April 17, 2020, Great and Holy Friday
“How do you, Father Herman, manage to live alone in the forest, don’t you get bored?” He answered, “No, I’m not alone there! There is God, and God is everywhere! There are holy angels! How can one be bored with them? With whom is it more pleasant and better to converse, angels or people? Angels, of course.”Little Russian Philokalia, Vol. 3, St. Herman
In this forth week of our at-home Coronavirus quarantine, we struggle as a family with where to go and what to do. Our travelogue has been quickly and suddenly restricted to our immediate vicinity, and we labor at how to overcome feelings of isolation and boredom. The saints in heaven and especially the monastic hermits like St. Herman of Alaska can teach us what to do with our boredom, and it does not involve surfing to the next binge-worthy series or reaching for our favorite comfort food. It involves a rediscovery of our blessed habitation, that home which Father Herman called, “the blessed place which will render my soul’s salvation.”
It has not been easy to get reacquainted with our home, but it has been absolutely essential. And now during this Great and Holy Week, it has never been more important to make our home into a church, the place where heaven meets earth and where the glory of the Pre-eternal God can transform our day-to-day existence into a meaningful work of His Divine Providence.
Now that cars remain mostly idle and busy schedules do not dominate our attention, the heavens declare the glory of God, and nature testifies to His never ending presence and care. Long daily walks, even in the rain, takes us past streets and homes we never noticed before, birds and flowers we used to overlook, and neighbors and friends we never knew we had. In our quiet city yard, where once only speeding cars were heard, chirps a mother cardinal brooding over her three eggs and a boisterous woodpecker sounding the call to prayer in the morning.//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
Yes, schools, libraries, museums, and even churches have all closed for the time being to all but the most essential workers. But what is left has been there all along, and we have ignored it:
The tempter wanted to close the churches; let us make our homes into churches. He shut 11 churches; let us open 11 thousand. May each home become a church; let prayer be raised like a torch of fire towards heaven; let the incense fragrance all the neighborhoods; may the candle and the vigil lamp always be lit. Let us attend the services through electronic correspondence, praying together, and not lying down, or eating, or smoking. If we do this, instead of closing down the churches, they will grow and spread and whole cities will become churches. Then God will give His blessing, and seeing our repentance and our faith He will cast away this evil plague and give us the freedom along with our churches to live many years working for Him.— Abbess Thekla, Life Experiences, a blog of the Monastery of Virgin Mary of the Consolation
May He who endured 40 days in the wilderness and abandonment on the cross for all of humanity and for our salvation enable us to praise and glorify Him with purity of heart. Kalo Pascha! Blessed and Holy Easter to all!
„How do you, Father Herman, manage to live alone in the forest, don’t you get bored?” He answered, “No, I’m not alone there! There is God, and God is everywhere! There are holy angels! How can one be bored with them? With whom is it more pleasant and better to converse, angels or people? Angels, of course.“
LITTLE RUSSIAN PHILOKALIA, VOL. 3, ST. HERMAN
Wow! What a powerful insight 🙂 Maybe the deepest desire of the individual human being is to shatter or transcend the loneliness of egoic existence. The ego always feels lonely, it is more or less an ever-present state of consciousness. There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each human being and it can only be filled and completed with the Divine. There is a difference between loneliness and aloneness. Loneliness is the misery of the ego, a terrifying bottomless abyss; aloneness is life-giving, full of beauty and grandeur. The ultimate antidote for loneliness is communion with God. Spiritual communion transforms the curse of loneliness into the blessing of sacred aloneness.
Mark, so glad you were inspired by the words and life of one of America’s lesser known saints. Through the prayers of Father Herman, may our Lord Jesus have mercy on us and save us!