Friday, December 11, 2009

Advent in the Desert

The desert is a backdrop to many events in the Bible. The word desert or wilderness was translated in the Latin Vulgate as desertum, which is a form of desolatio, which means solitude. The desert is paradoxical, for it is in a vast area of open land that one is in solitude, not in a little room with the shades drawn, but in an arid land of sand, sun and starry nights. The Book of Exodus tells us that the Israelites wandered for 40 years in the desert led by God. Their time in the desert was not fruitful for though given the Torah and fed with manna from heaven, they abandoned God's ways. Isaiah 43:19 speaks to the Jews in exile of the promise of the Messiah "Behold I do new things, and now they shall spring forth, verily you shall know them: I will make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert." Jesus, himself was tempted by the devil after fasting for forty days and forty nights in the desert. The Desert Fathers were the first Christian monks, living in solitude in the deserts of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria. In contrast to the formalized and official theology of the "founding fathers" of the Church, they were ordinary Christians who chose to renounce the world and live lives of celibacy, fasting, vigil, prayer, and poverty in direct and simple response to the gospel. The desert represents the vast open area and the vast interior area within you it is both silent and still, it can be a haven for spiritual fruitfulness or a place to die, barren and empty. In our spiritual lives it becomes a necessity to go to the desert. Only through quiet solitude can we become still and recognize where we are in relation to God. Advent is a time to go to the desert, Christ's birth is two weeks away, it is a good time to meditate before the Blessed Sacrament, read Sacred Scriptures, pray the Rosary, focus on your spirituality, so that your heart can be open in its fullness to a tiny Infant born in a stable, the true love and joy of Christmas.

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