The Desert Mothers and Fathers, as they became known, were trying to “get away”. Between the third and the sixth century CE, men and women were living out in the deserts of Egypt, Syria, Palestine and Arabia. They went because they wanted to get away from a society whose values were contrary to theirs.
“Getting away” can also mean “going towards”. Those who went into the desert were spiritual seekers who wanted to become closer to God. Not just to get away from a society with its emphasis on material possessions and one in which relationships and power were abused.
The Mothers and Fathers committed themselves to a life of simple living. Such a basic, and uncomfortable life, may not be for us. Yet, what they were trying to achieve might appeal to us. Realising that worldly pleasures bring little long-term satisfaction, they looked to experience God in each moment and in each activity they undertook.
They committed themselves to a spiritual life of prayer and self-enquiry. A path that may seem a hard one to follow. Yet, one that we may have started to walk without quite realising it. Because any time that we are mindful of God’s presence, mindful of our actions and mindful of our relationships, we are on the way. On the way to what T.S. Eliot called, “A condition of complete simplicity.”