Day 19: Hearing from Sister Syncletica
1. Center Down
Before you begin today’s spiritual excursion, please take a few moments to breathe! Take three slow, deep breaths, expanding from your abdomen; try not to raise your shoulders. As you inhale, whisper, “In humility…” As you exhale whisper, “…we find Shalom.”
2. Slowly read aloud the following Scripture
(Feel free to pause at any time during your reading to reflect on, thank, praise, or acknowledge God’s stirring in your thoughts and emotions.)
And Mary [the mother of Jesus] said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked on the humble estate of His servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for He Who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name. And His mercy is for those who fear Him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
(Luke 1:46-55, ESV–The Magnificat)
For further exploration:
3. Kingdom Prayer
Loving Father, we thank You for Your mercy. Thank You for knowing each of us intimately. Thank You for sending the Holy Spirit to be our Helper and Teacher. Thank You for blessing us socially, relationally, physically, mentally and emotionally. Father, we sing praises to You, our God and strength. We will sing, beat the tambourine and play the sweet lyre and harp. Your dwelling place is lovely. We faint with longing to enter Your courts with our whole beings, bodies and souls. We will shout joyfully to You, the living God. Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how we praise You! We will praise You as long as we live; we will lift up our hands to You in prayer. You satisfy us more than the richest feast. We will praise You with songs of joy.
Heavenly Father, as a Church Family, we declare spiritual cleansing and renewal in our lives. We understand that those that exalt themselves will be humbled and those that are humble will be exalted.
Therefore, we submit ourselves to You, Lord, trusting that in due season, You will exalt us. We declare that we have open hearts and a Spirit of obedience that causes us to accept Your instruction quickly as You guide us throughout each day. We will prosper because we listen to Your instruction and because we trust in You, we’ll have joy. Father, we renew our commitment to allow the Holy Spirit to produce the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in our lives. We declare that as Your sheep, we know Your voice and the voice of a stranger we will not follow.
Holy Spirit, please remove the scales from our eyes concerning disobedience in our lives and circumcise our hearts so that we can see ourselves reflected in God’s Word. Help us to remove all pride and haughtiness before they produce destruction and cause us to fall. Lead us to those who love Christ more than culture. Help us not to trade the truth about You for a lie, worshipping and serving things You created rather than worshipping and serving You. You are worthy of all eternal praise!
Merciful Father, forgive us for all acts of pride, fear, stubbornness and rebelliousness. Forgive us for not being obedient to Your Word in times past. Forgive us for not trusting You when life seemed too difficult for us to bear. Forgive us for not looking to You for counsel but instead submitting to astrology, the zodiac and horoscopes to give us insight and guide our ways. Holy Spirit, remind us all of those we need to forgive and help us to be quick to forgive. As for me, Holy Spirit, bring to my remembrance those I need to forgive.
Holy Spirit help us all not to yield to temptation but deliver us from the evil one.
Almighty God, You are the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to You who sits on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture References for the Written Text: John 14:26, Psalm 81:1-2, Psalm 84:1-2, Psalm 63:3-5, Matt 23:12, Proverbs 16:20, Proverbs 16:18, John 10:4-5,
Acts 9:18, Romans 1:25, Matthew 6:13, Revelation 22:13, Revelation 5:13
4. Concepts to Consider
After Emperor Constantine declared Christianity the official state religion of the Roman Empire in 313AD, the followers of Jesus were relieved that persecution was no longer legal but many believers were also alarmed by this new unification of church and state. Many Christians could not reconcile the prevailing oppression, corruption, and material indulgences of Roman society with the teachings of Jesus.
As a result of what they saw to be an “unholy union,” some Christians began to leave Roman society for lives of simplicity, voluntary poverty, fasting, and ordered prayer, study, and worship in the rural areas and deserts of Northern Africa and the Middle East. Their desire was to practice and preserve the Christian faith in a way they believed had been entrusted to them by the Apostles of Jesus and their students.
This exodus of believers out of the Roman cities, military, and lifestyles of excess became known in church history as the period of “The Desert Fathers and Mothers” (c. 290-500AD) and a time of solidifying the doctrines in the general Church (i.e., Council of Nicaea, 325AD; Video: http://bit.ly/NicaeaExplainer), and the canon (i.e., what books were included of the New Testament (finalized at the Council of Carthage, 397AD; Video: http://bit.ly/HowWeGotNT).
Among the many teachers, mentors, and saints that bloomed in the desert, Mother Syncletica [sinCLEH-tee-ah] was one of the most pragmatic. She was born in the mid-300s AD into a wealthy
Egyptian family in Alexandria. After the death of her parents, she inherited everything, but felt led by the Lord to give it all away to the poor and to leave her life of privilege for one of simplicity, fasting, humility, and prayer. At first, she joined a movement of austere sisters in Christ in the city but later moved into the desert to pursue an even more focused life.
Over time, she began to teach others who came to the desert seeking a deeper life with Jesus. Syncletia’s faith was not a mystical one. It was gritty and practical. Here are a few of her many teachings:
“In the beginning [of living an humble and submitted life] there is struggle and a lot of work for those who come near to God. But after that there is indescribable joy. It is just like building a fire: at first it is smoky and your eyes water, but later you get the desired result. Thus we ought to light the divine fire in ourselves with tears and effort.” “There is an asceticism (harsh fasting and deprivation) which is determined by the enemy and his disciples practice it. So how are we to distinguish between the divine and royal asceticism and the demonic tyranny? Clearly through its quality of balance.”
“We ought to govern our souls with discretion and to remain in the community, neither following our own will nor seeking our own good. We are like exiles: we have been separated from the things of this world and have given ourselves in one faith to the one Father. We need nothing of what we have left behind. There we had reputation and plenty to eat; here we have little to eat and little of everything else.”
“There are many who live in the mountains and behave as if they were in the town, and they are wasting their time. It is possible to be a solitary in one’s mind while living in a crowd, and it is possible for one who is a solitary to live in the crowd of his own thoughts.”
“Just as a treasure that is exposed loses its value, so a virtue which is known vanishes; just as wax melts when it is near fire, so the soul is destroyed by praise and loses all the results of its labor.”
“Just as one cannot build a ship unless one has some nails, so it is impossible to be saved without humility.”
“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 behaviors, one injures them.”
May we be encouraged and challenged by the life of Mother Syncletica and all the Desert Fathers and Mothers who struggled in the faith, not just for their own sakes, but for the sake of the Kingdom of God in the world.
(You are encouraged to record your responses to the following inquiries in some tangible, meaningful way, i.e., write, draw, create, vlog/ blog, sing… etc.)
- Personal Reflection: As you read and consider the life of Mother Syncletica and her teachings, what similarities do you see with your own Christian journey? What differences do you see?
- Kingdom Reflection: The Body of Christ in the 400s AD was living in a world that did not always honor the Person and teachings of Jesus. How is their time similar to and/or different from our own?
Optional Time of Centering/Soaking:
If possible, take some time, perhaps 5 to 15 minutes, to get into a comfortable position and simply allow the Lord to minister to you at a deep level (Psalm 42:7). Turn off or put down all distractions. Close your eyes. Hold in your thoughts a meaningful word, phrase, or image from the Scripture you read today. Release all other thoughts and concerns into the Presence of the Lord. If your thoughts wander, that’s okay, just gently return to your Biblical word, phrase, or image. You may want to set a timer.