Tag Archive: Meditation


Serenity: Mother of Chastity

An old man said: “Chastity is born of serenity, and silence, and secret meditation.”

~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers, 5.25

Unchastity, and the lust from which it is born, is a problem that we do well to revisit often with an ear to the wisdom of the fathers. How many relationships, marriages, ministries, careers, and so on have been ruined by a person’s own lust? This unnamed old man offers an interesting insight to contemplate. If chastity is “born of serenity, and silence, and secret meditation,” then logically unchastity thrives where there is no serenity, no silence, and no secret meditation. Continue reading

Meditations on Meditation

An old man said: “Take care to be silent. Empty the mind. Attend to your meditation, in the fear of God, whether you are resting in bed or at work. If you do this, you will not fear the assaults of demons.”

~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers 11.47

A distinctively Christian meditation is not so easy to come by these days, certainly not in the United States, at least. However, meditation has been a Judeo-Christian practice for as far back as we know. I offer here a few meditations on the subject from my own studies and experience.

The very first psalm contrasts the way of the righteous with the way of the impious and sinners. Of the righteous man, we are told, “His will is in the Law of the Lord, and in it he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2). The Lord, in fact, commanded the people of Israel to order their whole lives around meditating on the Law, putting commandments on their doorposts, talking about them whether walking or resting, standing or sleeping. It was always to be on their hearts, minds, and tongues.

For Christians, Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Law. Thus meditation on the Law (though not neglected) is transcended by meditation on Christ himself. Eventually this developed into a very specific tradition known as the Jesus Prayer, the repetition of the name of Jesus, particularly through some variant of the following: “Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Continue reading

Doctrine Walks

Now, one day, when [Maccuil-maccu-Greccae] was sitting at this place, he saw St. Patrick radiating with the clear light of faith, and resplendent with a certain wonderful diadem of heavenly glory; he saw him, I say, walking, with unshaken confidence of doctrine, on a road agreeable thereto.

~ Muirchu’s Life of Patrick 23

In effort to continue my Lenten journey with St. Patrick, I came across this little passage. Besides having the most unpronouncable name of any human being in all of history, Maccuil-maccu-Greccae, Muirchu tells us, was “a very ungodly, savage tyrant,” who was “depraved in his thoughts, violent in his words, malicious in his deeds, bitter in spirit, wrathful in disposition, villainous in body, cruel in mind, heathenish in life, monstrous in conscience, [and] inclining to … a depth of ungodliness.” Yet Maccuil sees St. Patrick for who he truly is: “radiating with the clear light of faith, and resplendent with a certain wonderful diadem of heavenly glory.” This does not stop him from plotting to deceive and murder St. Patrick, but if I may cut to the chase, all ends well for both of them. My concern is not so much with Maccuil here, however, but with St. Patrick, who walked “with unshaken confidence of doctrine, on a road agreeable thereto.” Continue reading

Hang Your Cloak Upon a Sunbeam

Once upon a time Brenainn came from the west of Ireland to Brigit, to the plain of Liffey. For he wondered at the fame that Brigit had in miracles and marvels. Brigit came from her sheep to welcome Brenainn. As Brigit entered the house she put her wet cloak on the rays of the sun, and they supported it like pot-hooks. Brenainn told his gillie to put his cloak on the same rays, and the gillie put it on them, but it fell from them twice. Brenainn himself put it, the third time, with anger and wrath, and the cloak staid upon them.

Each of them confessed to the other. Said Brenainn: ‘Not usual is it for me to go over seven ridges without (giving) my mind to God.’ Said Brigit: ‘Since I first gave my mind to God, I never took it from Him at all.’

~ The Leabhar Breac Life of Brigit 91

There are many versions of this story. The context varies widely but the confessions stay the same. Stories like this one of St. Brigid (Brigit) and St. Brendan (Brenainn) hanging their cloaks upon sunbeams are the sort that drove early modern historians to throw up their hands about the historicity of all hagiography. While their frustration is understandable, it sort of misses the point of hagiography in the first place. We have here a story of two historical people, yet the details of their lives can be so full of spiritual stories like this one that it is difficult to decide what to believe and what not to. There is good reason for this, however. It would be wholly inaccurate in an important way to simply record all of the historical data of their lives. In doing so, we would miss so much of the reality of who they truly are, that these people were and are filled with the grace of God and that by looking to them we behold a reflection of the divine glory. Continue reading

Breathe

Abba Hyperichius said: “Keep praising God with hymnody, and meditate continually, and so lift the burden of temptations that come upon you. A traveller carrying a heavy burden stops from time to time to take deep breaths, and so makes the journey easier and the burden lighter.”

~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers 7.20

Deep breaths. Stop and take deep breaths. This is something for which I can use continual reminders. Thankfully, I have a baby. Continue reading