“Abba Moses asked Abba Silvanus, ‘Can a man lay a new foundation every day?’ The old man said, ‘If he works hard, he can lay a new foundation at every moment.’”
Most of us find ourselves attached to the past, to the time of the dead. We try to recreate the past, to raise up zombies while ignoring the life which lies before us today. Our ascetic struggles require us to move beyond the limitations of the past, from the habits of old, so that we can live today, in the present, without distraction. When we try to make the present meet the dead, to make it one with the dead, the dead prevent us from experiencing the kingdom of heaven, the ever-present, ever-new life. God is a God of the living, not the dead, and for this reason, Jesus said, “Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5 RSV). Every moment we can experience this newness of life, but for those of us attached to the past, to the habits of the past, this requires work. We must purify ourselves, to make ourselves open to the prompting of the Lord in our life instead of securing ourselves to the rigid patterns of the past. Sin constrains while the Spirit of Life frees. Our sins make us blindly follow the past.
When we look to the past, and try to imitate it, this might sometimes lead us to do what is right – but this is out of ignorance. The pattern, the system which we try to recreate from the past prevents us from experiencing the fullness of God’s grace. We limit ourselves to what others had done instead of doing what we are called to do in the present. This means a good from the past becomes more than it should, and the good of the present is ignored. To live in the present, we can learn from the wisdom of the past, but we must make it alive today by freeing ourselves from the limitations of the past. This must not be understood as a rejection of the past. We come to the present because of the past. That which was alive in the past can be and should be made alive in the present. But we do not live in the context of the past. We must cleanse ourselves of all thought-constructs which keep us locked down to what once was so that we can experience the real as it is, unencumbered by the skeletons of the dead while letting that which is alive be free in its life. Then we can find the continuity of eternity, bringing us one with the past, making it new and alive instead of making the present dead and constrained. It takes work, but it certainly can happen. At every moment of our life, we can let the dead of the past moment die off, creating and establishing ourselves anew, greater than before. Indeed, if we do not want to find ourselves dwelling in the city of the dead, this is what we must do.
 The Sayings of the Desert Fathers. Trans. Benedicta Ward (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1984), 224.