Some of you have read the re-introduction I posted on myself in August, in which I explained that I had embarked on a semi-contemplative life in my new home in Spain at the beginning of July, with my daily personal rule built around The Hours and the Jesus Prayer, coupled with spiritual reading focused for now on the Philokalia.
I also mentioned that I was giving much thought either to taking vows as a monk living alone, or of joining a community. Under the direction of my spiritual father in Cyprus, and the guidance of the vicar general of the Iglesia Ortodoxa Española here in Spain, I am still discerning what path to follow. I am also in communication with a senior member of the brotherhood of a major ROCOR monastery, and also hope to have conversations with people elsewhere.
With my 66th birthday looming just over the horizon, the prospect of entering a community is somewhat daunting to me, as I´m not sure I would be able to adapt at such a late stage in my life. So while I am keenly aware of the potential dangers and pitfalls of an idiorrythmic path of life, I feel drawn to trying it, to see whether it can work, and none of my counselors has definitively warned me off.
For now, my practice begins at 7 am with Matins and the First Hour, followed by breakfast and chores and then the Third Hour and Jesus Prayer at 9.30 More chores, then the Sixth Hour at Noon, followed by lunch, lectio divina, a nap if I need it and more chores. At 3, I pray the Ninth Hour, followed by the Jesus Prayer, and then free time until 6, when I pray Vespers.
That is followed by social time (meeting up with friends) and dinner, then Small Compline and reading or Jesus Prayer at 9.30 and bed an hour later.
As for Sundays, the closest parish is an hour's drive away, and I have been a bit remiss about making the trip, but I have been told to try to receive communion as often as possible, so am setting myself what should be an easily met target of at least once a month.
As far as personal lifestyle is concerned, I have long followed the Nativity and Lenten fasts, and last month also took up the Dormition fast. Next year I will take up the Apostles' fast to round it all out. I also aim to start fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year. My first heavy challenge, loving meat as much as I do, would be to adopt a vegetarian diet.
As to vows, I cannot take one of full poverty, because I live alone and must provide for myself. So I am thinking in terms of a vow of Simplicity. Chastity is already a practical reality, and I now have only to pursue it in a spiritual sense as well. Obedience is the tricky one, but I shall always have my spiritual father for the more routine things, and will also hope to find a monastic elder to guide me in weightier matters.
So there it is in a nutshell.
I would welcome suggestions on how I might round out, or alter, this rule, just asking that you keep in mind that my time is limited by the responsibilities of running a household and of keeping an eight-month-old puppy entertained.
I would also welcome counsel from anyone who has lived this sort of life, successfully or not, or is intimately familiar with someone who has. I am thinking ;primarily of practical matters here, as I am receiving spiritual guidance from two seasoned priests.