Sunday, March 6, 2016

Ponder: "the Sacrament, the Wilderness, Fasting"

"Ambrose of Milan noted that “there are three things which united together conduce to the salvation of man: the Sacrament, the Wilderness, Fasting” (Catena Aurea on Luke 4). The first and the last of these three conduits of salvation come naturally into sharper relief during Lent. But the middle term, the Wilderness, is seldom considered other than as an abstraction connoting the sort of quiet and solitude one may find in one’s own room with the door shut (Matt. 6:6).

But Jesus and his first disciples appear to have taken the wilderness more literally, spending time in wild places to cultivate communion with the Creator, not least, one may surmise, by beholding his works unmediated. One thinks of the 40 days in the wilderness at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, how the Gospels show him regularly seeking out lonely places (Luke 4:42), or how Paul withdrew for a time into the vastness of Arabia after his conversion (Gal.1:17). One thinks too of the withdrawal of Christians into the wildernesses of upper Egypt and Cappadocia and such places during the fourth century, at the foundation of Christian monasticism.

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