Historical setting: 589 C.E. In the Vosges Mountains
Annegray is a ruin of a fortress. Like Ana’s house it has very sturdy stone walls. But here pieces of a makeshift roof are only in the places most needed. With skins hoisted over here and striped tenting or woven waxed cloth over there it has something of the feel of a desert market place but where I would expect to see camels and displays of merchandise there are just solemn processions monks.
I see another bird fly over like the birds in the boxes delivered by the servant monk to Ana and I wonder if she is sending a message to us here. Now I’ve seen how messages move here more quickly than even a horse could travel from wilderness places up and down the hills and back to this monastery. Maybe someone at a distance is in need.
No matter if we value solitude or treasure companionship we are always bound to one another by need. Sometimes it’s our own need, and sometimes it’s our care for another. So the solitary wilderness times when Jesus set this example of the Lenten fast he was attended by angels Mark tells us. [Mark 1:12] Father Columbanus goes to his solitude attended by the Brother Servant. Maybe that is because of his legendary discovery of a bear in his cave, or maybe it was an awareness of responsibility for his community of monks, whatever his reason, the father takes the Brother Servant to always maintain the connection between solitude and community.
When the fetters of responsibility for others are of our own choosing the name of that goodness is love. Neighbors, partners, obligations, enemies, companions, it doesn’t matter our assigned relationship, when belonging is empowered with empathy both beauty and grief hold us in love’s arms.
But now I’m thinking of Ana, and maybe I’m always thinking of Ana. Were I a monk it would be a distraction from prayer and probably a sin. Maybe I am required to stay away from her because it is a worry that others don’t know me and certainly don’t trust me. But I’ve made no vow to stay here and I’m thinking Ana is all alone and isolated by the fears of … of what? And yet I stay here. As a child she welcomed opportunities to be with people, but here she is with her companions limited to the creatures of the wilderness. She must feel a terrible emptiness. And now I too am here, not there.
(Continues Tuesday, April 12)