Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Unable to Argue

one of the many caves in the desert mountains outside my retreat house

At the beginning of this month (on April 2),  I posted a reflection about the "Desert Mothers and Fathers." 

They were a group of 4th century Christians who moved away from the formal structure of the institutional church in order to be more faithful followers of Jesus, dedicating their lives to live according to Christ's teaching.

They moved away from the cities, and lived in mountain caves in the deserts of Syria, Egypt and Gaza.  Their life together was extremely simple - essentially devoid of "creature comforts"  And yet their common life was also filled with the deep peace that comes from living in compassionate relationship with others who are deeply in touch with God's holy and abiding presence.

As I take my daily walk in the desert,  I pass by numerous little mountain caves, and as I walk along I am daily reminded of those cave-dweling "Desert Mothers and Fathers." They are my spiritual ancestors and their spirit seems to linger out here in the desert with me.

The Desert Mothers and Fathers left behind a wide array of stories and wisdom sayings. I often read these stories and meditate upon their wisdom as a source of spiritual refreshment for my own wilderness journey.

Today, as I passed by a mountain cave, I recalled a story of which I am particularly fond. It speaks volumes to our own contemporary culture,  so racked with violence and shackled by contentiousness. 

"Two desert monks had lived in community with one another for many years. They had never had a quarrel. One monk said to the other, 'Let's have a quarrel with each other as other men do.' The other answered, 'I don't know how a quarrel happens.' The first said, 'Look here, I put a brick between us and say, 'That's mine.' Then you say, 'No it's mine.' This is how you begin a quarrel.  So they put a brick between them. And one of them said, 'That's mine.' The other said, 'No, it's mine.' He answered,  'Yes, it's yours. Take it away.' They were unable to argue with one another."

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