Desert Wisdom: The Necessity of Humility

The last chapter in The Desert Fathers deals with visions.  This is a very important subject to address in spiritual formation because visions have been claimed with resulting good and evil.  They are a very “mixed  bag” in the history of Christian spirituality.

I am no expert in early monastic Christianity, but I’m guessing that the main reason the book ends with this topic is because visions were what got many of the monks into the desert in the first place, and (as the chapter shows) they were what often kept them there.

At the same time, this final chapter takes no naive or superficial view of visions.  The sayings show that visions require discernment, and that most often in community.

The sayings in this final chapter are long and difficult to summarize in a blog post. But we’ll spend a few weeks pointing out the messages this final chapter gives us.

In Saying 2, Arsenius told a fellow monk about his vision of two people who were prevented from going into the temple.  The first was carrying a load of wood, the second contaminated water.  Arsenius showed that his vision taught that a lack of humility would keep us out of God’s house.

The wood represented sins that were allowed to pile up and become too wide to get into the door of the temple.  The water represented a life that had taken the pure water (good works) and mingled it with other things.  Both men lacked humility.  The wood carrier lacked a spirit of repentance, and the water carrier was trying to have his cake and eat it too.

Thus, Arsenius’ vision revealed that only a spirit of repentance and a pure heart can enter into God’s temple.

 

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 43 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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