READ: Matthew 3:1-12
“And then John the Baptist said, ‘I baptize you in water for repentance, but the one who comes after me is more powerful than I am. I am not even fit to carry his sandals. The One who comes after me will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand; He will clear His threshing floor and gather His wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will toss aside into the fire.'” – Matthew 3:11-12
Brother Isaiah demonstrated for the children from the nearby parish – and for we adults who were looking on – the ancient practice of winnowing the grain. The harvested grain came from the field carrying with it the straw and the dusty chaff. And then on the threshing floor, the worker would scoop the rough grain into a wide, flat basket. Then the worker would toss the rough grain into the air, over and over again. Being that the grain is heavier the chaff, the wind would slowly blow the chaff away from the basket, thus cleansing the grain of the unwanted straw and dusty chaff.
As the ancient farmer used his winnowing fan to separate the good and useful grain from the unneeded and unwanted chaff, so the human soul is also winnowed by God. As the wind blew away the dusty chaff, so the wind or breath of God’s Spirit blows away the dusty chaff from our souls. An aspect of our life of contemplative prayer is the patient process of winnowing the soul.
Winnowing the soul … each day, in one of our periods of quiet prayer, we take the time to “toss” into the airy Holy Spirit the stuff of our souls – our thoughts, our worries, our memories, our dreams, our regrets, our actions, our questions, and even the feelings which cannot seem to find their words. In a non-judgmental, non-critical attitude we simply bring them to God, “toss them into the spiritual air” over and over again, this day or over many days, allowing God’s mercy to help blow away the unhealthy, unnecessary, unwanted dust while preserving the healthy, needed, and wanted grain. It is a patient and gentle grace, this process of winnowing the soul. It allows for the cleansing of the soul without the risk of diminishing the worth of the soul. It is the patient and gentle mercy that comes with authentic humility.
Here at Greyfriars’ Abbey, much winnowing of the soul takes place in our gentle confessions that take place in our quiet conversations. In our sharing with the quiet, trusted listener, the listener who makes no judgment and offers no advice, over time, somehow our souls are slowly winnowed. By some mysterious process, when we patiently share our inner thoughts with a Trusted Listener, our souls are somehow cleansed, making our soul feel much less cluttered with straw and dust.
So my Loved Ones, in extended interludes of Holy Quiet allow the Holy Spirit to slowly sift through your soul. Allow God to discern what is grain and what is chaff, and separate for you. And find a Trusted Listener to help you with your winnowing; and also be the Trusted Listener for another soul.
Brother Anthony of the Cross
— For the latest installment of the ongoing story, The Mystic Realms of Shadow Fox, just click … https://greyfriarsabbey.wordpress.com/the-mystic-reams-of-shadow-fox/ … The installments are separated by ********* with the latest being at the end (obviously).