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What is a Hermit?

We rarely question the value of religious orders when they teach, nurse, or even make honey. The notion of the hermit is a trickier one. What "is" a hermit? The Russian classic, The Pilgrim Continues His Way, has a succinct 'job description'. A hermit discusses three of his roles.

The first is in analyzing and contemplating his moral existence. It behooves the hermit to meditate on the interior life, to theologize if he is a theologian, and to share his insights with others, in written or spoken forms.

The second is that the hermit is an example-- and this may be even truer in today's secular and fast-paced society. The hermit throws a gauntlet of solitude, prayerfulness and holiness down at the feet of a world which seems to be rejecting such notions, even as it most desperately needs them.

The third is to lead by moral example, shunning sin. St Isaac of Syria is quoted in the book: "It is better for you to free yourself from the bonds of sin than to free slaves from bondage."

But, for the priest hermit-monk of this hermitage, there is an even more central charism, and that is the endeavour and fruitfulness of prayer. The Divine Liturgy and Office are prayed daily, each with a specific intention-- sometimes requested by people far away, sometimes regarding a global concern, sometimes about something close to home, sometimes abstract, sometimes specific. 

Every time we are united to the heavenly liturgy something changes here on earth. Here at the hermitage the belief in the power of prayer is strong. The good that it will do is unquantifiable by human hands, but anything is possible through the grace of God.

According to St. Basil the Christian life is to become prayer, and prayer is toenliven life: "Thus you will pray without ceasing; if you pray not only in words, but unite yourself to God through all the course of life and so your life is made one ceaseless and uninterrupted prayer" (Migne, PG 31, 244; St. Basil, “Homily in Honour of St. Julitta,” nn. 3-4). 

So what is a hermit? A living prayer....