Monday, December 23, 2013

Monday Morning in the Desert - Christmas Edition

During the Advent and Christmas seasons, we hear a lot about angels.  An angel appeared to Zechariah, telling him that his wife would bear a son named John (who we know as John the Baptist).  How did Zechariah react? "[H]e was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him." (Luke 1:10).  What was the angel's response to his fear? "Do not be afraid." (Luke 1:13).

The angel Gabriel then appeared to Mary to tell her that she was to bear one who would be "called the Son of the Most High", what was hear reaction? She was "perplexed".  (Luke 1: 29).  And what was the angel's response? "Do not be afraid." (Luke 1:30).

 The Desert Fathers and Mothers had the same sort of apprehension whenever they believed they encountered an angel: "The hermits said, 'If an angel really appears to you, do not accept it as a matter of course, but humble yourself, and say, 'I live in my sins and am not worthy to see an angel.'" (From p. 165 of "The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks" translated by Benedicta Ward).

The kind of humility expressed by Zechariah, Mary, and the Desert Fathers and Mothers in the presence of a divine messenger contradicts our expectation that God will always answer us when we call, and give us what we want.  The Lord is not our great "Santa Claus in the sky."  Instead, we are called to trust that God is with us ("Emmanuel"), and to remember the words of the angels: "Do not be afraid."

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