Every Christian life on the path to eternal life begins with a desire: to see in the desert the river of living water that never makes you thirsty again. For Dom Samuel, Cistercian rabbi of Nový Dvůr, it is in the wilderness and nowhere else that our faith finds its maturity.
The life of a Christian, the life of a monk, is like walking in a tropical forest in search of living water from a hypothetical river. You have been told about this river, you have never seen it. You go in a group because you are never alone in the walk toward salvation. The sun is beating down and if the ground is covered with seeds that will germinate with the first rain, there is still a long way to go. A few trees provide shade and one wonders where they get the water they need to live. You follow a guide who seems to know the way, but he gets lost, finds his way, loses it again. A valley raises an obstacle in front of you. No choice … You have to go down the slope, at risk of losing balance, and then go up again, clinging to the bad vegetation that has grown there. What do you find on the other side? The same dry soil, the same trees, the same sun. Yet you will find the river you thirst for its water. You will not waive any price.
accept to be thirsty
This march towards eternal life, how do you secure your chances of success? How do you engage him so that fatigue does not lead him astray? The Easter Alleluia that we dream of singing while touching the banks of this river, how can we sing it today with all our heart? We could remember that “nature is already grace”, dig up a tree and examine its root. How does he drink in the desert? Its roots are not on the surface where there is nothing to drink, but they sink vertically into the ground. They sank into it because they were thirsty. There is always water deep.
In the desert, accepting to be thirsty, not for a single day, but all day long, allows our being to adapt by throwing its roots to the water mirror hidden from our eyes.
In the desert, it allows to accept being thirsty, not for a single day, but all day long, our being by nature and grace to adapt by throwing its roots to the water mirror hidden from our eyes. When one considers the beauty of the tree and its power, one sees neither the layer of nourishing water nor even the root sinking into the ground: one sees its leaves; we see that he is alive in the wilderness.
In the desert, and nowhere else
Every sincere Christian life begins with a desire: to see the river. They always and inevitably continue through a crossing of the desert. It was in the wilderness and nowhere else that the people of Israel became familiar with their God. It was in the wilderness and nowhere else that Christ withdrew to pray to his Father. It is in the wilderness and nowhere else that our faith reaches its maturity. So whether the sun is hiding or beating down, whether it is raining or blowing, nothing can distract us from our plan.
By looking for the river comes a day when everyone will be able to perceive in the desert the presence of the one they are looking for. To perceive him in the heat, since he is the Creator, to perceive him in the walk, since he attracts us, to perceive him also in our faithfulness, since he is, of course, at the edge of the river, where he is waiting for us, but already in the desert, where he allows us to persevere. Pillar of cloud by day, pillar of fire by night (Ex 13, 22).
The hope of our resurrection
However bright the lights of the belief in the resurrection may be, a Christian, even before the prospect of his own death, finds himself as helpless as anyone else. Saint Gregory the Great († 604) addresses the natural fears that dwell in us and justifies them. It is true, he says, that the decomposition of the human body after biological death makes one doubt the possibility of a resurrection. But does nature not deny this doubt? The day that follows the night, the spring that sweeps away the cold of winter, and the plant that comes up out of the ground are likely to help us believe in our resurrection. “The hope of our resurrection should force upon our eyes,” he writes. Is that really true? The problem persists. We thirst for a promise: “If anyone keeps my word, he will not taste death forever” (John 8:52).