Reflection on a Saying of a Desert Christian: anonymous

“The devil frequently went to the cave of a certain hermit, in order to terrorize him and make him leave there. The monk not only did not lose courage, but he treated the evil spirit scornfully. So the devil, to lead him astray, appeared to him in the form of Christ.

“I am Christ,” he said to him. The hermit closed his eyes.

“Why are you closing your eyes?” the devil shouted to him with irritation. “I told you that I am Christ.”

“I do not wish to see Christ in this world,” the hermit answered, keeping his eyes shut. With the bold reply of this man of God, the devil disappeared and never again dared to tempt him.”

Please help me to understand this Saying.  Why would a monk wish to never see Jesus in this life?   Here we have a monk who regularly does battle with this devil, so the devil cleverly disguises himself as Christ. The monk will not look at the image, and in saying he doesn’t wish to see Christ in this life, the devil is defeated and never bothers the monk again?

How can we avoid seeing Christ in this life?  I see Him all the time looking back at me from other people, animals, nature. Everything reveals God to me.  Of course, I don’t actually expect to see Jesus until after I have died, but I don’t think that is what disturbs the monk.

I wonder if the answer lies in the nature of our desire for God. The monks of these Sayings strove for holiness with all possible zeal. Mystics also seek holiness. Mystics are some of us blessed with the gift of contemplative union with God.  Mystics have been also known to mistake the Gift for the Giver of Gifts and have erroneously pursued the Gift, rather than the Giver.

So it makes think that the monk did not want to see Christ in this life because once that happened, that is all that monk would ever want again. Perhaps he feared his desire to see Jesus would become a substitute for striving for holiness. And since a vision would be an elusive thing, perhaps he feared he’d be striving toward the wrong goal.

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