Some years ago we went to the Holy Land. We stayed in Jerusalem and Tiberias. We visited Roman remains and Biblical sites. One of the most lasting images for me is the Judean wilderness – the desert. From Jerusalem to Jericho in the bottom of the Great Rift Valley, the desert road goes down, down, down, down. Sand, sand, sand, sand, dunes, caves. Maybe the occasional lizard. Not much else. Unrelenting sun or penetrating cold.
Christianity is a religion of the desert. Moses led his people through the desert from slavery to the Promised Land. John Baptist came from the desert to make way for the Messiah. Jesus began his work in the desert.
The silence is profound. Nothing comes between man and The Divine. No life thrives here except the inner life. Confront it or go mad.
Listen to the wild beasts that live inside us that incite us to put ourselves at the centre of our lives: to take more than we need, to pile up possessions, to seek approval from others. Confront these beasts.
Listen to the angels that live inside us encouraging us to put the common good – God – at the centre of our lives. Take heed.
I am caught between wild beasts and angels inside me. I do what I wish I didn’t and don’t do what I wish I did. I an caught between wild beasts and angels outside me. I find myself quite alone in a moral and spiritual wilderness, pulled this way and that by external forces that beguile and suborn me.
I suppose I have to face the desert, the barren place, the wilderness, the untamed place, the purgatory through which I must pass to reach that quality of life which is eternal.
A man that looks on glasse, On it may stay his eye; Or if he pleaseth, through it passe, And then the heav’n espie. (Blessed George Herbert).