Lent, The Desert Experience
Over the years, James Pike, Bishop of the Episcopal Church, author and lecturer, wrote a number of popular books about Jesus of Nazareth. Before starting each of these works, he would travel to the Holy Land “to drink in the spirit of Jesus”, as he put it himself. In what turned out to be his last journey to the Gospel places, he found himself lost in the desert outside of Jerusalem in temperatures of 125°F. A search party finally located James Pike, a victim of thirst and dehydration. Next to his body, his friends saw knee marks in the sand. Evidently he had spent his last minutes praying to the Christ about Whom he had written so inspiringly.
This man and his story have captured the imagination of many pilgrims caught up with the desire to know the Lord closely, myself among them. What a glorious way to die, in the desert of Judah on one’s knees, reaching with uplifted arms for the Christ of the Gospels!
At this Lenten time, all have the opportunity to go out into the desert, in a symbolic way, with the wish to bring the life style of Christ into their own pattern of living. By “being in the desert”, a seeker of the Lord can find some isolation from stress of everyday living and some sense of silence, both conditions so necessary for prayer.
If enlightenment will take place, a pilgrim has to pay a price. Nothing worthwhile comes cheaply, with little effort. However, the pilgrimage can be a lighthearted one, with joy and cheerfulness easing the sacrifices to be made.
Prayer and sacrifice, scary words for some, make up the twin pillars of a successful Lent. No substitute can take any place for talking, conversing with Christ, in one’s own personal style. Another help comes from giving up some good things – food, sweets, some kind of favorite entertainment in order to discipline the body’s cravings.
Seeing James Pike with arms raised to the Lord, in one’s imagination, will invigorate the Lenten traveler’s journey.
Fr. George Mc Kenna