Richard Rohr’s meditation on 6 September 2018 made met go back to a national anger long way back, and again back to the future, and of the anger of many in 2018. It was on this day, 6 September 1966, that HF Verwoerd, the ‘father of Apartheid” was assassinated by a lunatic, and unleashing a national anger. Fast forward to 6 September 2018 to another anger.
The tables are turned in many ways, and a national anger simmers, boils over and incubates on a daily basis with the most unthinkable incidences of violence a daily occurrence. Many are emigrating from or with anger. Some relocate overseas to greener pastures, and their parent here are physically sick with longing for their children that are accomplished but far away, and grandchildren that do not sit on their laps. And others immigrate into themselves with anger and also become sick. Rohr’s insight is so endearing to me, when I also battle with this anger, and how to live by Love keeps alluding me.Thus Richard Rohr: A brother was restless in the community and often moved to anger. So he said: “I will go, and live somewhere by myself. And since I shall be able to talk or listen to no one, I shall be tranquil, and my passionate anger will cease.” He went out and lived alone in a cave. But one day he filled his jug with water and put it on the ground. It happened suddenly to fall over. He filled it again, and again it fell. And this happened a third time. And in a rage he snatched up the jug and broke it.
Returning to his right mind, he knew that the demon of anger had mocked him, and he said: “Here am I by myself, and he has beaten me. I will return to the community. Wherever you live, you need effort and patience and above all God’s help.” —Story of a desert father  As the Christian church moved from bottom to top, protected and pampered by the Roman Empire, people like Anthony of the Desert (c. 250-c. 356), John Cassian (c. 360-c. 435), Evagrius Ponticus (c. 345-399), Syncletica (c. 270-c. 350) and other early Christians went off to the deserts of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria to find spiritual freedom, live out Jesus’ teachings, and continue growing in the Spirit. It was in these deserts that a different mind called contemplation was taught.As an alternative to empire and its economy, these men and women emphasized lifestyle practice, psychologically astute methods of prayer, and a very simple spirituality of transformation into Christ.
The desert communities grew out of informal gatherings of monks or nuns, functioning much like families. A good number also became hermits to mine the deep mystery of their inner experience. This movement paralleled the monastic pattern in Hinduism and Buddhism.The desert tradition preceded the emergence of systematic theology and formal doctrine. Christian faith was first a lifestyle before it was a belief system. Since the desert dwellers were often formally uneducated, they told stories, much like Jesus did, to teach about essential issues of ego, love, virtue, surrender, peace, divine union, and inner freedom.
Thomas Merton described those early Christians in the wilderness as people “who did not believe in letting themselves be passively guided and ruled by a decadent state,” who didn’t wish to be ruled or to rule. He continues, saying that they primarily sought their “true self, in Christ”; to do so, they had to reject “the false, formal self, fabricated under social compulsion ‘in the world.’ They sought a way to God that was uncharted and freely chosen, not inherited from others who had mapped it out beforehand.”  Can you see why we might need to learn from them? For national restoration to happen, and for Love to conquer, we will need to as a collective understand and deal with this universal anger. What better place to go to this who have travelled this road before.
 Western Asceticism, ed., trans. Owen Chadwick (Westminster John Knox Press: 2006, ©1958), 92. Thomas Merton, The Wisdom of the Desert (New Directions: 1960), 5-6.Adapted from Richard Rohr, Dancing Standing Still: Healing the World from a Place of Prayer (Paulist Press: 2014), 51; and“Desert Christianity and the Eastern Fathers of the Church,” The Mendicant, vol. 5, no. 2 (Center for Action and Contemplation: April 2015), 1.Image credit: Saint Catherine’s Monastery (detail), built between 548-565 near the town of Saint Catherine, the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt.