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Archive for April 7th, 2020

Whether we envision the 40 years the Israelites remained in Egypt, Exodus, or 40 days in the desert for Our Lord, both were times of trial. “Athlos” is the Greek word for the hero’s work (the origin of the word “ athletics”).

The athletics of the Soul involve overcoming the limitations of ego, the lesser self, to open up the higher Self. The athletic work of the spiritual initiate is to confront her shadows, fears, and temptations. It is nothing less than the alchemical work of transformation.

Carl Jung regarded it as essential to distinguish between the two expressions of self: ego ( tied to our sensations and emotions) and Self ( tapping into the collective and the unitive). The mystics, such as the Desert Fathers, would agree.

Looked at through the lens of the two levels of “self” we can discern the Archetype of the Quest. Whether viewed collectively as the struggle of a community, or individually, as the hero’s journey, both involve a confrontation with our baser instincts, our animal nature. Desert time brings with it true solitude: the environment that forces us in on ourselves.

The pandemic of 2020 has defined this Lenten Season. Passover and Easter will be a time of continued isolation away from usual gatherings and customary celebrations. We are all discovering the possibilities of virtual connection.

We are also struggling with cabin fever and finding ways to meaningfully spend our time. The air is filled with dread and foreboding mingled with prayers for health, healing and safer times. Absent the usual distractions of work and customary activities, this has become a time of Exodus in a very concrete way.

If our time in solitude is one of self-examination, of prayer and contemplation, and honest reflection on our thoughts and feelings, it can be true spiritual athlos. If so, it will bear real fruit and unleash the Way of the Heart, illuminating our Easter-tide. If not, we become further ensnared by the ego’s self protection focus, survivalism, and reactivity: an all- consuming viscious circularity.

True solitude only enriches true community. Anxious solitude renders community full of suspicion and fear. The two dimensions, solitary time and community, are inseparably linked. They depend on each other.

Community without solitude yields superficial and ceremonial exchanges, an interaction of masks. Community fed by prayerful solitude is authentic, an exchange of gifts: the caring of sisters and brothers.

May we be opened in this Season by the Holy Spirit to experience the full Presence of the Christos.

© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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