December 4: Feast Day of John of Damascus

When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.—Matthew 9: 36

Compassion is one of the charismas of a life dedicated to God. For Buddhists compassion is the primary expression of enlightenment. A bodhisattva is a person who has reached enlightenment or oneness with God but chooses to remain a servant of the poor, living in the world, engaged in the suffering of this life.

Compassion is also a central component for nonviolence. The only truly nonviolent action is one rooted in compassion or love for the enemy. It takes daily practice to learn to choose compassion over revenge or over apathy.

Compassion, in the biblical sense, is situated in the bowels and intestines because this area of the body was regarded as the seat of passion, such as anger and love. For the Hebrews, however, the bowels were also the location of tender mercies and affection.

Today is the feast day of John of Damascus, one of the 3rd century hermit-reformers knows as the Desert Fathers. He wrote: “But, if you are curious about God, first tell me of yourself and the things that pertain to you. How does your soul have existence? How is your mind set in motion? … Think of God as a spring of life begetting the Messiah like a river and the Holy Ghost like a sea, for the spring and the river and sea are all one nature. Think of the God as a root, and of the Messiah as a branch, and the Spirit as a fruit, for the substance in these three is one. God is a sun with the Messiah as rays and the Holy Ghost as heat.”

Place a flowering branch in water and watch the prayers blossom along it.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Ad…..vent.

With gratitude to Pax Christi USA where some of these reflections first appeared in print.

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