LENTEN DEVOTION for Tuesday, February 20  



God of transformation: Change me, stretch me, mold me--now and forever.


Amma Syncletica said, "In the beginning there are a great many battles and a good deal of suffering for those who are advancing towards God and afterwards, ineffable joy. It is like those who wish to light a fire; at first they are choked by the smoke and cry, and by this means obtain what they seek: so we also must kindle the divine fire in ourselves through tears and hard work." 
Our God is a consuming fire. -Hebrews 12:24 


Many of the desert sayings are difficult. Amma Syncletica's is one of them. The desert mothers and fathers believed that advancing in the spiritual life requires change--and change is always uncomfortable and often painful. Monastics like Amma Syncletica do not want to hide this from others.

Like Anthony, Syncletica was born in Egypt to a wealthy and distinguished family. But her family knew suffering. Her brothers died young and her sister was blind. When her parents died, Syncletica (again, like Anthony) gave all of her family wealth to the poor. After cutting her hair, she took her sister into the desert to live as ascetics. She knew an abrupt change was necessary.

Women were drawn to Syncletica's disciplined lifestyle and her counsel. She soon gained followers. To them, she advocated a disciplined life that, while often painful, would lead to ineffable joy.

The first thing Amma Syncletica did, in order to advance towards God, was to make a clean break. She let go of her wealth. But soon she would also advocate that people let go of those attitudes, addictions, patterns of thought and inclinations that block their experience of God. Getting rid of these things is like lighting a fire. The fire consumes, but the heat and smoke cause discomfort and tears.

Amma Syncletica reminds us that there are things that must go if we are to truly live into God's grace, peace, hope and love. We often know exactly what those things are. The problem is we don't often want to do the hard work--it is painful and sometimes tearful. But often, the best change begins that way.


God, open me to your love. Let your love change me. Let it burn away the dross of my life. Let it form me--however difficult that may be. Amen. 

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