These Desert Fathers and Mothers, these Abbas and Ammas, left us many sayings of profound wisdom, such as the following: “A brother came to Scetis to visit Abba Moses and asked him for a word. The old man said to him, ‘Go, sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything’.”
Solitude presents us with an opportunity to acquire self-knowledge, to gain insights into what drives us and to reflect on what is of ultimate value in our lives. It’s an opportunity to drop the masks, the personas we put up at work or in social situations, and to delve deeply into who we truly are.
“We are not our personalities,” says Franciscan priest Richard Rohr, “these are created when we lose touch with our essence, our source, and help us cope with the suffering of being separated from our essence, our source.”
St Anthony, one of the most influential of the Desert Fathers, believed that “Our life and death is with our neighbour.” When we connect with our essence, our source, compassion flows.
It has also been heartening to read in the news over the past week about a 20-year-old Monash University student cooking free meals for hospital staff, a young boy delivering free toilet rolls to his elderly neighbours, a lady who opened a hand-delivered envelope to find two $50 notes and a teenage girl who only had $28 left on her card, but who paid an elderly woman’s grocery bill.
This Easter, in the midst of the suffering, there is also selfless love and compassion – symbolised by the Cross on Good Friday, and the new life of Easter Day.