Monday, May 25, 2009

Saying of the Desert Christians: Obedience 1

The holy Syncletia said, "I think that for those living in community obedience is a greater virtue than chastity, however perfect. Chastity carries within it the danger of pride, but obedience has within it the promise of humility."

Some thoughts

Something I've noticed throughout the collection of Sayings is the twin emphasis upon humility and obedience. Which is the virtue they consider more important, I've wondered. I came to realize that is was humility because without it obedience is impossible.

Amma Syncletia is one of only 4 Desert Mothers whose Sayings are recorded. Maybe we could mourn that more women aren't represented, but I rejoice that the 4 are included because it sure does tell us that women were there, they taught, they had disciples. But enough of that.

It's a fascinating contrast between obedience/chastity/humility. It would never have occurred to me that someone would become proud of their chastity but oh duh, slap the forehead, of course a person could. And also of course, the person that becomes proud of their chastity has embraced it for the wrong reason.

Now, I am not as comfortable as any other American with the idea of obedience. Civil Disobedience is a national ethic as it is, after all, how the USA came to be. And I am as inclined as the next guy to retort "Who are you to tell me what to do?" But I don't think this is what Amma is talking about.

The obedience to which she refers is first of all, obedience to God. The Desert Christians interpreted the Gospels in a radical way. "Go, sell all you have and give the money to the poor" meant exactly that. Oh one could keep the clothes on one's back, but they interpreted this commandment literally.

I'll be honest with you... anytime the concept of obedience comes up in my life, I want to hedge my bets, talk about the "yes, buts" and the "what ifs". What it comes down to in the end is very simple: not my will but Yours.

How do we get there? The Desert Christians held that prayer, fasting, a weekly communal meal, silence, obedience and humility among other practices were the way.

I know what I have to work on in my life to make it so that my preference for God's will is not merely theoretical and intellectual but actual. I hope you can say the same of yourselves. Because that is all we have to work with: ourselves.


Post a Comment

<< Home