Let us look to one of the first and most inspiring examples from the Hebrew tribal nation. Later, we will look to other examples, and to the Mi’kmaq nation for a reflection on the path of dwelling in God.
“Moses went up the mountain to God. Then the LORD called to him and said, “Thus shall you say to the house of Jacob; tell the Israelites: You have seen for yourselves how I treated the Egyptians and how I bore you up on eagle wings and brought you here to myself. Therefore, if you hearken to my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my special possession, dearer to me than all other people, though all the earth is mine (Exodus 19: 3-5).
Moses helped the Hebrew tribe become a nation under their God. His work in solitude and prayer opened the floodgates of God’s action among his people, and in relation to other nations. Much happened for and with Moses up in the mountain(s). There he found a ‘dwelling place’ of God, which is in part where we get the phrase ‘the Most High.’ Often Elijah is held up as a model for hermitic life. Of course, no one can dispute the appropriateness of this. However, with respect, Moses came before Elijah, and in a sense, Moses represents a person who lives in the world, with the people, and in his depth of solitude, along with his profound commitment to service, family life, and rising to the challenges of leadership from time to time, Moses is the perfect model of a local and regional based hermit, and a perfect model for what is now becoming understood as the charism of the diocesan hermit among Roman Catholic communities.
God the Eagle found Israel as a scattered tribe, desolate, alone, and hardly surviving. “He found them in a wilderness, a wasteland of howling desert. He shielded them and cared for them, guarding them as the apple of his eye. As an eagle incites its nestlings forth by hovering over its brood, so he spread his wings to receive them and bore them up on his pinions. The Lord alone was their leader, no strange god was with him” (Deut 32:10-12). These were special and tender days for a fledgling nation. The formation happened by the natural challenge of survival, in the midst of a harsh environment. Hemmed in on every side, the Hebrew tribe had no friends, and had to look inward, and upward, to find solace and strength.
The holy prophetess Ruth addresses the Creator of the nation in this way, “…the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge” (Ruth 2:12). A familial intimacy and also a profound respect go together, and the relationship between Creator and Nation is sacred, and quite naturally, entirely exclusive.
Why is this so appropriate? Because only the depths of an all encompassing, chaste, and holy love can exist between two souls. And this is why we model consecrated life on one person with God. No other model provides the same depth, wherein an environment of intimacy and profound respect engender and nurture the complete transformation of the person.
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