One of the more fascinating places I visited in Greece in the summer of 2018 was the region called Meteora. This is a beautiful part of Greece that features enormous columns of rock rising precipitously from the ground, sometimes 100s of feet in the air. On top of many of these rock columns are built Greek Orthodox monasteries and nunneries that were built in the 14th century for communities of faith that intentionally sought solitude and seclusion as a means of focusing on the spiritual life. My husband and I visited several of these monasteries and found them fascinating and beautiful.
Visiting these Houses of Faith was not small feat however! These places were intention built on top of these pillars in order discourage visitors. There were no stairs to access them when they were built. Instead, if you wanted to visit you had to be willing to step into a large net dangled from a somewhat sturdy rope. The rope was attached to a wench which could be turned by the monks in the monastery raising you the several 100 feet in the air to reach the monastic community. Fortunately for my husband and I, steps have been installed in recent years. Still, we only visited three of these monasteries because it took over an hour to climb the 300 steps!
It is an interesting thought that one might intentionally choose solitude in order to focus on the spiritual life. We have been forced into solitude for almost two months now and most of us are finding it a strain. I think few thrive in a life of social distance. I do, however, find that the time alone has increased my own awareness and sensitivity to God’s spirit. Remember Jesus sought time apart in the desert in order to fill up on the Spirit and frequently went off alone to be with God. While we can be thankful to not be as isolated as the monks of old in Meteora, this is a good time to be still and listen for God’s voice.
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