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Insights into the early Christian Desert Fathers and Mothers
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We are used to hearing and reading about the principle of detachment in regards to the realm of the material world and possessions. But the author reveals to us that the lesson of detachment as taught by the desert elders is one that seeks to transform our inner existence and lives as well as our outer practices. Here are some insights from Rev. Chryssavgis’ text:
Detachment is not the inability to focus on things, material or other; it is the spiritual capacity to focus on all things, material and other, without attachment. It is primarily something spiritual; it is an attitude of life. And in this respect, detachment is ongoing, requiring continual refinement.

There are stages in the way of detachment, just as there are steps in the ladder of spiritual life. Perhaps we should look at detachment not so much as the first stage, but as a series of stages of refinement. There are, in fact, a number of successive detachments that one undergoes in the desert. Detachment resembles the shedding of a number of coats of skin, until our senses are sharpened, or until “our inner vision becomes keen.” When we learn what to let go of, we also learn what it is that is worth holding on to.

The detachment that is recommended here is a form of letting go. We are to let go of our actions, of our statements, and finally of our very existence. The aim of letting go of our actions is the learning of the prayer, which is the starting-point and ending-point of all action.

Finally, detachment signifies letting go of our very being. It is a sign of humility, which in the desert is treasured “above all virtues”.

Humility looks to shift the focus of oneself as the center of the world and to place oneself in the service of others.
St. Seraphim of Sarov

He was a popular 19th century “desert dweller” who faced his own "desert" in the Russian forest where he lived alone for many years. Here he is portrayed as he prayed on a rock almost daily for one thousand days and nights crying out to God: “Oh God be merciful to me a sinner.”
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