As part of our celebrations for our 30th anniversary, we spent some time collectively reflecting our motto and how we live it out.
The first word of our motto is await. When we await, we live in expectation, with the activity of hope; we are directed and seeking. Hope is related to patience, and to the virtue of detachment.
St John Climacus wrote that “Unswerving hope is the gateway to detachment”. Detachment 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….Detachment is ongoing, requiring continual refinement” (Chryssavgis, In the Heart of the Desert).
Detachment may be thought of as a scale, with worry at one end and complete trust at the other. It does not mean not caring, but renouncing anxiety: we learn to live in the gentleness of trust, with the energy of hope. Such constant hope concentrates our strength and attention so we can live in the perspective of God’s light and take the things of this world in proportion. Attachment is not simply an expression of preference; far from being expressive of a free heart, attachment signifies the impairment (or even negation) of freely-willed choice by something more like compulsion.
Even a little detachment frees us to live with an open-handed attitude toward God. There is no impatience or frustration in such awaiting; instead, in the words of St Macarius the Great, we are “totally concentrated on asking and on a loving movement toward the Lord, not wandering and dispersed by our thoughts but with concentration wait expectantly for Christ.” Among all the things that attract our attention, we learn to discern what serves this movement, and what should be let go.
In awaiting, our hope is active, both seeking and trusting. This was Julian’s life in the anchorhold: a basic stance toward life that is collected in a hope—a direction and a focus—that is being progressively purified through patience and trust.