The fourth-century Egyptian monk, Evagrius of Pontus, spoke of eight ‘thoughts’: gluttony, greed, sloth, sorrow, lust, anger, vainglory and pride. These eight thoughts are self-protecting, self-promoting, self-indulging habits of mind that keep me firmly at the center of my concern. They tend to blind me to the reality and needs of others. And they generate the illusion of separation from God, from others and from the world around me. These eight thoughts suggest to me that the necessities and goods of life need to be possessed rather than received as a gift, coming from the providence and generosity of God.
Jesus lived in responsiveness to God’s abundance and mercy, trusting his Father as the ultimate reality despite all the world’s violence and even in the face of death. Jesus cut through the great illusion of separateness. The paradoxical truth is that, if you want really to live, you must receive your life as gift and not something to be grasped at; if you want to be connected to the source of all life, you cannot isolate yourself by way of self-protection or self-promotion. You must learn to ‘let go’ and entrust yourself to God’s love, care and concern for you. “Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it,” says Jesus.
Reflection by Abbot Damian. Photographs by Brother Brian.