Living with Loss
(Hermitage of Mary in the Wilderness on March 9th, 2016)
We all have suffered loss over the years – some loss comes from age – some from a bad relationship – some from forgetfulness – some from theft or robbery by those who want something more than you; enough to take it from you – some suffer loss through their own stupidity—loss comes from any of these or it comes from a combination of all of those causes for loss we might think of in Life.
They said that one day Abba Poemen and his brethren were making ropes and the work was delayed because they had nothing with which to buy flax. One of their friends told a friendly merchant about this. Now Abba Poemen did not want to receive anything from anyone because of the trouble it causes. But the merchant wanted to do something for the old man, so he pretended to need ropes and brought a camel and took them away. When the brothers came to see Abba Poemen and learned what the merchant had done, they said, intending to praise him, ‘Truly, Abba, he has taken them though he did not need them so as to do us a service.’ Hearing that he had taken them without needing them, Abba Poemen said to the brother, ‘Get up, hire a camel and bring them back, and if you do not bring them back, Poemen will no longer live here with you. I do not want to do wrong to someone who does not need those ropes, lest he should suffer loss by it and take my reward from me.’ The brother went away with much labor and brought them back; otherwise the old man would have gone away from them. When he saw the ropes, he rejoiced as though he had found a great treasure.
Poemen’s sense of “loss” was different from that of most people, whose major interest is in the material gain we might receive from good over the labor expended for something that was acquired by someone without the need for a good.
There are different ways to look at LOSS.
Amma Syncletica said, ‘It is dangerous for anyone to teach who has not first been trained in the “practical” life. For if someone who owns a ruined house receives guests there, he does them harm because of the dilapidation of his dwelling. It is the same in the case of someone who has not first built an interior dwelling; he causes loss to those who come. By words one may convert them to salvation, but by evil behavior, one injures them.’
We can cause someone the LOSS of their stability, if we bring a soul into our dwelling and are not living Life according to what we profess.
Sometimes, we suffer other losses, as in this story from the desert fathers – and our response must always be LOVE toward such an one:
There was an old man at Scetis, very austere of body, but not very clear in his thoughts. He went to see Abba John to ask him about forgetfulness. Having received a word from him, he returned to his cell and forgot what Abba John had said to him. He went off again to ask him and having heard the same word from him he returned with it. As he got near his cell, he forgot it again. This he did many times; he went there, but while he was returning he was overcome by forgetfulness. Later, meeting the old man he said to him, ‘Do you know, abba, that I have forgotten again what you said to me? But I did not want to overburden you, so I did not come back.’ Abba John said to him, ‘Go and light a lamp.’ He lit it. He said to him, ‘Bring some more lamps, and light them from the first.’ He did so. Then Abba John said to the old man, ‘Has that lamp suffered any loss from the fact that other lamps have been lit from it?’ He said, ‘No.’ The old man continued, ‘So it is with John; even if the whole of Scetis came to see me, they would not separate me from the love of Christ. Consequently, whenever you want to, come to me without hesitation.’ So, thanks to the endurance of these two men, God took forgetfulness away from the old man. Such was the work of the monks of Scetis; they inspire fervor in those who are in the conflict and do violence to themselves to win others to do good.
Dear soul – it is better to LOVE unconditionally, especially in the face of those who are forgetful – for Love never fails, as spoken by St. Paul to the Church at Corinth.
We cast aside so many – and they suffer LOSS and LIVE with it.
There are so many souls who suffer daily from losses they have incurred through Life – and yet – these souls have been reconciled by the Spirit of Christ to accept and embrace their LOSS; because they understand this is a time of penance on this earth for us who are IN CHRIST as a NEW CREATION. We have everything we need in JESUS – we find – and we find in HIM all we need; even if we have been taken advantage of by humans or demons – the powers that be – the seen and the unseen; yet, GOD HAS NOT FORSAKEN US, even when humanity does forsake us.
I have complained to God far too much – some of the LOSS I have received were justly taken from me; because of my sins.
Therefore, I must count it all Joy when I have fallen into these different testing; knowing my LORD also suffered the LOSS on all thing on my behalf – therefore, should I complain, when He suffered all; and this little soul has suffered so little a loss from time to time?
Dear souls let us consider what St. Paul has said to us in his letter to the Church at Philippi, chapter 3:
“But surely I count also all things to be loss on account of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, on account of whom I have suffered the loss of all, and count them to be filth, that I may gain Christ; and that I may be found in him, not having my righteousness, which [would be] on the principle of law, but that which is by faith of Christ, the righteousness which [is] of God through faith, to know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, if any way I arrive at the resurrection from among [the] dead. Not that I have already obtained [the prize], or am already perfected; but I pursue, if also I may get possession [of it], seeing that also I have been taken possession of by Christ [Jesus]. Brethren, *I* do not count to have got possession myself; but one thing — forgetting the things behind, and stretching out to the things before, I pursue, [looking] towards [the] goal, for the prize of the calling on high of God in Christ Jesus. As many therefore as [are] perfect, let us be thus minded; and if ye are any otherwise minded, this also God shall reveal to you. But whereto we have attained, [let us] walk in the same steps.”
Do we not see something here?
God’s ways are higher than our ways dear friends – LOSS is to be desired, when it comes to anything or everything that “gets in the way of Him who is our Way, Truth and Life.”
Dear soul, do you really care enough about these things?
Are you challenged at all by the Word of the LORD?
This little soul is challenged and very ‘exercised” by the issue of embracing all loss as the GREATEST GIFT FROM GOD that we could be ever so Lovingly Graced By GOD to receive. Prepare dear one – you and I in the end may not have a choice about these matters related to LOSS, (as God has our Best Rest in Mind), when everything we know may suddenly collapse around us to reveal the stuff we are made of – and whether or not JESUS is in fact “Enough” for you or myself.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have Mercy on us sinners…
Abba Anthony the repentant sinner