Friday, November 25, 2016

Catholic Hermit: More on St. Theophan the Recluse

The following is an excerpt from introduction written by the Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of book [cited below] about St. Theophan the Recluse.

"St. Theophan the Recluse (1815-1894) was born George Govorov in central Russia, near Orlov. His father was a parish priest, and his father sent him to seminary to be trained to be a priest as well. He attended the Kiev Theological Academy, receiving the best theological education available. He took monastic vows, and after the vows and tonsuring, he met the staretz (holy elder, spiritual guide) Parthenii at the Kiev Caves Lavra (monastery), and later wrote about this meeting,"
"The staretz said to us, "You learned monks, ... you are going to work and learn and write, but you must remember above all that the most necessary thing on earth is to pray to God, to pray unceasingly with your whole heart and your whole mind. This must be the goal you will search for without interruption." A monk must start by speaking the prayer aloud, then without uttering any sound until it springs silently from him day and night.
When the holy staretz said this, I discovered that this was what I had always wanted since my early childhood, and that very day I prayed from the depth of my heart to the Lord that nobody would hinder me from remaining constantly with God. " [From The Heart of Salvation, pp. 12-13]
Additional research details that St. Theophan spent the first part of his religious life as a priest, monk, and then bishop.  He entered into reclusion for the last 28 years of his life (as far as I can initially find), living simply in two rooms of a monastery.  He increased in prayer, devotion, and holiness; he spent his time also corresponding with those seeking spiritual guidance and also in writing books and translating the Russian Philokalia.

However, my main interest right now is what the staretz said to the new monks, about their lives and the most necessary thing on earth being to pray to God:  unceasingly, with whole heart, whole mind--the goal to be sought without interruption.  Speak the prayer [Jesus Prayer] aloud, then soundlessly until it becomes one within, day and night.

St. Theraphan recognized that he had wanted since childhood to be one with the Lord, not hindered from remaining constantly with God.  

This is and has been, also, my heart's desire, although my life has far too many distractions even now.  The renovation can be a distraction when my mind and heart and soul are not in prayer.  And they have not been so much, not nearly as much as would place the Lord in primary position.  Temporal aspects have fought for primacy, and these always leave me in a quagmire spiritually and thus also physically, emotionally, and mentally.  When the soul is hindered from God, all other aspects are disheveled.  

Parish life--parishioners and parish priests--no matter how well-intentioned they may be or what their words recite, have not done well with this mystic.  Even when considering my consecrated Catholic hermit vocation, there is so much judging that occurs from and by others; it is distraction!  Distraction hinders one from remaining constantly with God!

Yes, I would love to have weekly communion; even monthly, but my request has been ignored, forgotten.  Strange it is indeed, but I no longer think in terms of "strange" but in: Thy will be done.  For whatever reasons, of which I am increasingly getting clearer glimpses, the Lord is not choosing the tangible Sacrament to be given me; I must rely on Him to feed me spiritually and mystically with His Body and Blood.

I must above all else trust in Him deeply, for He has never let me down even if the trials and sufferings have seemed unthinkable to me and most difficult to endure.

So today I will begin anew breathing in and out, the constant prayer that places me humbly before Jesus Christ.  I will cleave to Him and wait in Him for whatever is next in this Order of the Present Moment.

Now, to rise and drink the fruits and vegetables blended into the drink I call Green Glory.  I will take the vitamins and supplements that help my physical body combat even in small degrees the massive pain the body bears (not always at all approaching heroic suffering).  I will then begin some tasks of manual labor without letting the temptation to flee the hardships of this place overtake me.

We will see what else, if anything, St. Theophan the recluse may have to encourage and teach me.  Yes, I am merging more into the life as a recluse of which the term itself is so misunderstood in our times and in the Western Church, that I would be wise if ever there is anyone I would speak about it--should remain using the term "hermit."  I find it fascinating, though, that in past centuries, women hermits were called "recluses", and "hermit" was the term used for male religious solitaries.

God bless His Real Presence in us!  Thank you, Lord, for St. Theophan the Recluse, fairly close in time period to the present, comparatively so....  At least and most, he is a marvelous lead and has much to teach and for me to ponder in my intention, desire for union with God, and prayer life.

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