“I belong to my Lover, and for Me He yearns.” This aching yet tender verse from Song of Songs was the theme for our second retreat for women discerning monasticism. Our retreat began with silence as we quietly watched “Into Great Silence,” a two-hour and forty-five minute movie (documentary) of life at the Grande Chartreuse, considered one of the world’s most ascetic monasteries located in the French Alps. Philip Gröning, producer and filmmaker, lived in the monks’ quarters for six months and filmed their daily prayers, tasks, rituals and rare outdoor excursions. “Into Great Silence” is more of a meditation than a documentary. Silence and reflection was integrated throughout the week as we experienced the rhythm of prayer, meals, work and recreation of monastic life.
One of the highlights of the retreat was a road trip. We visited Monastery Marcha, a Serbian Orthodox monastery in Richfield, Ohio. Upon our arrival, Sister Anastasia warmly greeted us with great hospitality. She offered a traditional sweet candy and Serbian coffee. She explained that this particular tradition of hospitality goes back centuries when people took great lengths to visit the monasteries and were tired from their long and difficult travels. The hegumena (abbess), Mother Anna, an 87 year old nun immediately lit up the dining room with her entrance and genuine joy and “spunk.” We listened intently as she shared many stories of her life and her simple yet great wisdom. Sister Anastasia led us to their chapel and shared her love, wisdom and support for our endeavors for our future monastery. The holiness and aching love for Christ was clearly present at Monastery Marcha.
We hope that the women went home from the retreat refreshed, and yet instilled with a greater ache for union with God, knowing that they belong to Him and He yearns for union with them.