[virtues] Desert Prayers Email

Dear members of the Desert Prayers community,

I hope that your prayer time has been fruitful, and that your relationship with God, neighbor, and self is continuing to deepen.

Reviewing your day and prayer experience to identify interruptions by the various "troubling thoughts" is not easy work. We can understand, on an intellectual level, the desert wisdom that thoughts are illusory and transient--that they don't define us. However, sometimes it can be difficult to "feel" that truth after a long day at work or a destabilizing life event. Of course, prayer can and will help. If not silence, then direct petition to God for comfort and strength can often move us into a more objective mental space.

It is also important to keep in mind that time spent wrestling with the demons of our day is never wasted time. Evagrius taught that each troubling thought has its corresponding virtue, and those virtues are cultivated in proportion to our wrestling. Addressing thoughts of avarice grows charity in our hearts. Facing down sadness and anger increases our courage and fortitude. Reckoning with vainglorious impulses leads to wisdom and knowledge. Addressing the demons are, in fact, a necessary part of our growth as Christians. Evagrius said, "Take away temptations and no one will be saved."

In many ways, how we approach the "troubling thoughts" is akin to how Christians approach the cross. On one hand, the cross is an instrument of torture. In the first century, it struck fear into the hearts of those who witnessed the brutal practice of crucifixion--a means to assert Roman dominance. On the other hand, because of Jesus's death on the cross and subsequent resurrection, the cross can be seen as a doorway to new life. The beauty of Easter is always visible through the pain of Good Friday. Similarly, we can learn to understand the "troubling thoughts," or demons as a means to grow closer to God. Christ makes all things new: Acedia transforms into patience. Gluttony becomes temperance. Pride is revealed as understanding.

With God's help, we can become adept at wrestling with the demons and, maybe someday, no longer see them as demons at all, but come to know them for what they truly are ... virtues in disguise.

Please feel free to reach out to me regarding your prayer experience, or with questions and reflections you wish to share.

Take care,

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