Friday, November 25, 2016

Catholic Hermit and Recluse St. Theophan

Yesterday while in much physical suffering (which also entails emotional and mental suffering), I pivoted from scanning online news for which I pray for people and situations, and looked up some information on Christian mystics and also recluses v hermits.

I came across St. Theophan the Recluse, while listening to a YouTube video in which the Orthodox Bishop Kallistos Ware discusses The Philokalia.  He had edited the volumes from the Greek and suggested where readers should begin--not simply with volume 1.  He said to start in the fourth volume by reading some of the writings by St. Theophan the Recluse.

That led me on a search to learn more about this Orthodox saint.  I may write more specifically about him in a separate post.  For now I want to share that I also listened to an explanation by this saintly recluse on his advice on how to pray.  For me it was a good reminder, such as to set the intentions before beginning prayer.  

Yet, in my current phase as a hermit who also is a mystic, it seems my prayer life is more that of interpersonal flow of thoughts with His Real Presence and not as programmed or "set".  I still appreciate reviewing the prayer advice nonetheless, as phases come and go.  Solid prayer advice is always pertinent whether for verbal, mental, contemplative or unitive, mystical prayer.

St. Theophan the Recluse was born in the 19th c., in Russia, the son of a priest.  He became a recluse for many years of his later life but then re-emerged.  (I will not comment further now as want to research and be accurate.)  But I wanted to comment on this man, as I found his photo to draw me in, and I have asked for him to befriend me from the other side and to help guide me.  

I am increasingly convinced that my hermit vocation is becoming antithetical, of sorts, to my being and existence as a Christian mystic.  And for that, in our time or perhaps any time, it does seem that hiddenness is important, not only with name but also with presence among others out in the world.  Thus the hermit vocation is ideal for me, and all the more I realize Wisdom's choice for me to live out my existence in the eremitic life of the Church.  It is not that hermits are not so accepted, but mystics continue to be a stumbling block for especially those in the Church.  There are reasons for this, but I also will not try to analyze why, now, either.

Perhaps St. Theophan became more reclusive for some practical reasons, such as needing less distraction of critics and misjudgment, misunderstanding of his mystic being and also his role, for at least a period of time.  It does make sense that a mystic needs more solitude and silence in order to grow increasingly closer to the Most Holy Trinity, and to listen to what is divulged either for the mystic soul's growth and sometimes also to be shared mostly in writing, with and for other souls' benefits.

And it is this aspect that has been lacking in my own mystic hermit life.  Too many distractions, particularly from attempting to be a part of a parish.  The problems arose even prior to a more visible mystical sign; the way in which I was shown aspects of some priests, others, and situations and given assignments of sorts that involved word and action, caused various reactions, mostly not so positive.  Even those who were positive could tend to be too much so.  The current assessment became that of needing to withdraw so as to still and silence the reactions that became distractions and also became occasions of sin for others and even somewhat for myself.

Anyway, we will see what becomes of my asking St. Theophan the Recluse to befriend and help guide me if there are aspects of his life in reclusion and of spiritual matters that I would do well to learn.  I especially appreciate the quote imposed on his photo below--the aspect of cleaving to Christ with all one's soul, thus being changed into His image by the power of Christ's resurrection.

And, I have been adding the Jesus prayer off and on and will today as I get up from a day of back pain rest on mattress and pray for courage to begin the various manual labor tasks that can easily overwhelm me.  Breathe in, breathe out; become the prayer beyond words.  Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.  

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