Give me a word…

One of the practices among the desert fathers would be for a junior monk to approach an elder with the request, “Abba, give me a word”. The elder father would then give the junior a pithy saying or teaching that often combined spiritual insight with practical Christian living.

While reading this morning such a ‘word’ came up, one that seems appropriate in this last week of the Church’s year, in which she contemplates the end of all things, not least our end, and the faithful perseverance we need to make it a happy one. We need constant reminders that we have no home in this world; our true home is in the promised land of the next world.

Whatever you may think of (St) Paul, when you read him as (St) Augustine did, he does not point to a post-conversion life of revolution and exaltation, but rather to a long, dark struggle in the soul itself. The life of the Christian is not immanent happiness but intensified promise. Promise, however, is not possession.

from Augustine, Sinner and Saint, J J O’Donnell (2005), p.78

Keep faith with the promise not yet possessed, and it will keep faith with you.


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