Spirituality of the Desert

image_01“The hermit is one called by God in imitation of Jesus to live a life of unceasing prayer and penance in the silence of solitude for the praise of God and the salvation of the world. It is a life lived in stricter separation from the world in the Heart of God and in the heart of the Church for the Church.

The hermit life emerged during the fourth century in Egypt, Asia Minor, Syria and Palestine. Previously, thousands of Christians were martyred as they shed their
blood for the sake of Christ and His Kingdom. To a world of persecuted Christians, the Emperor Constantine brought peace and the cessation of bloodshed for the
faith.

When the persecutions ceased, the Church still had to face the great danger that confronts her even to this day, namely, to live in the world without compromise.
“The world continued to prefer the darkness to the light” (John 3:19). Because of this threat to the authentic following of Christ and His holy Gospel, many fled into the solitude of the deserts, and thus a school of desert spirituality was forged.

These men and women strove to imitate the lives of the great patriarchs and prophets: Abraham, Moses, Elijah, St. John the Baptist, and above all Jesus Christ,
Himself. Like the Exodus of Israel led by Moses in the Desert of Sinai, where the Israelites wandered for forty years, these desert dwellers saw their own exodus in following Jesus, their Model, Who was “led into the desert by the Spirit to be tempted” (Matthew 4:1).

It was their burning desire for God that led these Christians into the deserts of Judea, Syria and Egypt and these deserts became the dwelling place for thousands of solitaries.

Since the world as persecutor was no longer the enemy of the Christian, the Christian had to become the enemy of the dark world. In the desert the Christian became a new kind of martyr giving witness to the saving power of the Risen Christ against the destructive powers of evil.

The school of desert spirituality which evolved from this became the foundation of the eremitic and cenobitic ways of life which have endured until this very day. The laura, a colony of hermits under obedience to a Desert Father, was one of the forms of the eremitic way of life.”

(Extracts from ”A Way of Desert Spirituality, THE PLAN OF LIFE of the Hermits of Bethlehem” by Reverend Eugene Romano, pages XXXI – XXXII)