At a funeral this week and again in the gospel verse this morning, I read Paul’s declaration to the Philippians that I consider all things as loss (some translations say “rubbish”) that I may gain Christ and be found in him. (PHIL 3:8-9) While life in Christ is certainly my goal, I can’t say that everything else – and everyone – is that easy to discount. As I was pondering this, my eye fell on David Keller’s book, Oasis of Wisdom, about the world and words of the Desert Fathers and Mothers in the early days of Christianity. I opened the book at random (if such a thing exists) to page 72 where the heading read “Daily Awareness of One’s Death”. Instead of closing the book in distress I read the words of Abba Antony and Keller’s commentary that followed and found there a way to live into Paul’s words.
Abba Antony said: Therefore, my children, let us hold to the discipline and not be careless. For we have the Lord for our co-worker in this, as it is written. God works for good with everyone who chooses the good. And in order that we not become negligent, it is good to carefully consider the Apostle’s statement: I die daily.
David Keller comments: Abba Antony taught that a monk must live in such a way that the presence of God is always before him and, likewise, that God’s presence should become a reality in his manner of life. This manner of life is made possible by an open heart, an inner place that is always watchful and receptive to the presence of God.
What follows from all this for me is the necessity of always remaining conscious of the reality that all things are not to be despised but rather seen through the lens of God’s presence. In that way they become vehicles for deepening our life in God. Oh yes, and our willingness to let go of anything that impedes that deepening or clouds that lens is essential; thus, “dying every day” becomes a pattern for life. May it be so!