Sinners and Sickness

“Desert spirituality understood that the inner journey was one of warfare. Any weapon might be used against the seeker.

Amma Syncletica was known for her profound gifts of the discernment of spirits. She had a keen perception of what was going on in someone’s inner struggles. Any situation can be used by the evil one to distract and confuse us, discourage us, and try to move us toward despair or apathy. Any situation can be an opportunity for learning and growth. For Amma Syncletica, a ‘sinner’ is one who allows circumstances to disrupt prayerful pursuit of God or who gives up the inner journey altogether. Detachment allows us the reflective space and inner freedom to recognize these attacks and learn from them. Keeping the eye of our soul upon our ultimate goal helps us to not get hooked by the turbulence of daily life.

The evil one attacks our sense of self-worth and feeds our internalized self-hatred. Discouragement and depression can move us toward despair and a loss of hope in God. When we live out of our wounded sense of self-worth, we tend not to trust the inner wisdom and intuition given each of us by God. She also said, ‘If illness weighs us down, let us not be sorrowful as though, because of the illness and the prostration of our bodies, we could not sing, for all these things are for our good, for the purification of our desires. Truly fasting and sleeping on the ground are set before us because of our sensuality. If illness then weakens this sensuality, the reason for these practices are superfluous. For this is the great asceticism: to control oneself in illness and to sing hymns of thanksgiving to God.’”  (Laura Swam, The Forgotten Desert Mothers, pp 48-49)

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2 thoughts on “Sinners and Sickness

    1. Fr. Ted

      Having spent most of last year recovering from cancer surgery and and enduring chemotherapy, her words seemed very apropos to my life and experience. One doesn’t need asceticism or self denial when suffering from serious illness for the illness certainly deadens self will and the passions.

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