In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” (See Matthew 3:1-12 NRSV).
When we think of the wilderness, we tend to associate it with an external landscape. It is a place we might go (or be set out) on a journey to or through. Whether it is a destination we go to of our own choosing, or by a misplaced sense of direction; the wilderness (or the desert) is a perfect symbol of what can happen with our interior self.
St. John the Baptist saw himself as the forerunner of Christ. He had such a clear sense of who he was, and what his purpose in life was, that he separated himself from everything to live into his true self. St. John the Baptist knew that God was the One he wanted to give his life to. He was able, therefore, to search and be the “voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord…”.
In the book entitled The Hermitage Within: Spirituality of the Desert, Alan Neame writes a fascinating translation of St. John the Baptist’s Wilderness.
“You are more than the Bridegroom’s friend. Your soul is truly the Bride, and you will make the outpourings of the mystic marriage-song your own: “‘I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.'” (See the Song of Solomon 6:3). (P.19).”
The cell and the wilderness in the spirituality of the Desert Mothers and Fathers represents the heart and the environment we are in. Our hearts need times of silence and solitude so that we can prepare a way for God within us. Our cells are so often lost in the wilderness of our false-sense of self that is so cluttered with the junk that suffocates our souls. God wants to walk with us in the wilderness of our cells to show us God’s true love and grace within our essence, that is our eternal truth. Advent is the time in which we journey with St. John the Baptist to contemplate our relationship with God and ourselves to find healing and reconciliation through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God, and our ears to the voice that everyday calls out this charge: If you hear his voice today, do not harden your hearts (Psalm 95:8).” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.15,16).
What does the wilderness of your heart look like today?
Peace be with all who enter here.
Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB
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