Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas and the Desert Fathers

I found the first book in the series below at a used book shop and immediately bought it. The Desert Fathers are the founders of the Christian Monastic tradition. The message of the Desert Fathers is simple - humility,  humility, humility. By this they mean silence and what Buddhists refer to as emptiness. This made me think. A lot of people argue that the date of Christmas was chosen to replace a Roman sun god/solstice holiday. But I think the date has a deeper, symbolic meaning. The solstice is the darkest, coldest time of year (in the north - I live in Canada ). This is very much like the desert, a bit  desolate and inhospitable. The solstice is also the point of change, when decrease turns to increase. In Tibetan Buddhism the point between change is called the Bardo and in the Bardo is where you experience emptiness. The Desert Fathers did not attempt to stay permanently in an ascetic state, because the ascetic state is not the point. Transitioning in and out takes you through the Bardo and if you are aware of it, then you can experience emptiness, which they called the kingdom of God, or God's love, or a oneness with Jesus. Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus, is all about transitions - from darkness to light, death to life, etc. A huge misconception in Christianity is that the point is always to transition from something bad to something good. The point is the moment of transition itself, and what lies in it.

Is this a historical fact? Is this the actual reason that Christmas is on the winter solstice. I just made this up but it makes sense to me.

Merry Christmas

The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (Cistercian studies 59)The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks (Penguin Classics)The Desert FathersThe Wisdom of the Desert (New Directions)

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