A brother renounced the world and gave his goods to the poor, but kept a little back for his personal expenses. He went to see Abba Anthony. When he told him this, the old man said to him, “If you want to be a monk, go into the village and buy some meat, cover your naked body with it and come here like that.” The brother did so, and the dogs and birds tore at his flesh. When he came back, the old man asked him whether he had followed his advice. He showed him his wounded body, and Saint Anthony said, “Those who renounce the world but want to keep something for themselves are torn in this way by the demons who make war on them.”
How can I, a pretty useless person, physically, and in need of so many comforts and conveniences because of all these infirmities, besides simply aging in the process, surrender all and hold nothing back? I mean, what would that even look like? Did the monk who spoke those words intend them for everyone or just for the brother he was speaking to? Well, maybe those aren’t the right questions to be asking. Maybe it’s more about asking what I am so attached to that if I had to surrender IT, I would really feel it. I’m not talking about the meds I need or the special pillows to help me sit. I’m talking about the same kind of attachments we all have, regardless of our health. Too much computer usage or TV time, too many poor habits we are unwilling to break. So, in that case, I can see how making a half surrender would be to leave way too much room for the passion that fuels that attachment to tempt me to return to it over and over again. Like those animals continuing to attack the brother in the Saying above.
No, if I’m going to seriously renounce an attachment, or break a poor habit, I cannot allow for wiggle room. Jesus has said, “Man cannot serve two masters”. Half-surrender is what causes the pain. Complete Surrender is to make a total commitment, using All one’s will, while simultaneously making use of the grace God offers at such times to assist me. Especially now, during this Holy Season of Advent.
Today, I look at where my scattered affections have taken me and how far from my true goal I have strayed because of my lack of attention to what matters most; my personal relationship with Christ.
God’s grace and peace to all,
+a Disciple of Jesus (HHC)