Amma Syncletica said, “In the beginning there are a great many battles and a good deal of suffering for those who are advancing towards God and afterwards, ineffable joy. It is like those who wish to light a fire; at first they are choked by smoke and cry, and by this means obtain what they seek (and it is said: “Our God is a consuming fire” Heb. 12.29): so we also must kindle the divine fire in ourselves through tears and hard work.” (Syncletica 1)
Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,
There is a marvelous collection of sayings which are titled “Sayings of the Desert Fathers,” but fortunately we do have several stories of the desert mothers also included in this text, and we have a small collection of female desert elders’ stories found in other sources as well.
When these women decided to leave their conventional lives behind – and many of them were well educated, some were quite wealthy, and some were prostitutes – they each made an intentional choice to live in a way alternate to the dominant culture. The ammas reveal that from the very beginnings of the life of the Church, women have been initiators of new patterns and teachings.
In the story above Amma Syncletica counsels courage and hard work in this “battle.” I have trouble with the metaphor of battles for the spiritual life which the desert elders often use. I resist that kind of violent imagery. And yet, in Benedictine monk and scholar Michael Casey's book on humility, he writes that “a much more creative way of dealing with difficult texts is to take our negative reaction as an indication that there may be an issue beneath the surface with which we must deal.” When I experience resistance to what I am reading, I need to pay attention to what is being stirred within me. She calls forth the Warrior within me.
The Warrior archetype is that part of ourselves which is ready to protect and defend whatever is necessary. We find this archetype often in great legends and films. The Warrior is depicted as strong and often invincible, loyal to the sovereign, willing to fight to the death for what is most valuable, aligned with a just cause. While they are often depicted as men, women are just as likely to have this energy within to draw upon.
I also experience the Warrior as that part of myself which is able to create and maintain strong boundaries in my life, whether physical or energetic. I draw on the Warrior to help me protect what I claim as important. As a monk in the world, it is so easy at times to let my contemplative practice go when life becomes too busy and full. My Warrior is an ally, reminding me that I need to be fierce at times to keep my own needs met.
What precious thing might your inner Warrior help you with protecting?
Join us tomorrow when I explore this in our FREE live video seminar – click here to register.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
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