THE MONASTIC DESERT

Jesus your gaze is so facinating your Love is so tender that poor sinners who are still divided in their hearts between your Kingdom and the illusions of the earth leave everything in order to follow You

O monk you were endowed with many advantages and yet you considered them as disadvantageous because of Christ And furthermore from now on you consider everything as disadvantageous because of the superiority of knowing Christ your Savior Because of Him you accepted to lose everything in order to gain Christ and to be found in Him no longer having justice except the justice that comes from God and relying on your faith

O monk forget the beaten path go straight ahead striving with all your being run towards the goal in view of the reward that God is calling you to receive on-high in Christ


Monks answer the call of Christ to the point of anticipating, even now, the future glory and transfiguration that will be ours. Monks renounce human love, in its fecundity and joy, in order to be, now on earth, a sign of the Absolute of God who shares with those who love him the Absolute of Life. In this apparent death in one of the dimensions of human existence, they become signs given by God of the Resurrection of the dead. They accept this apparent death of their human capacity and strength in order that the fecundity and vitality of the Love that comes from God may shine forth. In this era, when all is relative, monks are witnesses of the Absolute. At this time in history, monks are witnesses of the completion of history. In this age that begets death, monks are witnesses of the Resurrection. Cardinal Lustiger


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Saint Anthony † 356

Having walked three days and three nights, Anthony arrived at the foot of a fairly high mountain where there was a spring with very cold water. Moved interiorly by God, he loved this place. Having received bread from the hands of those who had guided him, he dwelt alone on the mountain, and no one other than them knew of it. Vita 16
He who lives in the desert is delivered from fighting three battles: hearing, speech and sight. There remains only one, the battle of the heart.

Saint Paul The Hermit † 342

If someone possesses purity, all will be subjected to him like Adam in paradise.

Saint Pacomius † 346

During a famine, remembering that if one member suffers, all suffer with him, Pacomius grieved and mortified himself even more in fasting and in abundant prayer. Coptic life of Saint Pacomius, 169
He prayed day and night for the salvation of our souls and of the souls throughout the entire world. Id.231

Saint Macarius † 390

The interior man gazes upon all people with a pure eye and he rejoices in all that is in the world; he desires nothing more and with all his heart than to love and revere all that exists.
The solitary is called a monk because he converses with God day and night, imagines nothing but the things of God and possesses nothing on earth.

Saint Hilarion † 372

Abba Hilarion journeyed from Palestine to the mountain where Abba Anthony lived. Abba Anthony said to him: “Welcome, torch which awakens the day.” And Abba Hilarion said to him: “Peace to you, pillar of light giving light to the world.

Saint Ephrem † 373

He who celebrates alone in the desert
is a numerous assembly.
If two come together to celebrate among the rocks,
thousands, myriads are there, present.
If three are gathered together,
a fourth is among them.
If they are crucified on the rock
and marked by a cross of light,
the Church is founded.
If they are reunited, the Spirit rests upon them.
When they finish their prayer,
the Lord rises and serves his servants.
Fasting is their offering, vigils their prayer.
Their mediations are a holocaust,
their celibacy is the victim.
Their purity is the sanctuary veil.
Their humility is a perfumed incense.
The praise that rises from the caves
is a hidden sacrifice for God.
Their heart, in the deepest depth, is the Holy of holies,
where the altar of reconciliation is placed.

Saint Basil of Cesarea † 379

O Solitude, o place where doctrine is born,
celestial school and divine knowledge,
where God is all that we can learn.
O desert! Paradise of sweetness
where perfumed flowers of charity
burst open in the light of fire,
or shine with the purity of snow!
In the censer of continual prayer,
the sweet fire burns and crackles,
the immortal flame of Love.

Saint Isaac of Ninive † 5th century

Make haste to enter the nuptial chamber of your heart,
there you will find the nuptial chamber of heaven.
For these two chambers are one,
and by one single door
your heart can enter them both.
The staircase that leads to the Kingdom
is hidden in the depths of your heart.

Saint Sabbas † 512

Whoever builds a cell constructs the Church of God.

Saint Dorotheus of Gaza † 530

Who knows the sweetness of being with God, if not the one who has experienced it?

Dad-Icho † 6th century

The Father is your monastery.
The Son is your companion.
The Holy Spirit sanctifies your cell.
The King of Heaven will give you joy in speaking to you this word
of life in the presence of the Angels and Saints:
You, blessed of my Father, come:
I was a prisoner in your cell
and you came to visit me!

Saint Denis the Areopagite † beginning of the 6th century

O Blessed Trinity, guide me from unknowing to the highest peak, there where the simple, absolute and incorruptible mysteries of theology are revealed more luminous in darkness and in silence.

Saint John Climacus † 649

I offer you, my dear friends, a delicious and salutary bread as food for your souls; I intend to speak to you of the admirable virtue of monks who, in order to accustom themselves to receiving injuries, affronts and contempt from others with the greatest patience and the most perfect charity, gathered together to practice bearing all sorts of humiliations, insults and disdain.
It is of the greatest importance for those who are entrusted with the responsibility of distributing the bread of the Word of God to be particularly attentive to the age of those to whom they distribute it, to the people themselves, to the quantity of this divine food, and the manner in which they administer it.

Saint Maximus the Confessor † 662

The world is one, for the spiritual world in its totality manifests itself in the totality of the sensible world for those who have eyes to see it. And the entire sensible world is secretly transparent of the entire spiritual world. In the sensible world, the spiritual is present by its essences and, in the spiritual world, the sensible is present by its symbols. The work of both is one.

Saint John Damascene † 749

Abraham’s tent is a manifest portent from you: for to God the Word, who came to dwell in your womb as in a tent, human nature offered bread that was baked under ashes, which is to say, the premices of human nature from your most pure blood, baked and transformed into bread by the divine fire, subsistant in his person, and truly serving as food for a body which receives life from a reasonable and intelligent soul.

Saint Theodore The Studite † 826

We walk together, in one single spirit,
towards that which is our only desire,
the only goal of our fervor:
to serve the Lord and to please Him,
as in a new paradise, in this angelic life…
To walk together is the gift of God!
Our joy, our food,
the object of our zeal and concern:
it is the means of pleasing the Lord.

Saint Symeon the New Theologian † 1022

Father, mother, brothers, strangers and all the rest of my family and friends: You separated me from them, me, a sinner, more miserable than all the others, o my Savior, and you took me into your immaculate arms. Hymn II, 40

Saint Bruno † 1101

What benefits and divine exultation the silence and solitude of the desert hold in store for those who love it, only those who have experienced it can know.

Saint Bernard † 1153

Silence is the guardian of monastic life. It is our strength.

Saint Seraphim of Sarov † 1833

The Word of God, as Gregory the Theologian says, is the bread of angels with which the souls that thirst for God nourish themselves.

Saint Charbel † 1898

Solitude is first a quality of the soul, and the hermitage is enclosed in oneself before one is enclosed in the hermitage. The Life of Saint Charbel by Michel Hayek

Blessed Charles de Foucauld † 1916

The desert is profoundly sweet. It is so sweet and so salubrious to go into solitude to be in the presence of eternal things. One feels entirely seized by the truth.

Saint Silouane † 1938

The Holy Spirit makes us relatives of God. If you sense divine peace and universal love in yourself, your soul is already similar to God.

Thomas Merton † 1968

It would be tragic if a monk were to give a clear, precise and easily understandable account of his monastic life, of his vocation of hiddenness in God, for that would mean that he believes, wrongly, that he understands the mystery of his vocation. The entire substance of monastic life is buried in silence.