Susan's Thursday morning note March 7, 2019
Eulogy for each day of your life. Awareness. Noticing.
Desert Wisdom from 4th & 5th centuries compiled by Henry Nouwen
Simple Abundance by Sarah Breathnach
Good morning! The birds are singing & the coffee has brewed hours ago….time to get my fingers typing for you! Last week I opened Desert Wisdom: Sayings from the Desert Fathers (translated by Nomura, with an introduction by Henri Nouwen). These are sayings compiled from the 4th & 5th centuries. What is fascinating is that 1500 years later the wisdom endures. I am intrigued when I read anything from so long ago that inspires, calms, encourages, strengthens me. I hope that the quotes I’ve picked out are ones that also stay in your mind after reading them….
Some old men came to see Abba Poemen, and said to him: Tell us, when we see brothers dozing during the sacred office, should we pinch them so they will stay awake? The old man said to them: Actually, if I saw a brother sleeping, I would put his head on my knees and let him rest.
A brother who was living among other brothers asked Abba Bessarion: What should I do? The old man replied: Be silent, and do not measure yourself against the others.
Amma Syncletica said: In the beginning, there is struggle and a lot of work for those who come near to God. But after that, there is indescribable joy. It is just like building a fire: At first it’s smoky and your eyes water, but later you get the desired result. Thus we ought to light the divine fire in ourselves with tears and effort.
What shall I do? For many thoughts are bothering me, and I don’t know how to fight back. The old man said: Do not fight against all of them, but against one. In fact, all thoughts of monks have a single head. Therefore, you have to figure out which and what kind it is, and fight against it. By doing so, you can defeat the rest of those thoughts.
A brother who had sinned was expelled by the priest from the church. But Abba Bessarion stood up and went out with him, saying: I too am a sinner.
An old man said: If you have lost gold or silver, you can find something in place of what you lost. However, if you lose time you cannot replace what you lost.
Abba Poemen asked Abba Anthony: What should I do? The old man said: Do not be confident in your own righteousness, do not worry about a thing once it’s done, and control your tongue and your stomach.
A brother who was insulted by another brother came to Abba Sisoes, and said to him: I was hurt by my brother, and I want to avenge myself. The old man tried to console him and said: Don’t do that, my child . Rather leave vengeance to God. But he said: I will not quit until I avenge myself. Then the old man said: Let us pray, brother; and standing up, he said: O God, we no longer need you to take care of us since we now avenge ourselves. Hearing these words, the brother fell at the feet of the old man and said: I am not going to fight with my brother any more. Forgive me, Abba.
Abba Poemen said about Abba Pior that every single day he made a fresh beginning.
I have thought of the line that we can’t replace time….I often “cheat” and read books that are dated out of order. In Simple Abundance by Sarah Breathnach I read May 1st this morning…beginning with the quote,
Today a new sun rises for me; everything lives, everything is animated, everything seems to speak to me of my passion, everything invites me to cherish it. (Anne DeLenclos)….the writing in this entry discusses walking through a graveyard,,,”ruminating” on the meaning of life, the toils, the struggles, the heads that “rest upon the lap of Earth”… She writes, “We should write an eulogy for every day that has slipped through our lives unnoticed and unappreciated. Better still, we should write a song of thanksgiving for all the days that remain…Everyday epiphanies encourage us to cherish everything. Today a new sun has risen. Everything lives. Everything can speak to your soul passionately if you will be still enough to listen. “You have to count on living every single day in a way you believe will make you feel good about your life,” actress Jane Seymour suggests, “so that if it were over tomorrow, you’d be content.”
Every day is a fresh beginning. Written 1500 years ago by a leader…and don’t you think was probably stated 1500 years before that by a mother to her child? Comforting to see what we read to keep us looking forward was also read by those we respect so long ago. What will be our eulogy of TODAY that we would write (even if we only write in our thoughts as we try to get to sleep) tonight? Beginning now – the next 12 hours. Will we notice small, beautiful details? Will we look for beauty? Stop trying to solve things…stop trying to get back what isn’t possible to get back…stop living in a daze? If your energy only entails you to look out the window today – then NOTICE beautiful details. Let your eulogy for today be that you NOTICED – you noticed the new green buds. You noticed the out of tune bird. You were AWARE. If your energy today only allows you to survive because of chaos and children everywhere – will your eulogy be that you looked in their eyes for more than a glance. That you kissed their pinky? That you grinned when they woke up too early & called YOUR name? Those are the beautiful moments in the chaos.
If your energy seems sapped completely and your day is “redundant” because of caring for someone (even if the someone is yourself) because of illness…can you write in your eulogy for your day today that you noticed the little beautiful veins of the sick person there with you….are you noticing the eyes – are you trying to imagine what scenes are playing in the head of who you are loving? Are you going to be able to write tonight in your mind that you saw the person as healthy….the person that will meet you in eternity? I love this idea – we can never get time back…so each evening we will write an eulogy of that day. Pick the flower, call your friend, give yourself a silent five minutes alone, have an Oreo (have two!), walk a mile, do nothing (if that’s the gift – grin!). We can never replace time lost, but we can each day begin the next writing. The next chapter. The next movement of our song. Thank you for letting me come into your Thursday again. Go make yourself proud with decisions you make today – decisions no one else will even know you made. Thank you so much for your encouragement & business. You will never know how much it means to me. Susan
Latin for this week:
minima maxima sunt - The smallest things are most important.
Breathnach, Sarah Ban. Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy. 2005. Grand Central Publishing. New York.
Nomura, Yoshi. Desert Wisdom: Sayings from the Desert Fathers. 2007. Orbis Books. Maryknoll, NY.