Is Patience a Virtue? Lent, Dog-headed Saints, & Holy Fire

Is Patience a Virtue? Lent, Dog-headed Saints, & Holy Fire March 15, 2024

The Master said, ‘Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.’ Luke 10:41-42

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The word “patience” has been on my mind recently. It’s often regarded as a virtue, but I believe it’s more of a state of awareness than a characteristic. In our relationships and discipleship, it’s important to practice patience. If we were to compare Christianity to a type of fire, it would be a controlled burn.

In wildland firefighting this means setting planned fires to maintain the health of a forest. So too does our continual repentance aid in the maintenance of our heart. There is no quick fix, change takes time, and our salvation is an ongoing process – a dynamic event.

Although Jesus proclaimed “it is finished” on the cross, we must make a conscious decision every day to live in the reality of that statement.

The saying goes that there are no accidental saints, but unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all manual to sanctity. Some may argue that the Bible provides the answer. While it is true that Jesus outlines the spiritual disciplines in the Sermon on the Mount, we must remember that we are all uniquely made. Therefore, the way in which we go about these disciplines will vary from person to person.

For instance, not everyone is called to undertake extreme acts of devotion, like standing atop a pillar in prayer for days on end as St. Symeon the Stylite did. (14,610 days to be exact.) Given our love affair with social media, such an endeavor may end up serving the ego. Instead, it might be better to dedicate half an hour of our morning to prayer with no one but God to see. (When in doubt, consult the Holy Spirit or your spiritual father or mother on this matter, not some guy writing an article for Patheos.)

When I volunteered with the Friars of the Renewal in the Bay Area, they shared their mantra of “poco y poco” or “little by little”. This means that we must take things one step at a time and start each day with our eyes fixed on Jesus, as we journey towards the Heavenly Banquet.

In a state of adoration, we sit at the feet of the Lord to draw closer to him as did Mary. This is our true home, which has no walls or physical address.

During these moments of stillness, we experience true rest. Being with Christ is a silent protest against the world’s restlessness. As we begin to abide in the Lord, we learn to love as he loves and shift our posture from self-centeredness to God-centeredness. Nothing could be more countercultural to the Western mind.

To truly experience the manifestation of our prayers, we must be reconciled with God through Christ. I don’t just mean understanding “proper” theology but experiencing Christ’s indwelling as the core of our being. While this may sound nice in theory, the process of truly coming to terms with ourselves can be difficult and painful, similar to Dante’s depiction of hell.

Thankfully, the Law of Christ is also the Law of Liberty, which allows us to find freedom even in this challenging journey. Kallisto’s Ware of Blessed Memory offers a practical starting point for this process:

In order to find God, we do not have to leave the world, to isolate ourselves from our fellow humans, and to plunge into some kind of mystical void. On the contrary, Christ is looking at us through the eyes of all those whom we meet. Once we recognize his universal presence, all our acts of practical service to others become acts of prayer.

If Christ lives within us, then wherever we go, Christ goes with us.

Even in the darkest corners of this world, we must strive to be like Christ, spreading love and peace to all around us, co-creating with the Creator ensuring all things on earth are ‘as it is in heaven’. In today’s noisy and distracting culture, we should be intentional with our time and make a conscious effort to seek God with all our heart and soul, just as St. John reclined on the heart of Jesus at the Last Supper.

In stillness, we come to know God. The Psalms assure us of this truth. Once we step on the path of life, which is The Way, little by little, we learn the art of self-emptying. Our efforts, in tandem with the Holy Spirit and grace of God, lead to a radical transformation, resulting in a holistic way of life.

Christ fills us with the energies of God, and he becomes our strength and our Healer. Apart from him, nothing of merit comes to fruition. Thank you Jesus, for loving us, and for loving the world so much that you laid down your life.

The resurrection brings great joy, and all moments can appear like the blossoms of Spring if only we have the eyes to see. May we, who call ourselves Christians, learn this radical way of self-giving.

My comfort and certainties often weaken my resolve and advocate for sin to have the last say. Whenever I dare to leave them behind and confront the Great Unknown, I hold onto the hems of Jesus’ garment, staying close to him just as my pup Nola does when we walk on new trails. Nola follows her curiosity and explores freely, but she never strays too far from me, always making sure that I am with her. May our actions reflect the same trust in God.

St. Christopher was content with being God’s dog, and if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me. Call me crazy, but I don’t consider this analogy belittling. Dogs are known as man’s best friend.

File:Saint christopher cynocephalus.gif - Wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia

 I don’t call you servants any longer; servants don’t know what the master is doing, but I have told you everything the Father has said to Me. I call you friends. John 15:15

May we trust that all will be well. In your time Abba, in your time… 

Note: According to Legacy Icon, the depiction of a dog-headed man is an ancient feature of iconography with somewhat obscure origins. The term “dog” is used throughout the scripture in association with foreigners, having been used even by Christ Himself. Some icons of Pentecost included dog-headed men, which are meant to symbolize the ultimate foreigner, furthest away from Christ, who also were brought into the Church. Icons exist which depict the Apostles preaching to dog-headed people for the same reason. The depiction of Saint Christopher in this way ultimately points to a belief in all nations combing to be Christ-Bearers (Christophers) 


About HJ Sandigo
H.J. Sandigo hails from Placerville, CA. He is a human, fond of telling stories and exploring the wilderness. Jacob writes about pilgrimage, road trips, and the prayer of the heart in a world of distraction. H.J. Sandigo is immensely grateful for the experiences, wisdom, and humor that people have shared with him throughout his travels. You can read more about the author here. You can read more about the author here.

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