in Calcutta.
    And people came to see her.

  • John, wearing a camel hair tunic with a leather belt, eating bugs to atone for the honey he also ate, lived in the trackless region around the Jordan.
    And people came to see him.

A life lived in the absence of excess, indeed in the pursuit of want, seems an odd draw for crowds. Perhaps it is because it is so abnormal they come to watch what makes little sense. More likely, there is something in the asceticism of these people that resonates with us, even though (maybe especially because) we are not capable of really emulating it. What is interesting is that in their abandoning the wealth and ways of the civilized world, people like Theresa, Simon, Anthony and John found an authority and credibility with people of that world; they talked, or perhaps just acted, and people listened.

The novelty of asceticism has slipped to its near non-existence in our own time. I wonder, if we are not getting our wisdom from those who battle with the desires of the world then from where is it coming? And what kind of wisdom is it?

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