Journey to Simplicity

I’ve just started reading a new book, JOURNEY TO SIMPLICITY: The Life and Wisdom of Archimandrite Roman Braga by Daniel B. Hinshaw, M.D. I don’t usually do a blog post about a book until I’ve finished it, but since I haven’t blogged in over a month and I’m up in the middle of the night (3:15 a.m.) in my “happy place” – Seagrove Beach, Florida, it seemed fitting. First a few links to previous visits here, including ten years ago!

Seagrove Beach, Florida

And back in 2010 when I was at Seagrove for St. Mary of Egypt Sunday.

And of course I remember all the way back to 2006, our first visit to Seagrove, after going to Enterprise, Alabama, to celebrate our son Jonathan’s graduation from ARMY flight school at Ft. Rucker. “I Must Go Down to the Sea Again.”

But here’s why I’m writing this post in the middle of the night on my current visit to the beach. I often have sleepless nights for various reasons, and tonight was no exception. When I got up after midnight to read and write for a while, I walked outside on our condo balcony and stood in awe at the beauty of the moon’s light on the surface of the ocean. It immediately reminded me of something I had just read in Journey to Simplicity. A little background first.

Holy Dormition Monastery

I visited the Orthodox women’s monastery, Holy Dormition of the Mother of God in Rives Junction, Michigan, many times in the past . . . often “just” as a pilgrim, and also numerous times to participate in the icon workshops they offer. (I’ve written about them often, but here’s a short post from 2015.) I was at the monastery on September 11, 2011,which I wrote about  in my old blog here: “When the World Stopped Turning.”



Father Roman Braga

Father Roman Braga was the priest-monk at Holy Dormition for many years before his death in 2015. On each of my visits to the monastery, I found him to always be peaceful and joyful, despite (or he would say because of) what he suffered in prison in Romania many years earlier, all of which is explained in this book.

Sandu Tudor and the Burning Bush Movement

There was a movement of Orthodox intellectuals in Romania fron 1945-47 known as the Burning Bush movement. (You can read all about it in the book!) At one point when a member of the group, Sandu Tudor, was visiting Mount Athos in Greece, he began changing from a skeptical journalist to having a “real, lived experience of prayer,” as he witnessed the lives and practice of the monks at the monastery. Here’s an except:

A major turning point came one night at two o’clock in the morning, a time when normally the world sleeps but when monks pray. Light from a full moon shimmering upon the sea mingled with the rhythmic echo of the semantrons (Romanian–coaca) and the bells overwhelmed his poetic sensibilities and tears began to flow from his cheeks.

The abbot talked with him about his experience later, and said:

“We on Athos have a belief: If God saves the world, it will be because at midnight the monks pray.”

Sandu Tudor, the skeptical journalist returned to Romania transforrmed by his encounter with the simple monks o the Holy Mountain.

The Moon at Seagrove

That’s how I felt in the middle of this sleepless night as I stood on our balcony looking at the same moon that Sandu saw on Athos, only its light was shimmering on the ocean here on the Gulf of Mexico, on Seagrove Beach, Florida. (My photo doesn’t really capture its beauty. I tried a video to get the sound of the waves, but it also was inadequate.)

Tudor said the scene at Athos “overwhelmed his poetic sensibilities” . . . . I feel the same.

What a beautiful gift from God as I prepare to celebrate Palm Sunday this coming Sunday at St. John Orthodox Church in Memphis, and then to enter into Holy Week and Pascha!