This week in OCIA, we will be delving into the Old Testament book of Hosea (which is rich in wilderness imagery) as we also learn about the liturgical season of Lent with all its beautiful emptiness — its wild, counter-cultural nothingness. Thomas Merton once said that “the Desert Fathers believed that the wilderness had been created supremely valuable in the eyes of God precisely because it had no value to men. The wasteland was the land that could never be wasted by men because it offered them nothing. There was nothing to attract them. There was nothing to exploit. The desert was the region in which the Chosen People had wandered for forty years, cared for by God alone. They could have reached the Promised Land in a few months if they had traveled directly to it. God’s plan was that they should learn to love Him in the wilderness and that they should always look back on the time in the desert as the idyllic time of their life with Him alone.
“The desert was created simply to be itself, not to be transformed by men into something else. So too the mountain and the sea. The desert is therefore the logical dwelling place for the man who seeks to be nothing but himself – that is to say, a creature solitary and poor and dependent upon no one but God, with no great project standing between himself and his Creator.”
Many of us are currently poised on a unique pinnacle in Cathedral history. We are finished, in many ways, with a 7-year ‘Journey with the Saints’ project that has definitely been all about God, but which could sometimes fool us into thinking it was about something or someone less. We are simultaneously now beginning afresh with being able to offer this experience widely to all God’s people. In this sacred moment we are all invited back into the wilderness. Back into the place where the only success possible is God’s, and God’s alone. Without God, we are dust; our souls themselves are a wilderness. Add the living water of Jesus, and we become pliable clay. Add the breath of the Holy Spirit, and we become fully human, ready to walk with our Creator in the lush garden of His dreams. Blessed be God, and blessed be this upcoming season.