A Simple Immediacy: Desert Wisdom for Advent – 2023

Teachings from the Desert Fathers and Mothers on classic Advent themes: December 3-30 on Spirituality and Practice

The Desert Fathers and Mothers of the fourth and fifth centuries are arguably the first Wisdom School in Christian history. At first in trickles and then in waves, they fled into the deserts of Egypt and Syria to escape the increasing imperialization of the Christian Church and to live in a simple immediacy with the Risen Christ. In the process, they generated an extraordinary body of practical teachings on the spiritual practices underlying this life of deeper awareness and mystical union.

These desert pioneers were men and women of few words. Like Wisdom masters everywhere, they preferred to teach in short, often koan-like, sayings and examples. Their legacy of spiritual wisdom exists primarily as a body of short “pith sayings” and teaching examples, faithfully transmitted down through the ages.

Contemporary mystic Cynthia Bourgeault believes that this body of wisdom is perfect for the Advent season. The goal is to prepare the body and psyche to live at a greater level of conscious mindfulness and compassionate gratitude — i.e., “Christ consciousness” — as Christians worldwide prepare each year to celebrate the birth of the human Jesus and the eternal rebirth of that Christ consciousness in the human heart. Several of the sessions refer to Advent imagery and themes.

Although sometimes pictured as ascetic “extremists,” the Desert Fathers and Mothers are actually more characterized by their moderation and spiritual groundedness. Balance and sustainability are their watchwords. In the Advent “windows” you’ll open each day during this e-course, you’ll hear their take on some of the classic Advent themes: staying awake, compassion, vigilance, humility. You’ll also receive their timely practical advice on matters such as maintaining moderation in a season of excess, keeping the real priorities front and center, and learning to give (and receive) from the heart.

To sign up for this Advent retreat, click on the “Subscribe to E-Course” button below. Through the teachings of S & P veteran teacher Cynthia Bourgeault, you will be led skillfully into this body of profound and still relatively unknown Christian Wisdom — always from the practical perspective of how these “arrows from the past” can transform our lives today.

You will receive daily emails, each containing a saying from the Desert Fathers and Mothers, a commentary by Cynthia, and a practice suggestion for deepening your understanding. You will also be invited to go to the online Practice Circle to share your own responses to the wisdom and your experience with the practice suggestions.

Cynthia Bourgeault will not be participating in the Practice Circle during this run of this popular e-course. But as an addition to the e-course, she will be doing a one-hour talk summarizing what the Desert Fathers and Mothers have to tell us during Advent and Christmas. All who register for the e-course will have access to this Zoom talk, which will take place on December 22 at 1:00 pm PST. (Find the time in your area here.) The talk will be recorded if the time and date are not convenient for you.