Time in isolation
This week I received a message from a friend of mine from seminary. Her work, pre-Coronavirus and now, involves some solitary, repetitive tasks, and so she’s gotten into the habit of reciting some simple prayers from memory as she works: the Lord’s prayer, an old prayer called the Trisagion (thrice Holy, in Greek), and a few others.
Being the awesome church nerd that she is, this rekindled her interest in the so-called Desert Fathers and Mothers, the founders of early Christian monasticism. As Christianity became more mainstream, these women and men fled to the desert in a search of more serious devotion and holiness. Some saw them as elitists, abdicating their communal responsibilities and rejecting God’s call to serve their neighbors. But others saw in their lives a picture of what it could mean to bear witness to God’s Kingdom on earth. No doubt, there was a beauty to their practice. As one scholar puts it:
Their life was extremely simple. Some planted gardens, but most of them earned their living weaving baskets and mats that they then traded for bread and oil. This occupation had the advantage that while weaving one could pray, recite a psalm, or memorize a portion of scripture. They taught each other, by heart, entire books of the Bible, particularly the Psalms and books of the New Testament. – Justo L. Gonzalez
The monastic life is not for most of us, maybe even any of us. But although it’s not the fast that we chose, we do all find ourselves spending more time in isolation. Might we, then, learn something from these early monks? Right now, you don’t have to flee to the desert, or sell all your possessions, to find an extra moment in the day to say the Lord’s prayer, whether by yourself or as a family. While we might not normally think to do it, you may actually have the time and the will in these days to pick up a Bible and choose a psalm to memorize. To these monks, who sometimes went years without communion, these words of faith became their daily bread. Could these words of faith feed us, too?
May God’s word, in all its forms, satisfy our hunger and keep us knit together in faith.