For the past three days I have been listening to lectures by Monks from Lebanon, praying three times a day with all of the clergy in the diocese (about eighty of us), eating together and encouraging one another. It has been a huge blessing so far.
The main speaker is the abbot of the St. Michael the Archangel monastery near Tripoli, Lebanon and he is also the Metropolitan of Northern Lebanon. His remarks focused on the need for the priests to be filled with the Holy Spirit--full of peace and virtue. He said that there are no deserts any more. What he meant was that it is no longer possible to escape the world physically (there is even e-mail on Mount Athos). To be saved we must find the quiet desert in our hearts. There we will find the Holy Spirit. It is oh so easy to quench the Holy Spirit. We must "force ourselves" to be quiet so that we can at least begin to pray the words of prayer (the Jesus prayer, for example). Then after a little while, we will feel peace and begin to experience the dawning of real prayer. This is the only gift we have to give the world.
Like Pontius Pilate, everyone around us asks the question, "What is truth?" And not only truth, what is real? What is love? What matters? And like Jesus, we can only remain silent and be who we are. There is no explanation. There are no words. There is only the transformation of the Holy Spirit in the quiet place of our lives. This being-transformed self, who we are, is the only word that can be heard.
This is how we bring the desert to the world. We bring the desert with us. Even at a Marriott hotel in Orange County, it is possible to find the desert.