Monday, March 10, 2014

A Daily Cross (Monday Morning in the Desert)

St. Isaac the Syrian once said that the "way of God is a daily cross."  Centuries later, Luther echoed this sentiment by proclaiming that the life of the baptized involves a daily drowning and dying in our sin, followed by a daily rising to new life. If you are like me, I'd like to skip that daily dying part, and go right to the daily rising to new life part.

Even though we can't skip the daily dying part, we still question why we are called to endure a daily cross, and this question is perhaps prominent in our minds during the season of Lent. Since this post is a part of my "Monday Morning in the Desert" series, you might have already figured out that I think that the Desert Fathers offer us some guidance on the meaning of the daily cross for us. 

Diadochus was the Bishop of Photice, and a disciple of the legendary Desert Father, Evagrius of Pontus.  Diadochus wrote the following words about the point of the daily cross:

"In the same way as a wax, unless heated and softened for long, cannot take the seal impressed upon it, even so man, unless tried with toils and weaknesses, cannot take in the seal of God's power.  This is why the Lord says to St. Paul: 'My grace is sufficient for you; for my power is made perfect in weakness' (2 Corinthians 12:9)".  (quoted at pp. 158-159 of "Prayer of the Heart: The Contemplative Tradition of the Christian East" by George Maloney, S.J.).

As applied to this season of Lent, if we think our Lenten disciplines make us superior Christians, then we do not have a daily cross, but a daily self-help regimen which makes us think that we have earned something.  The daily cross does not earn us anything.  Instead, the daily cross helps us to see "the futility of our own efforts through fear and attentiveness to our own impotence, (leading us to) cry out in complete trust to God to become the Savior. St. Isaac the Syrian links up such humility and spiritual poverty with true prayer - 'The man who has learnt the need of God's help, prays much.'" (from p. 159 of "Prayer of the Heart").

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