A new beginning
Abba Poemen said of Abba Pior that every single day he made a fresh beginning.
—from the Desert Mothers and Fathers
It’s July when the summer begins to wear even the most dedicated of sun lovers down. Life begins to feel sticky; nights get close; days get long and dry. Everything becomes a major effort we slow down like rusted bogs on old wheels. Time suspends. Nothing much gets done. Day follows day with not much to show for any of them. Oh, yes, monastics know all about that kind of thing. In ancient monasteries, the warning of Evagrius of Pontus to “beware the devil of the noonday sun” loomed large. Acedia they called it. Spiritual sloth. The burden of the long haul. The question in every life, of course, is how to keep on going when going on seems fruitless.
It is precisely here where Abba Poemen and Abba Pior, two of the early desert’s most sought after spiritual guides, emerge again. As they did in ages past, their lives and wisdom which seem so other than ours, comes to help us find our way through a life now filled with dread and debacle on every side. The Abbas know that life is what comes from within us, not from what clings to the cloaks of our heart, demanding our attention and draining our resources.
Into this climate of spiritual ennui, of dulling sensitivities, boredom takes over. And it is boredom that smothers the soul. Bored, we lose sight of the beautiful in our midst. Bored, we overlook the world’s call for our attention. Bored, we ourselves become lethargic, out of touch, and uncaring about the needs of others.
So, what is the cure for such shrinkage of the soul? Abba Poeman is clear. We must forever remember, each and every day of our life, to make a new beginning. It is this beginner’s mind—the stage of perpetual alertness—that keeps us in tune with the songs of the rest of the world.
The call from the Desert Monastics is a totally different one than the call to irresponsibility like the one we ourselves are toying with at present. It is a call to begin again, every day of our lives, to complete the work on earth that the Creator has begun for us to finish. Life is a community enterprise. What we do not do for the other, will not be done for us.
Every day, like Abba Poeman, we must begin to see again our role in the creation of the world, in the development of the human race, and in the preservation of the planet.