On the importance of community

anthonyofegypt

Last week, I went to Boston to learn and fellowship with other like-minded and like-hearted individuals. Honestly, it is such a balm to the soul to get together with these people. The friendships made from going there for the last three years has been truly a blessing to me.

Every time I go there, there’s a joy and expectation of great things to come. This year, the two courses I attended were “The Lord’s Prayer in the Patristic Tradition” and “Taming the thoughts: Ascesis in the Monastic Writings.” I had the honour and privilege of being a teaching fellow for “Taming the thoughts” and for good reason… I needed to learn how to tame my thoughts! I have noticed that my focus has been waning. My thoughts wander too easily and I find myself distracted way too often. One of the reasons why I decided to enter seminary was to heed the Shema “Love the Lord your God with all your mind…” I wanted to know what that meant and what that looked like in my life. It has been a very long and sometimes, I feel, fruitless journey.

Enter the Desert Fathers. I have been fascinated by the Desert Fathers for awhile now. I have the utmost respect and admiration for people who decided that the noise was too much so they had to flee to the desert to get the calm they have been yearning for. I admire the monks who either solitarily, or in community, purposefully separated themselves from the world’s systems to establish their own system to prepare themselves for the world to come. Over the years, I have grown to love these people who revolted against the system and want to hear what they have to say.

And boy do they have a lot to say! They remind me to always be aware of what I’m thinking and how my thinking affects me. As the Oracle of Delphi says, “Know thyself.” They constantly hammer home the reality that we often do not know ourselves and it is to our own detriment and demise if we do not change that reality. So many of us live in the past or live in the future with no thought of the present. Yet it is our present that in many ways define our past and forge the future we are headed towards. To live in the here and now is an ability that I am not good at. I would like to think that I’m getting better at being present… but there’s always room for improvement.

I’m thankful to have other people around me who are willing to study various texts and hear what they have to say. Learning should always be done in community. It’s always a humbling and precious feeling to know so many amazing people who are so smart and so willing to share of their knowledge and wisdom.

Looking forward to next year!

 

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