I love how Henri Nouwen ends his book, The Way of the Heart. He has been examining the spirituality of the Desert Fathers, specifically solitude, silence and prayer. Here’s what he says:
“By their solitude, silence and unceasing prayer the Desert Fathers show us the way. These disciplines will teach us to stand firm, to speak words of salvation, and to approach the new millennium with hope, courage, and confidence.
“When we have been remodeled into living witnesses of Christ through solitude, silence and prayer, we will no longer have to worry about whether we are saying the right thing or making the right gesture, because then Christ will make his presence known even when we are not aware of it.
“Let me conclude with one more desert story:
‘Three Fathers used to go and visit blessed Anthony every year and two of them used to discuss their thoughts and the salvation of their souls with him, but the third always remained silent an did not ask him anything. After a long time, Abba Anthony said to him: “You often come here to see me, but you never ask me anything,” and the other replied, “It is enough to see you, Father.”‘
“This story is a fit ending to this book. By the time people feel that just seeing us is ministry, words such as these will no longer be necessary.”
For me, this story sums up what an incarnational life and an incarnational community are all about — where we have become so much like Christ that people feel that just seeing us is ministry. It reminds me of a great quote by Gordon Cosby:
“The ultimate goal is for us to be at home with God, united as one in the heart of God. Jesus said, ‘If you have seen me, you have seen God.’ We, as the Body of Christ living in the world today, should be able likewise to say, ‘If you have seen us, you have seen Jesus.’”
Lord, please make this true in our lives.