Lent – 40 day ‘Retreat’ – Day 6

On Saturday we unmasked Pride – the Proud One who is ‘the father of lies’. The one whom Jesus encounters in the Wilderness. How in his cunning he fools us, not only into denying his presence, but then, and this is much easier given we do not accept the reality of his existence, whispers in our ears to keep us from our true healing.

The example of this action was the deceit that we do not need to confess our sins one to another – that all that is necessary is that we confess them before God. Apart from the fact that this is not what the scriptures teach us is the way to our healing – and thus we are not healed – it also unmasks our determined individualism – the pride which says ‘I do not need my brother and sister!’, masked as the pietistic ‘I have my own private relationship with God’. Pride will always keep us separated from one another, and THEREFORE also from God. The ‘god’ of our pietsitic imagination is only the echo of our own heart. As the beloved evangelist puts it ‘Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.’

So our refusal to confess one to another, and that is what it is, is born out of hatred for them. Most certainly it is the fruit of Pride. It is, as I shall show shortly, the result of not having heard the Gospel.

But for now, I wish briefly to examine a very important principle of our growth in Christ. The Doctor of souls, St Benedict in his Rule for monks begins by talking about the different types of monk. He speaks of with the ‘eremitic’ – those who live as solitaries. He comments that they can only do this because they ‘have come through the test of living in a monastery for a long time . . . [and so] go from battle line in the ranks of their brothers to the single combat of the desert’

Here we find the root of the idea that we cannot pursue the spiritual life on our own until we have learned to live it in community – otherwise we are easily deceived. Of course by and large we have grown up in churches where the exact opposite is thought to be true – that living in close community was a more difficult call than going it alone (even as I write it I can see how foolish we are in this regard)

Thus also, to take a slightly different tack, one cannot carry the Poustinia of the heart out into the world, until such time as through years of training we have lived in a Poustinia learning the discipline of service to the community.

In these and many other ways we are deceived into thinking we can go it ‘alone with God’, avoiding the school of the Lord’s service which is the Christian community.

Anyone who thinks they can confess truthfully to the Lord whom they cannot see and know purely by faith, and yet who cannot confess truthfully in the assembly of Christ’s body – anyone who does not discern Christ in the body – is in grave spiritual danger.

Tomorrow we read of this in action – in a situation where Pride has been torn down.

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