Daily Reflections from The Revd Sister Margaret Anne ASSP

For 39 days up until 2nd May, the Revd Sister Margaret Anne ASSP wrote daily reflections giving us hope and inspiration during the early days of the Coronavirus crisis. Her last reflection is below and click here to read her previous reflections.

Please visit Reflections and Meditations for more thoughts from our deanery PTOs.

Reflection for Saturday 2nd May by the Revd Sister Margaret Anne ASSP

Today is the feast day of Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria and Doctor of the Church, who lived from the late third century into the fourth century. He was a notable defender of Christian orthodoxy against heresy, proclaiming both the full divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ. He lived a long time in exile, often misunderstood and opposed by his antagonists. Despite this Athanasius wrote prolifically. A number of his works were dedicated to monks, at a time when forms of monasticism were emerging in the deserts of Egypt. Athanasius wrote a biography of St Antony, often described as the founder of Western monasticism. This work describes in vivid detail the spiritual battles of the hermit against the powers of evil amid the fires of temptation. The Life of St Antony became a classic and was widely influential. Antony was the foremost early representative of the desert fathers and mothers, who lived in the desert in remote caves or huts. They lived a profoundly ascetic life, often alone, seeking God through a life of prayer and austerity.

Many of the sayings of the desert fathers and mothers have been handed down to us, and reveal the combination of wisdom, humour and astute assessment of character that is associated with them. Here is one such story that I particularly like:

A monk held between his outstretched arms a piece of string. He said to a child,

“This piece of string is like my relationship with God. I am one end of the string, and God is the other end. Now”, the monk continued, “ I want you to think of all the things you have done wrong over the last week. Every time that you think of something you have done wrong and then been sorry afterwards, I want you to cut the string and then tie a knot in it”.

The monk handed the child a pair of scissors and held out the string between his outstretched arms. The child became thoughtful for a few moments, frowned – and then cut the string and tied it with a knot. This happened three or four times. Then the monk, still holding the string with outstretched hands, asked the child,

“Now, what do you notice about the two ends of the string?”

The child looked puzzled for a moment. Then his eyes lit up with understanding.

“Oh”, he replied, “they are closer together”.

The Revd Sister Margaret Anne ASSP