AS EARLY CHRISTIANS sought to imitate Christ, many retreated into desert regions of Palestine, Syria, and Egypt. These women and men, called the desert mothers and fathers, shaped Christian practice in profound ways. Life in the desert eventually evolved into monastic communities. By the time Saint Benedict codified the rule of such community in the sixth century, it was clear that each day must be ordered around three fundamental principles—work, worship, and study of scripture. The term lectio divina refers to prayerful listening for divine inspiration from scripture. Added to this practice were two great “works”: the “work of God,” what we call worship (in Latin, opus dei); and the “work of the hands” (opus manuum). The everyday rhythm of Christian life was ordered around gathering for worship or the daily office of prayer, several hours for lectio divina, and the physical work essential for sustaining life. A fourth principle in The Rule of St. Benedict runs through the other three, the expectation of hospitality for one another in community and for any who seek rest, healing, or food.
—Dwight H. Judy
A Quiet Pentecost: Inviting the Spirit into Congregational Life
From page 52 of A Quiet Pentecost: Inviting the Spirit into Congregational Life by Dwight H. Judy. Copyright © 2013 by The Upper Room. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Upper Room Books. Learn more about or purchase this book.
How might the ancient practices of the “desert mothers and fathers” help you bring more balance to your spiritual routine and growth? Share your thoughts.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
—James 2:14-17, NRSV
Prayer for the Week
Come Holy Spirit, come.
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(Courtesy of Vanderbilt Divinity Library)
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