Early Christianity was honed and shaped in the deserts of the Middle East. The desert fathers and mothers from the second and third centuries went to the wilderness so that they could strip from themselves all but the basics of life, to remove all the layers with which we encumber the self, in order to know who they really were, what their place in the universe was. Thoreau-like, they sought to pare life down to its essence, and in the silence and emptiness be able to know something of the divine presence, the tangible murmurings of eternity that penetrate when all distractions are swept away.
Desire and fulfilling those desires keep us so often from seeing the depth of what is. As all we thought we wanted or needed is taken away from us, we come closer and closer to the Mystery at the heart of being.
Jesuit Fr. Karl Rahner coined the wonderful definition of God as “the past-all-graspness.” He describes the emptying that is the paschal mystery thusly: