Historical setting: Pyrenees Mountains, 6th Century C.E.
This icy freeze was late in coming this year, but the flood that washed out the creek we followed sent the three of us wet and shivering, waiting for our wools to dry and giving us time to scrape the leathers and mend the fabrics. The various small furs we have gathered along the way are cleaned and patched together to give extra warmth to our clothing. I stitched a pair of shoes for August with ermine tails for trims. But of course I suppose such luxury is an offense to August’s holy commitment to poverty and personal suffering.
I can understand fasting as a spiritual practice. I do practice the fast at times when I feel sated in earth’s abundance and numbing to the spiritual. It’s a natural suffering that when done prayerfully encourages empathy for the poor and enriches my prayers of gratitude even for small portions. But when it becomes a display of unction in order that I may stand apart as superior to the community of Christians sacrifice separates me from true prayers to God and honest love of neighbor. I was blessed to see Jesus’ example of this, personally. [Luke 5:16 for example] And I know there is only a slender thread between true spiritual practice and an outward display of righteousness. Yet this narrow edge is always visible to God even when it is hard for human eyes to see. And surely, no human can be a worthy judge of the motives of another’s spiritual practice. So who am I to say that God doesn’t love the bare feet of August walking in the winter snows? Perhaps the freezing of the feet is a true sacrifice and it’s possible it brings August into the divine presence in a way Nic or I could never know. While I am cobbling together an analytical acceptance of the bare feet, Nic just issues an order.
“August, you are not alone with God in your cave just now. You are part of a journey of the three of us so you are in community with others who are also bound by the love commandment. Lazarus has stitched for you some warm shoes. You must wear them.”
“My bare feet are not for you to judge. It is something between me and my God.”
Nic argues, “My God is the same God you are calling your God and that God calls us to care for the suffering of others.”
(Continues Tuesday January 26)