ST JAMES EPISCOPAL CHURCH
October 16, 2020 -
Desert Fathers & Mothers
for the week of October 18, 2020
What you need: a watch, clock, or timer; a quiet creative activity; a candle (if it's okay, or an intentional object like a cross); a Bible, if you'd like; paper; something to write with; a snack. Have your class with a sibling or other family members, or enjoy this time by yourself.
1) Begin with a transition time – Peace & Quiet: enjoy a creative activity for about 10 minutes (journaling, clay, Legos, drawing, etc. Not a focus on a finished product; just enjoyment).
2) Next, clear that space, or move to another space, and light a candle (or place your intentional object). Settle in, and say a prayer, like: Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. (Psalm 119:105). Offer more prayers, silently, or out loud, if you want.
Our focus for this class = Desert Fathers & Mothers
They lived, mostly in solitude, in the deserts of Egypt, Syria, Palestine, and other places, during the third through sixth centuries. They were men (abbas - "daddies") and women (ammas - "mommies") who were concerned that the ways of the world interfered with the worship of God. In every way, they put God first. What does that mean?
They put aside business, politics, family, friends, and more: they even put aside themselves. What could you find if you practiced "self-forgetfulness"? Could you focus on God alone for a few minutes a day? Or a whole lifetime? (What's a good way to start?)
They lived in simplicity and humility, leaving the outer world behind. Some kept silence. They prayed continuously and fasted; some wrote, some taught. Some of their thoughts, stories, and sayings have been published, passed down through hundreds and hundreds of years. Check out this list of recommended books: click here.
The ammas and abbas often were leaders of communities in the desert, in charge of the spiritual lives of the people who came there to shed the ways of the world and to focus on God. After a while, the desert became a kind of city itself, crowded with seekers. Monasteries and convents are based on this foundation. Are you curious about monastic life? Here's a serious intro; here's a kinda silly one (with lots of truth in it). Or get to know our local monks, the brothers of the SSJE.
"Give me a word" was what a desert dweller would ask of a holy person. They asked for a phrase to use as their prayer, a focus of their devotion, for hours, days, perhaps even a lifetime. Have you heard or read something that stuck in your head, that you are called to spend time thinking about? Or would you like to be given a phrase to ponder? LMK
4) Think about what you read, chat about it if you have company, look it up online (if allowed) and see if there's commentary about it – do you agree? Do you feel called to do something?
5) Brainstorm & make a poster: Top 10 Things I (Might) Give Up so I Could Concentrate on God. Take a pic; email me! (Thank you!)
6) Snack time! Prayers first: talk to God! "I'm grateful for, I'm worried about, I ask for" etc. And/or take 5 or more minutes for centering prayer: relaxing into peace & letting thoughts go. Breathe! Enjoy your snack.
7) Finally, clean up your space(s), and say a closing prayer, like: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. - Plato. Blow out the candle, or put away the intentional object (or leave it there if you'd like to create a little sacred area) and say out loud:
Go now in peace, to love and serve the Lord! Thanks be to God! ALLELUIA!