Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Way of the Heart

Way of the Heart
Been a while. Missed you. Another Christmas with kids. Buying gobs of stuff they really want. Today. Actually we've got it down to a few things they really do want and will use instead of the "present orgies" when they were 5 or 6. We got so many presents since we had the first grandkids. So one year we had to stop for a lunch break, and go back to work at opening the rest of the presents after lunch. Thank God we're not there anymore.

When I was at the Abbey for a week I listened to a three cassette, yes cassette, series of Henri Nouwen called "Desert Spirituality and Contemporary Ministry" You can get it from Ave Maria Press on-line. These sermons were given at Yale in the '70's and still ring true today. Nouwen pubished a small book of these sermons called "The Way of the Heart" in 1981. May I recomend it to you as a Christmas present for yourself.

Nouwen goes all the way back to St Anthony, the first "monk" we know of in 200AD, and describes three primary tools for having an authentic life with God. They are Silence, Solitude, and Meditative Prayer. The power of authentic solitude, which I experienced in 5 days where I simply kept to myself, showed me that I need a habit of being truly alone, (I wanna be where nobody knows my name, opposite of "Cheers") of "anti-community, with nothing to posess my attention except Jesus. It was almost physical work to consistently shut my brain down from talking, planning, writing, having imaginary conversations, etc. to be quiet before God. But it was discovering a new kind of peace which I want to continue to develop. I don’t know to treasure it yet. I don’t really see that it’s more valuable than almost anything else I do.
St. Anthony was in the Desert of Egypt alone for 20 years. Then he had decades of fruitful ministry. And then at the end of his life he went back to the desert to be with his God. Nouwen’s point is that fruitful ministry comes from solitude and silence with God. Very little else can help it. Inner silence is the basis of compassion, since silence and solitude force you to come face to face with your demons, and therefore you can forgive others their sins and compulsions.

Maybe Christmas has become so crazy now because as members of Western society we have no stores of inner solitude and peace to draw on. And as Americans we haven’t determined that two weeks of a family vacation doesn’t equal rest, recovery, and room to breathe.



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