Sunday, September 03, 2006

Desert Wisdom VII


Amma Syncletica said, 'Just as one cannot build a ship unless one has some nails, so it is impossible to be saved without humility'.


We've had lots of comments from Desert Fathers - this week a comment from one of the less well known Desert Mothers, Syncletica.

Her little saying is a tiny gem of wisdom. We probably don't naturally twig that the 'ship' metaphor is a reference to Noah's ark and how he and his family were 'saved' from the flood. Humility therefore, she says, is the way we are held together spiritually, like nails keeping stubborn planks of wood tight against water.

Many Christians might scratch their heads and say (with Martin Luther) isn't it grace that saves us, rather than anything we do?

I don't think Amma Syncletica would have disagreed. But she would have seen salvation as more than getting a free ticket into heaven. For her 'being saved' means being transformed. God's saving of us is a life-time's work of construction. And here the 'nails' metaphor of course also resonates with the Crucifixion story, and indicates that being humble about ourselves can be a painful thing as God tries to pin the planks of our identity back into their rightful place.

Of course, God unconditionally loves and accepts us. And more, God also wills humankind to be fully transformed so as to be like God.

Our response then is precisely as Syncletica says, to be humble about the ways we need to be re-formed and honest about our areas of stubbornness that threaten to sink us as we make our journey into God.

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