Wilderness spirituality

In the fourth century women and men desiring to live more simply began living outside the towns and villages of Lower Egypt, Israel, and Syria. They dwelled in hand-made huts or caves, eating and drinking a sparse diet of bread and herbs and water. Inviting the wilderness to teach them, they began learning how to be still and silent. The silence was not emptiness but a place of becoming aware of Presence. The wilderness also taught them to search the inner wilderness of their heart for God who they alone could discover. Inspired by the prophetic wilderness dwellers that lived before them, they offered back to God their life from which it came. We know them today as the ammas and abbas.
CITW-Michael-Nees--Chair-inIntegrating the experiences of the wilderness with the presence of God became for them wilderness spirituality, a way of life. One of their important practices -- in addition to a deep desire to be present to, and to listen deeply to God -- was the practice of humility. They believed that all of creation was given existence by a loving God who loves all unconditionally no matter the gifts or growing edges. This conviction allowed them to be free from judging the behavior or the choices of others.
Living out the wilderness spirituality can be for us a way of life, just as it was for the ammas and abbas. It is a commitment, first of all, to spend time in a wilderness place so that we are able to listen deeply. The silence of a wilderness landscape opens us to be present to the voice of God, the heart, and creation. It becomes the assurance that God is ever present. We begin to recognize that our prayer at times is to do nothing. Just be with the beauty, the mystery of a wilderness; it’s silence giving all to God. Simply being with God in prayer--simply being with God in the ordinariness of our life, its ups and downs, and accepting that--is the humility of the desert mothers and fathers. Letting go of expectations of how I wish my life would be, or others’ lives would be, can be freeing. It is reverencing all of life. In the ordinary we discover the extraordinary simple beauty of the awareness of what is.
~ Reproduced with kind permission of Sr Evie Sommers CSJ who is based at the Christ in the Wilderness Hermitage Retreat Centre, located west of Chicago, Illinois, in the beautiful rolling hills of the Mississippi Valley. At Christ in the Wilderness, retreatants re-connect with and nurture their inner spirit quite naturally by placing themselves in an environment of solitude and peace.