An Outward Desire

Eve of Thomas Sunday, April 25, 2020

We did it! We survived Holy Week, Pascha, and Bright Week mostly from our at home services and through live-stream on TV. The joy of the Resurrection and the growing warmth of spring naturally turns us outward, desiring to share the good news with others. But the continued COVID-19 quarantine still places limits on that desire.

A place in western Massachusetts that was bought by one of our parish deacons and his wife and transformed into a farm, retreat center, and sometime summer camp is now a fully-fledged, full-service spiritual oasis, St. John the Baptist Orthodox Christian Monastery. Our family visits the two monastic fathers who dwell here for a day trip that allows us to fulfill our desire to evangelize while obeying the strict rule of the government not to gather in groups larger than ten (7 + 2= 9).

This sanctuary in the least populated area of New England’s most populated state is a haven of calm while remaining a beehive of life and activity. I have personally visited these several acres of land surrounded by thousands of acres of state forest since it was acquired at the turn of the millennium and every time I am filled with a strange combination of comfortable familiarity and surprising wonder.

Now my children feel it as they disembark the family van and burst forth from their metal chamber to freely frolic in the meadow. The monastery chickens become playmates for the younger ones while garden work gives the older ones a chance to labor in the earth. We have all in our quarantine spent too much time in the second-hand life of the screen that this first-hand nature provides a much needed life that is direct and unmediated.

In the late afternoon, I climb the local mountain with my two oldest daughters. When life happens in a box, getting to your closest body of water or exalted landscape can help one gain a different perspective and breath different air. Mt. Grace, true to her name, is a friendly and forgiving precipice which can be agressively ascended and descended in just a few hours. The summit is very rewarding because even though it is heavily forested, the fire tower there helps the hiker see above the trees.

Glory to God for places of natural wonder to give solace to souls stuck in quarantine. Christ is risen!

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