Monks Are Not Lazy Cave Dwellers

The Last Cave Dweller Fr.Lazarus

Monastic life in the desert is very different to the world me and you live in. There are pros and cons to every vocation we are called to. Each person has been given the ability by the Lord to complete his own provided he’s heard the calling of the Holy Spirit correctly and not mistakenly pursued the desires of his own spirit.

When I got introduced back to Christianity it was through the Orthodox Churches very own hermit Fr.Lazarus. He now lives in the same cave as St.Anthony who centuries ago began monasticism. It is thanks to him that the Catholic and Orthodox Churches have any form of monasticism at all.

Why did I like St.Anthony so much? Why did the program of him on the BBC strike me so hard that day? Because I too for a few weeks lived in the wilderness of Scotland when I became homeless. I was driven 20 minutes away from the nearest village that consisted only of a few pubs and my place of work. Every morning my cousin would come to pick me up and take me to work.

I had great admiration for this monk because I myself knew what it was like to suddenly remove yourself from the world and be alone. The first night was the worst. I was not a religious person at all but I remember choking with unexplained anxiety. The silence was too much for my soul, being so accustomed to the noise of the world and the sin within my soul.

It gave me too much time to think and I began to ponder over my failures and even wished I was dead. The slightest noise from a deer or wild cat outside my tent amplified my fears and felt like an earthquake that’s how silent it was. I began to get paranoid and thought people are coming who don’t want me here and they’re going to kill me. I was crying and saying, “My life is fucked up. I’m such a mess. I want to kill myself.”

That said, once the dust of paranoia, self hatred and the fear began to settle, there were moments of great peace. The stars in the night sky were Chrystal clear and you could see everything. I gave some thought to God out there or at least some being that existed beyond this miserable world. I entertained some thoughts about reincarnation and had a bit of a fascination with Buddhism, mostly because it was exotic and strange and I was and still am to this day very much an eccentric at heart.

Some times people from my place of work would come visit me and we’d have these really wild drunken parties and smoke loads of skunk. The drink and drugs really helped numb whatever solitude I was experiencing not just out there in the wild, but the solitude I felt in my heart of feeling unwanted, unloved and despised. I became good friends with these two polish climbers and adventurers. I often think about them to this day. He taught me a lot of good knots and survival tips not to mention how to climb.

This is why Fr.Lazarus el Anthony really intrigued me. I thought it was crazy that he was genuinely in the desert on his own. I laughed when he described the scientist who came to him and stayed the night. Anthony explained that the very first night the man came running and screaming through the darkness of the night over to his cave. “I can’t handle this, I can’t do it.” He was shaking violently. “The Devil wanted him out of the cave which is why he was feeling this pressure” explains Anthony.

The devil doesn’t like the silence, because a soul when silent on the inside begins to think about God and his place in the world. He drives even the irreligious like me crazy and wants to get rid of us. Once the dust of whatever turmoil within us settles, then the clouds of depression begin to disperse, the stars of Gods grace appear and we begin to think about the Divine. The devil certainly doesn’t want that happening so he comes at you with all sorts of paranoia and anxieties in the middle of the night. Why? Because he wants to remove you as far as is humanly possible away from God.

He – the devil – knows that if you fight him, if you fight and struggle through all the mental and spiritual attacks, then peace comes and with this peace thoughts of God. It doesn’t matter if you’re irreligious or religious he doesn’t have favourites although he is more likely to pile the pressure on someone who is on a spiritual path to Christ.

People naturally assume monks who live in the caves are having a wonderful time in solitude. Yes, they have moments of peace but for the most part they are fighting the inner demon that wants to destroy their peace and silence. They are fighting memories of the world they left behind including all their sexual encounters with women.

In the world the devil attacks us with the visual stimulation and through the ignorance of other humans. But in the desert he attacks through the mind, memories and the ignorance of the monk especially if they’re spiritual beginners. It’s much harder to do it because these monks have left the world. The devil sometimes resorts to spiritual attacks of the supernatural kind. He will levitate them and gash them making them bleed. He will thrash them about throwing them up in the air in their cave like a rag doll.

He will push them down so that they fall from a great height when doing some chores in the cliffs of the desert. He will send actual real life apparitions of naked women to taunt and provoke with the aim of inflaming their passions of the flesh.

Some spiritual beginners, when they experience the natural attacks of the mind this is hard enough to deal with but not beyond their current capabilities. But when for the first time they’re presented with a supernatural vision of the devil or when they are levitated off the ground it scares them. Why? Because their souls are so weak and not ready for it. The devil knows this so they run home screaming to their momma. And I don’t blame them. I’d probably do the same. This is because the devils first attack didn’t work so he has to resort to more extreme measures.

Here in the world, depending upon the soul the same can happen but it’s rare. Every vocation has its peace and its difficulties. In the desert there is the audible peace and the withdrawal from the visual temptations of the world. In contrast to that those of us who live in the world have to deal with getting confronted by the devil through the mind, memories, the visual and on the rare occasion spiritual attacks. This makes exorcists a welcomed necessity for any diocese.

Don’t be fooled into thinking monks are lazy crazy fools. They are warriors who are fighting to save the souls of those who die in sin and to stop evil from completely consuming the planet. If the world hasn’t blown up by now it’s all thanks to these small number of monks who go into the desert and take on the most vicious thing you’ll ever know about. It is a thing that transcends the human mind and for this reason makes it all the more harder to fight. Think of the movie the matrix. Think about the agents Morpheus tells Neo that he can’t fight them and win. Only certain chosen souls can do that.

It’s the same with the devil. You can’t fight him and win except by the assistance of Gods Grace.

We are all baptized by God which means all of us are chosen to go out and do battle with this supernatural power. We are all Neo, all of us. With the assistance of His Grace we can win that war. When the Devil has you down on the ground and it seems like he’s won, call out to God. Be like Neo and pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and go out and fight him again. Take these monks as your inspiration and follow their good example.

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