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Monasteries in the sky

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Monastery of the Holy Trinty at Meteora (Credit: Jeff Byrd of Denison Forum on Truth and Culture)

Imagine living your life in a cave or atop a rock pillar.  Such is the ministry of monks we visited today.

This morning our study tour came to Meteora.  The rock formations found here were apparently formed millions of years ago by water and ice.  Rising from the plains of Thessaly, they are one of the most unique sights on the planet.

In the ninth century, Greek Orthodox monks came here to retreat from the world for lives of solitude and prayer.  In the 13th century they began building monasteries atop these pillars.  Six are still in use today–four for monks and two for nuns.  In addition, a lone monk lives in a cave by himself.  He is fed by the monastery and will not leave his cave until he dies.

Some in our tour group wondered why people would choose lives of such seclusion.  In fact, those who live here believe that they have been called by God to this ministry of intercession.  They pray for themselves, other monks, the Church, and the world.  By devoting themselves so fully to prayer, they advance the cause of Christ around the world.

Visiting one of the monasteries this morning, I was reminded of the importance of solitude for spiritual growth.  Mark tells us that “very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35).  He asked his followers in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” (Matthew 26:40).

John R. W. Stott, one of the great pastors and practical theologians of the twentieth century, once stated that he needed an hour a day, a day a week, and a week a year alone with Jesus.  If the monks of Meteora can give their lives to prayer, surely I can give him an hour today.