(Hermitage of Mary in the Wilderness on March 9th, 2016)
Not everyone is called to become an eremitical or semi-eremitical monastic.
Not everyone is called to this – this is a calling only for a few folks who have the sense spiritually they are specifically called to silence, solitude and unceasing prayer and work.
We have had so many wonderful souls who have come seeking a vocation with us – but things simply were not “right” with the “chemistry” of expectations. We are too silent – or we are trying to make them feel at home and break our commitment to silence and solitude – you know – then (well) it just does not “gel”.
Some good souls identify (rightly so) 100 percent toward their professional career – and they cannot leave that “first love” and identify themselves first as a monk over the professional career. We do not condemn this – but, this indicates that a soul may not be called to monastic Life, if there is a conflict in priorities.
You see, when Jesus called His disciples to ministry – He called them to leave all and follow Him.
The Christian Life calls us to Faith in Christ and to serve our Beloved in whatever capacity you are found in Christ (See Colossians 3):
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you abundantly, in all wisdom: teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles, singing in grace in your hearts to God. All whatsoever you do in word or in work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as it behooves in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter towards them. Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to indignation, lest they be discouraged. Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not serving to the eye, as pleasing men, but in simplicity of heart, fearing God. Whatsoever you do, do it from the heart, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that you shall receive of the Lord the reward of inheritance. Serve ye the Lord Christ.”
Do you see—that we are called as Christians to Love God and one another through serving God in the secular realm, which God makes sacred for you. Note all are called to LOVE.
Yet, there is a deepening vocation for some to ministry at a different level of understanding and service (Please carefully consider St. Paul’s exhortation and teaching in I Timothy, chapter 3; and other passages that deal with the offices of Deacon and Bishop).
Over the years there have been so many more ministries that have developed in the East and the West – one of importance to this little soul is monasticism (especially the eremitical, semi-eremitical and cenobitic kinds) – one of the reasons (by the way) that we even have the texts of the Old and the New Testaments of Holy Scriptures that we read and study is because monks memorized great portions of the Holy Scriptures; and they copied these in their silence and solitude and unceasing prayer and service in the great monastic centers of the East and the West.
The early hermits of the desert places memorized completely all the Psalms are recited all of them daily from MEMORY!
That is not all there is to this dear soul!
This is not just about listening, reading, studying, memorizing or meditating upon Holy Scripture, as important as that is even now!
I am reminded of this story from the desert fathers – showing strong evidence early on that the true monk (as the true Christian) is more concerned with the practical application of Holy Scripture than the mere legalistic adoration of it in form over substance:
It was said of Abba Gelasius that he had a leather Bible worth eighteen pieces of silver. In fact it contained the whole of the Old and New Testaments. He had put it in the church so that any of the brethren who wished, could read it. A strange brother came to see the old man and, seeing the Bible, wished to have it, and stole it as he was leaving. The old man did not run after him to take it from him, although he knew what he was doing. So the brother went to the city and tried to sell it, and finding a purchaser, he asked thirteen pieces of silver for it. The purchaser said to him, ‘Lend it to me, first, so that I may examine it, then I will give you a price.’ So he gave it to him. Taking it, the purchaser brought it to Abba Gelasius for him to examine it and told him the price, which the seller had set. The old man said to him, ‘Buy it, for it is beautiful, and worth the price you tell me.’ This man when he returned, said something quite different to the seller, and not what the old man had said to him. ‘I have shown it to Abba Gelasius,’ he said, ‘and he replied that it was not worth the price you said.’ Hearing this, he asked, ‘Didn’t the old man say anything else?’ ‘No,’ he replied. Then the seller said, ‘I do not want to sell it any more.’ Filled with compunction, he went to find the old man, to do penance and ask him to take his book back. But he did not wish to make good his loss. So the brother said to him, ‘If you do not take it back, I shall have no peace.’ The old man answered, ‘If you won’t have any peace, then I will take it back.’ So the brother stayed there until his death, edified by the old man’s way of life.
You see dear soul – the most important issue in Life is PRACTICAL APPLICATION of the Word of the Lord.
For some this is manifested in monastic Life, which is a Life of service as a disciple of Jesus:
Then Jesus said to his disciples: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For he that will save his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for my sake, shall find it. For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul? Or what exchange shall a man give for his soul?
St. James says this about “religious Life” – And if any man thinks himself to be religious, not bridling his tongue, but deceiving his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Religion clean and undefiled before God and the Father, is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their tribulation: and to keep one’s self unspotted from this world.
This is the essence of discipleship in Jesus.
Of course this can be applied to all Christians – both of these passages – but there is a unique application that is quite direct for the monk or the cleric – it is a specific vocation on a soul that no one can even comprehend — when you have such a calling from God alone – you will know and be clear about that calling, once you have surrendered to God’s perfect will for you.
Listen then to the Word of our Beloved and know there is deep application for us all – some must follow the deeper application, as the LORD reveals this to each, as He calls all to the Faith.
Abba Anthony the repentant sinner