Friday, June 12, 2009

Saying of the Desert Christians: True Poverty 2


Someone asked amma Syncletica of blessed memory, "Is absolute poverty perfect
goodness?" She replied, "It is a great good for those capable of it; even
those who are not capable of it find rest for their souls in it though it
causes them anxiety. As tough cloth is laundered pure white by stretched and
trampled underfoot, so a tough soul is stretched by freely accepting poverty."

Please forgive me any inconvenience my failure to post the past coupla days has caused you. The link I used to the Paradise of the Desert Fathers was broken but I have since found an alternative source of most of that link.

Some thoughts:

I love Amma Syncletica. At one time I toyed with the idea of changing my name in religion (I was raised Roman Catholic, after all) to Sister Benedicta Syncletica or Sister Syncletica Thecla. The latter because I really wish the Acts of of Paul and Thecla had made it into the New Testament as that would have cleared up the whole question of the role of women in the Pauline Corpus. I myself think he was a first century feminist, if you forgive the anachronism and the Acts of P and T prove it. IMO.

Anyway, I digress.

To me the key point in this Saying is the bit about being stretched. I also love the bit that even if something causes us anxiety, we should still embrace it. We of the 21st century do not like to be uncomfortable, do we? We like the familiar, we like what we are used to.

In our day and age, such an embrace of such radical poverty would be considered not only irresponsible but might gain one admission to the psych ward!! But perhaps the opposite is just as irresponsible for the health of our souls. Maybe stretching ourselves about our possessions and what we buy would be good for us, healthier for us. What can we do to stretch ourselves? How can we live with less? And what would we do with the maybe extra cash?

When I was growing up in the Roman Catholic Church, we had a thing called a Poor Box where people would make contributions so that when the poor approached the priest, the priest would have some money to give away. I've always liked that idea. Now I am Episcopalian and I've not seen a Poor Box. Instead we have the Rector's Discretionary Fund which is budget from the over all donations. The Rector's Discretionary Fund has never seemed as personal to me as the Poor Box. I love the idea of personally putting money into it.

In previous parishes, the Episcopal Church Women would hand out boxes and on United Thank Offering Sunday, we would all return them full of money. Since I've lived in San Diego, I've not come across the ECW nor have I heard any mention about the Untied Thank Offering. But that was as close to the Poor Box as I've found.


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