“The snow continued to fall throughout Holy Week, and into Bright Week. One week, shrouding the entire earth, as if in its funeral garment; and the next week, glistening in the sunlight like a pure and radiant mantle.
After returning to the monastery I went to speak with Elder Lazarus: “Brother Seraphim! Welcome back! How was your Lenten journey?” The Elder asked with a smile, and a knowing look in his eyes. “Were you able to love, as our Lord loves? Could you put the old man—your love of self—to death within you?”
“No, I failed at that task. I’m sorry,” I replied to him shamefully. “But God showed me his love and mercy, and in the end, well…I believe that the men I met saw it as well.”
Elder Lazarus smiled again and nodded his head, “Good…that’s very good. Now, it’s almost time for you to leave us, and return to your home.” He opened a window behind him which allowed a tiny glimpse out into the gorge; and a sharp, cold breeze blew in, filling the room, and bringing a small cloud of snowflakes with it. “You made it back safely, in time for the snow, the most we’ve had in decades,” the Elder continued. “Come and see!” He motioned me to join him at the window. After watching the snow falling together for some time he asked me, “What do you see in this snow, Brother Seraphim? What does it say to you?”
After a moment’s reflection, I answered, “It is love…which covers a multitude of sins; this snow is forgiveness…a covering for us, and an offering of new life.”
Elder Lazarus took a deep breath of the cold air, and held it in his lungs for quite some time before exhaling. “We are awaiting new life, now, especially during Holy Week…expectantly awaiting our Lord’s resurrection, and all the hope that brings. Yet, you are speaking about something more than this; there is a new life awaiting you at home, when you return to the United States. A life that has incubated here in the desert, but will emerge and grow and reach fulfillment there. You know this already, of course…you are a prophet, so you are familiar with God’s will and his plans.”
“It is also purity and a hope, this snow is,” I continued. “It calls us to a better life, and is a sign of the life to come.”
“Interesting…and how is that?” Elder Lazarus asked.
“By softening the harshness of this world. Temporarily, for the brief time that the snow falls, it reveals a glimpse into a softer and quieter world, showing us momentarily what is possible, what can be, if we also will calm our soul—letting the cares of this world rest.”
Elder Lazarus added, “The desert and the snow are good for aiding us in this, and they can also be a needed and helpful protection—shielding us from the harshness that you spoke about just now…the crassness even…of this world. This place is a home for us, an oasis away from the spiritual desert which the world has become, and here at Mar Saba we can focus everything on the only one who truly matters to us, dedicating our life to our Lord. But for some…you for instance…you will take this peace—the beauty of this way—back with you out into the world. It is a treacherous calling, I fear, because it is so easy to lose the way out there. But by God’s grace…”
“I think I’ll visit Brother Bezalel once more before I leave,” I said. “Is he with the icon?” I asked.
Elder Lazarus answered, “I expect so; most of his time lately is in the blue room, with Saint John. You should find him there. Brother Bezalel has truly found his home here, you know. God brought him here to do an important work and to protect him. The world out there was always too harsh for him; yet, even out there, God protected him through you.”
“And Brother Bezalel showed me…he showed me how to find the beautiful way.”
“Yours is a silent and a solitary way, but lived out in the midst of a tumult…you are a calm within a stormy humanity. Their waves will break against you, but they won’t break you, Brother Seraphim. I believe this will be true.”
“May it be as you say, Elder Lazarus. God willing.”
“Mar Saba has been your home, for a short time. You are a sojourner, as we all are in this world. We have no true home here, but we are tenants in various locations, for limited seasons. But you will carry your home within you wherever you go; and may you also help others find their spiritual homes, until our Lord returns.”
“Thank you, Elder Lazarus,” I said, as I knelt before him and received his blessing for a final time.
I left his room and walked along the silent path to where my dear friend, Brother Bezalel was working. I walked down the dim hallways, lit by faint daylight from windows high in the walls, and also down old, half-crumbling staircases made of tiles and stone—broken away at the corners, and revealing ancient shells, and pebbles, embedded and held fast within the rough sockets of mortar underneath. I crossed the garden terrace—its stone surface hidden under layers of snow—and I left dark footprints behind me as I went, and these remained for a brief time, but then they faded, as the fresh, fallen flakes slowly filled them up again. Snow clung to the branches of the overhanging trees—then fell in clumps here and there, giving way under the gathering weight. I was in a somber mood, sensing this may be the last time I would see my friend in this lifetime. I had known Richard—Brother Bezalel—since I was young, and no one else in my life had made such a strong impression upon me. In fact, the mark he made upon me was indelible; and I took comfort in recognizing this, knowing that he would never fade from my memory, but would remain with me forever.
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