An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
FDR (soon to have his “D” removed) posted on facebook the video below of an episode from a BBC mini-series entitled “Extreme Pilgrim.” In the series an Anglican priest is exploring in person some of the more “extreme” examples of spiritual disciplines and this episode has him becoming a desert cave-dwelling hermit in the Orthodox (Coptic to be very specific) tradition for 3 weeks. In the course of the experience (before and after his 21 days alone), he has some fascinating conversations with an experienced hermit named Fr. Lazarus which leads me to describe the program as being like “Mountain of Silence” meeting Reality TV.
It is, alas, made for television and so they can only dig so deep with Fr. Lazarus – but it is certainly no less worth watching because of that. It left me with a great deal to think about.
One thought that struck me, particularly as Fr. Peter (the Anglican) was leaving the desert – and Fr. Lazarus (who says: “I have to stay here until the end”), involved the consideration of just how very many people over the centuries had given their lives to be completely spent in just such a barren wilderness. And I sometimes it’s hard to imagine, amidst my busy and worry-filled secular world, that people STILL do this today - it’s somewhat difficult for me to wrap my mind around, despite my knowledge and experience with the Orthodox Church. To some degree this little Reality show…well…it made it a bit more real for me.
I sometimes wonder how much worse would our world be if there were not such men and women amongst, even if separate from, us? Many a cynic or pragmatist would suggest that their time would be better spent serving the poor, but this betrays a lack of understanding of the service they ARE providing for us all. It’s a service and example to which we’d do well to pay attention. Even in many religious contexts this life makes no sense, and I would suggest such contexts are profoundly anemic.
The desert is a sobering place. I just spent a couple days driving through it alone and it gave me pause in a lot of ways. I'd like to spend a couple weeks some day... but that's probably some kind of delusion at work. sigh.