The new year has seen the start of a new reading challenge between my wife and I, and anyone else who chooses to participate. We’re running the challenge through our natural soap company Harmonious Goat. If you tell us how many books you plan on challenging yourself to over 2020, and actually meet or exceed your intended target, we’ll send you free soap! It’s that simple. Anyone who wishes to join has until the end of January to enter. Remember, it’s on the honor system… so don’t cheat! Here’s more information regarding the 2020 reading challenge.
I have only finished one book so far for 2020, Welcome to the Orthodox Church by Frederica Mathewes-Green. It was a great book and I truly enjoyed it. Many of the chapters got close to home, and many others made me bit homesick. I next started an audiobook version of The Holy Angels by Mother Alexandra. Wow, what a book! I had no clue how vast and many the angels were. The imagery and stories she paints captured my imagination and left me desiring more. I’ve only gotten through the first half of the book and am eager to jump back in. In the mean time however, I started Gifts of the Desert: The Forgotten Path of Christian Spirituality by Kyriacos C. Markides. I’m only 12 pages in, and my soul has once again been fiilled with an old desire of mine for solitude and peace, the kind that can only be brought about through monasticism.
Ever since I became an Orthodox catechumen and discovered the writings of the desert fathers, I’ve been fascinated and in awe of their monastic struggles in the desert. these holy fathers of the deserts seemed like Olympic athletes to me. I couldn’t put their writings down. their strict Devotion to asceticism and their feverent love for the Lord would leave me speechless and often in tears. I grew to be especially fond of St Euthymius The Great, and St Anthony the Great, the latter of which is widely considered to be the father of Christian monasticism. My wife and I have actually made Saint Anthony the patron saint for our family. I have also found through my study of the desert fathers, perhaps my absolute favorite Orthodox quote from St. Arsenius the Great.
“I have often regretted the words I have spoken, but I have never regretted my silence.”
If I could have those words burned onto my heart, I would. That simple quote combined with actual real life life experiences, has taught me more in last few years than any of the college classes I once attended.
I have such a love for the holy monastics who continually pray for us and for those who left the world and found salvation in the desert, that I often think had I not chosen to get married and raise a family, that I would have instead left the world behind and become a monastic myself. Of course I now know that marriage is its own form of monasticism, and a marriage when done right in union with God is truly a beautiful thing. (pssst, love you pooka)
Even though marriage has its ups and downs and unique form of spiritual warfare, I still sometimes can’t shake the call of the desert, or the mountain. I think that’s why I like trucking so much. It’s just me in this rolling monastic cell. I have my icons on the dash and ancient Faith radio playing whenever I want, and unless a phone call or text message comes in, I’m left to my own devices, and that usually involves quiet prayer and contemplation.
Perhaps one day I will be able to visit St. Anthony’s Monastery in Arizona, or even better yet take a trip to the Holy Mountain and visit with the monks on Mount Athos. Until then, I will continue to live work and pray – and of course keep the wheels of my rolling monastic cell on the highway.
Thank you so much for reading, and I’ll see you next time!
Ps… don’t forget to check out Harmonious Goat and join our reading challenge. You’ll get free homemade hand soap!
A view from a desert nature preserve that I visited in Arizona, two years ago. So peaceful, and so majestic.