Hermit: In today’s Gospel reading (Luke 4:1-15) Jesus is led into the desert by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil (v 6). The Greek word translated ‘desert’ or ‘wilderness’ is eremos, a word from which our English word ‘hermit’ is derived. A hermit, as traditionally understood, is someone who seeks solitude in order to commune more closely with God through prayer and contemplation. During the early centuries of the Church many Christians lived as hermits, especially in the desert areas of Egypt, some of them becoming known as the Desert Fathers. The Eastern Church has an unbroken tradition of eremitical life. In the West, that tradition was broken by the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, except in so far as it survived in certain monastic orders. The 20th century has seen a revival of the eremitical tradition in both the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches. Probably the best known of modern hermits is Thomas Merton who, as a Trappist monk, was given leave by his Order to live as a hermit. He wrote extensively on the subject of contemplation. A contemporary Anglican hermit (or ‘solitary’), Maggie Ross, (not her real name) has sought, in her writings, to recover the essential place of silence in the Christian life and to retrieve the understanding of ‘the work of silence’ as the foundation of Jesus’s teaching.
A Word in Season