In Glendalough there is a place apart called in Irish Diseart Chaoimhin (Kevin’s Desert) It is located in the inner valley on the southern shore of the larger of the two lakes. There is a small piece of land there at the foot of towering cliffs. In the cliff there is a small man made cave known as Kevin’s Bed. This commemorates the hermit Kevin who lived there fourteen hundred years ago. He was one of the founders of the early Irish Christian church. One of the foundation stones of early Christianity was a desert experience following the example of John the Baptist and Jesus
The first Scripture reading of the first Sunday of Lent speaks of the covenant of love God made with the people of Israel and their descendants forever, promising them enduring love and fullness of life. A reminder of the covenant would be the rainbow in the sky appearing from time to time. Mortal human beings find it difficult to take in the implications of a covenant of love that is unconditional and everlasting because the human heart is distracted with what is available here and now.
Sunday’s Gospel reading from Mark 1: 12- 15 suggests that a time in a desert space might help the soul to satisfy its longing for a complete relationship. It tells the story of Jesus going into the desert for forty days to clarify and articulate the core of the message he wanted to proclaim and practise as a new way forward for all the people with God. He wanted to become fully alive in his spirit before he set out to accomplish his life’s mission. He was tempted by Satan to take the easy way out. He was with the wild animals and the angels waited on him. Beasts and angels accompany us too in our personal efforts to follow the way of Jesus Christ. The beasts distract and challenge us but the angels minister to us when we calm down and realise that we are much more than our own opinions achievements and disappointments. The animal and the angel benefit from encountering one another.
The Gospel reading goes on to say that Jesus emerged from the desert filled with the spirit, announcing that the reign of God is already among us. The way forward would be a way of justice love and peace expressed with truth, grace and holiness of life.
During Lent we are called to seek the higher values of the new reign of God. In order to find them we have to travel beyond our physical needs and desires to the longings of the soul and spirit. In order to connect body mind and spirit in a harmonious way, it might be necessary to create a desert space somewhere in the midst of our busy and sometimes stressful lives and take time to listen to the voice and promptings of God within our deepest being.
Is it possible to create a space to be still and hear the voices from within and beyond our wordy world?